The Templars and the Hospitallers were the two earliest and most famous of the major Military Orders of the Roman Catholic Church from the early twelfth to the middle of the thirteenth century.
In this book, Jonathan Riley-Smith attends to the Templars' and Hospitallers' primary role as religious orders, not as military phenomena or economic powerhouses.
In a prologue, four chapters, and an epilogue, Riley-Smith discusses the origins of the orders in dedication to the protection of pilgrims to the Holy Land (Templars) and to the care of the poor and the sick among them (Hospitallers).
He examines their traditions and early history, the organization of their communities, modes of governance, and, in the fourth chapter, important differences between the orders and a brief account of their respective fates in the wake of the Crusades.
The Templars were eventually persecuted by the Church and the order suppressed.
Riley-Smith speculates that the violent end of the order was caused both by jealousy of its wealth and by internal problems of governance that left it vulnerable to accusations of conducting blasphemous rites.
The Hospitallers survived in one form or another to the present day; vestiges of the original order inform the contemporary Knights of Malta.