Day: March 19, 2008

A knight of history

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Wearing a gray sports coat, necktie and business slacks, Andrew Linnell looked every bit the 21st century businessman that he is.

However, standing before a handful of people inside an auditorium in the Marlborough Public Library, the EMC competitive business consultant was poised to tackle a topic usually reserved for men of a different cloth: the history and development of the Christian church.

The 58-year-old Hudson resident indulged in one of his intellectual passions: the Crusades-era monk-warriors known as the Knights Templar.

In the third of a series of lectures, Linnell spoke about a specific facet of the much-mythologized group: Templar motifs represented in the art of the 15th century Florence.

To give his audience a point of reference, he first debriefed them on several hundred years of European and Middle Eastern history.

The information flew fast and furiously.

Linnell touched upon the Catholic Church’s violent opposition to views deemed to be heretical, such as gnosticism. He talked about the importance of church relics such as the Ark of the Covenant, the significance of zodiac signs in Templar history, the exile of the followers of Aristotle, the rise of Islam, and the fall of Persia. He discussed the sacking of Constantinople, which he said marked the beginning of the downfall of the Knights Templar.

He stopped briefly to field a question regarding the political ramifications of Charlemagne’s treatment of Muslims.

Ultimately it is the discrepancies between the church of centuries past and modern day Christian practices that fuel his curiosity and drives his research, he said. Linnell, who has a master’s degree in computer engineering from Michigan, at one time took a sabbatical for several months from his job to scratch his history itch at Emerson College in England.

“It can’t possibly be the same Christianity that spread so quickly throughout the world,” he said. “I’ve always been fascinated. I ask how is it that Christianity spread?”

The Knights Templar, said Linnell, played an important role in that globalization.

“When they came into town, people could just feel their presence; they’d come out and gawk,” he said.

It was this group – a secret society often shrouded in mystery – that brought the idea of baptism as a form of initiation back from the Middle East, said Linnell.

“Cultural evolution always flows east to west,” he said.

The Templars, said Linnell, were also the first international bankers, making travel from Europe to the Middle East less dangerous and more fiscally prudent.

As the son of an astronomer, whose family included several ministers, Linnell said he has always been interested in the sometimes adversarial relationship of science and religion.

“There was always this great battle between science and religion growing up,” he said.

(Dan McDonald can be reached at 508-490-7475 or dmcdonal@cnc.com.)