The early years of the Order’s intellectual life produced several literary figures of note.
The earliest example of a writer on secular themes is Robert Baston, who was present at the battle of Bannockburn (1314) and celebrated it in 131 lines of rather pedestrian verse.
Guido da Pisa wrote Fiori d’Italia, meant to be a history in seven books of Italy from the earliest times to the fall of the empire in the West, but he got only as far as the coming of Aeneas to Italy. This last part, a prose summary of Virgil’s Aeneid, separated from the rest, became a schoolroom classic still in print, much prized for its purity of style and diction. He also left a commentary on Dante’s Inferno not without interest for Dante studies. John Fillous (or Fillons), of Venette, wrote a Latin chronicle of events in the kingdom of France, 1340-1368, which A. Colville calls, “one of the most significant historical documents of the 14th century.”
The History of the Three Magi by John of Hildesheim (d. 1375), a synthesis of legends about the Magi with interesting stories about the lands and customs of the Orient, was a medieval best seller and was translated into many languages. Goethe was struck by its naive charm and revived its vogue in modern times.