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The Appearance

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Knights Templar

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The Appearance

of the

Knights Templar

The Order of the Temple was founded at the beginning of the twelfth century and dissolved at the beginning of the fourteenth century and during those two hundred years
According to William of Tyre for the first nine years after their founding, the knights wore secular clothing. 'They used such garments as the people, for their soul's salvation, gave them.'

The non military dress of the Order was set out in the Rule of 1129. From top they wore a soft dark cap common to religious men of the period, an ankle length belted tunic, possibly hooded, with tight fitting sleeves also dark and ordinary, undecorated shoes.
Under the tunic the brothers wore a simple woollen shirt, woollen breeches and woollen leggings; linen underclothes were allowed in the heat of the Middle East.
Beards and short(ish) hair were mandatory.
A mantle, or habit, was worn over the tunic. Knights wore a white habit and sergeants wore a black habit. No decoration was allowed to be worn on this mantle except for a red cross over the left breast / shoulder (granted by Pope Eugenius III
They were allowed to wear a sheepskin lining to the mantle in the winter.

Armour and weapons were very expensive and required craftsmen and facilities for their manufacture so great use was made of captured examples. It is very unlikely that Templars ever presented a uniform appearance.
The Orders statutes from the last half of the twelfth century list the armour to be issued to the brothers.
For the brother-knights
A padded jerkin or haubergeon to be worn under the hauberk
A long-sleeved chain mail shirt (hauberk) with chain mail hand coverings and a chain mail hood (coif)
Chain mail leggings (chausses)
Chain mail shoes
Over the chain mail hauberk they wore either a capae a white monastic type tunic later a white, sleeveless surcoat with the red cross of the Order over the left breast. This had the dual purpose of protection from the sun and to proclaim their identity as Templars to others.

In the early days of the order the Templars would have worn a close fitting open face helm, later Templars are shown with close face helms. An alternative type of helmet known as a ‘chapeau de fer’ or kettle hat with a wide brim may have been worn; this design of helmet is somewhat similar to the tin’hats worn by British troops during the two world wars . There is a contemporary fresco showing the Templar standard-bearer wearing this type of helmet and as the standard-bearer was always a sergeant this type of helmet may have been restricted to sergeants. ( this particular helmet has a black brim and a white top with a black cross)
The standard of the Order of the Temple, the Beauseant (piebald), was black/white with a black cross on the white, top, part. of rectangular form and was always carried by a sergeant . I have also seen it given in other sources as reversed with the black on top and the white below.
The Knight-brothers and sergeant-brothers formed behind the standard and led by the marshal, or if he was present the grand master, followed it into battle. If they became separated in battle they were expected to form up on the standard or if that was not possible onthe standard of the Hospitallers.
Templars were issued with a sword, a lance, a ‘Turkish’ mace, a dagger, a bread knife, a small knife and a shield.
‘The Order’s regulations refer to the brothers having crossbows and ‘Turkish’ arms other than maces, which had been captured in battle, or purchased locally’. – Osprey – Knight Templar
the brother-sergeants
Sergeant-brothers wore a padded jerkin under a sleeveless chain mail shirt, chain mail leggings with no foot armour, and a kettle-hat and a black surcoat with a red cross on the front and back.

Templar shields were white over black the same as the banner possibly with a black cross on the white part although one contemporary illustration shows the black part at the top and the white underneath.
Templar shields were, like their banner, black and white, although two contemporary illustrations show black over white and white over black
12th century statutes of the Order refer to horse’s bridles, saddles and girths, stirrups and horse blankets. The horses illustrated in a c1240 fresco have horse coverings with the brothers arms black and white with red and black crosses. Horse armour did not become common before the end of the twelfth century but in any case would have been of questionable value in the heat of the middle east however an inventory taken of Templar posseions after their arrest in Cyprus 1308 mentions armour for men and horses.
In twelfth and thirteenth century Outremer the armament industry was practically non-existent almost all military equipment had to be imported making it very expensive, the only other sources were occasional trading with Muslim sources and captured enemy material.

The red cross

When the Crusades began, the term “to take the cross” really meant what
it said. Pilgrims, princes, knights, and paupers took strips of red cloth and
sewed them to their clothes in the shape of a cross. So the red cross was not
strictly a Templar symbol.
The cross officially adopted by the Templars in 1146 is the Cross of Jerusalem
(see Figure 4-2). What makes it distinctive are the lines making up the cross
that are of even length (unlike the more common crucifix with a longer vertical
line). It is believed that the Templars adopted this form of cross after
seeing it in Coptic Churches, an Eastern Orthodox branch of Christianity
founded in Egypt.
 -  from 'The Templar Code for Dummies.'

The Beauséant

Banners and flags have always been important on the battlefield, both as an
easily seen rallying point for troops, as well as a handy identifying device so
you didn’t kill your own troops. The banner of the Templars was called the
Beauséant, which some claim meant “be noble” or “be glorious.”
The banner itself was a black square over a white square, and it is theorized
that this symbolized the concept of “darkness to light” (see Figure 4-5). The
black stood for the sinful, secular world, and the white for purity and goodness.
In later years, the red Templar cross was added to the banner.
The Templars took the flying of the Beauséant in battle very seriously. Ten
brothers were assigned before a battle to protect the banner, and there were
harsh punishments for losing it, dropping or defacing it, failing to fly it while
knights still fought, or using its flagpole as a weapon. It was also forbidden
for Templars to retreat from a battle if the Beauséant was still flying. No
wonder the Templars were always last to retreat from battle — they got punished
if they stopped flying the flag during the battle, and punished if they
stopped fighting while it still flew!
 -  from 'The Templar Code for Dummies.'


For example, the knights wore their hair
short, and were required to grow beards. They dressed in a simple habit
of either white (for a knight, to symbolize pureness) or brown (for lesser
Additional regulations were added later. For example, in 1146 Pope
Eugenius decreed that the Templar knights should wear a red cross (the
Cross Patee) on their left breast. A cord was also to be worn around the
waist, to remind them of their vow of chastity.  -  from the Templar Papers


APPEARANCE AND EQUIPMENT-- From Osprey Warrior #081 – Knights Templar 1120 - 1312

The Order's Rule of 1129 set out how the Brothers should dress when not on
military duty. The emphasis was on practicality and simplicity. An official called the
drappier, or draper, was responsible for ensuring that the brothers in the East were
issued with the necessary clothes. Thirteenth-century manuscript illustrations show
that the brothers' basic peacetime dress was similar to that of monks. They wore a
long tunic of dark cloth or cappa, belted at the waist and reaching to their ankles,
with tight-fitting sleeves. Some pictures show the tunic having a hood of the same
dark cloth. On their heads they wore the dark-coloured soft cap that was typical of
religious men in the period. They wore ordinary shoes on their feet, without any
decoration or fashionable designs. A particular distinguishing mark of all male
members of the order was that they wore a beard and kept their hair respectably
short, although this was long by early 21 st-century standards, covering their ears.
Over the long tunic the brothers wore a mantle, a light-weight cloak, also called
the 'habit' as it was the distinguishing dress of brothers of the Order. Knights wore
a white mantle, symbolizing purity. The sergeants wore a mantle of black or brown
cloth. Because, as he and they believed, the brothers fought and died in the service
of God and to protect other Christians, Pope Eugenius III (1145-53) allowed them
to wear a red cross on the left breast of their mantles, symbolizing martyrdom. They
were not allowed to add fancy decorations to their mantles, but they were allowed
to have their winter mantle lined with sheepskin for extra warmth.
Under their tunics, the brothers wore a shirt, which was normally of wool, but
they were allowed to wear linen in summer because of the heat of the Middle East.
Over this shirt, around their waists, they wore a simple belt made of a woollen cord,
which symbolized chastity. They also wore breeches of woollen cloth, and woollen
leggings or chausses on their legs. At night they were expected to sleep in their shirts,
breeches, belts and shoes. Undressing completely would be a form of self-indulgence,
a giving-in to physical comfort that was not appropriate for either religious men or
for disciplined warriors. Religious men were not to pamper themselves, and warriors
had to be ready to get up and fight at any moment of the day or night.
The Order's hierarchical statutes, dating from before the loss of Jerusalem in
1187 and perhaps from around 1165, list the armour that was to be issued to the
knight-brothers. Under their armour they wore a padded jerkin or haubergean, which
itself acted as an additional layer of protection against enemy blows. Over this they
wore a long-sleeved chain-mail hauberk with chain mail to cover the hands and with
a chain-mail hood or caif. They also wore iron chausses (chain-mail leggings). Over
their hauberk the knights wore a white surcoat, which kept the hot sun off their metal
armour and allowed them to display the symbols of the Order, to distinguish them
from other troops on the field of battle. In 1240 Pope Gregory IX wrote that the
knights used to wear white capae or cappae, monastic-style tunics, over their armour,
so this 'surcoat' was probably a cappa. Wearing a monastic tunic over their armour
would enable the brothers to recognize each other on the battlefield and distinguish
them from other warriors, but it did restrict their movements.
On their head, over the caif, the knight-brothers wore a helm or helmet - in the
1160s this would have been open-faced, but 13th-century manuscript illustrations
and the fresco in the Templars' church of San Bevignate in Perugia, dating from the
1240s, show the Templars wearing fully enclosed helmets. Alternatively, they could
have a chapeau de fer, or kettle-hat, a conical iron helmet with a wide brim to deflect
enemy blows. Their feet were covered with chain mail. As with their 'peacetime'
clothes, the Templars' armour was to be plain, without the gilding and decoration
with jewels and precious metals that was common in this period. Unlike secular
knights, they had vowed to give up personal wealth, and they were not fighting for
their own honour but for the honour of God and their Order.
Their weapons were the standard weapons of Western knights in the period. They
would carry a sword, the long broadsword of the period, and a shield. The fresco in
the church of San Bevignate shows one Templar carrying a triangular shield, with the
Order's white-and-black arms and a black cross (rather than the Order's usual red
cross). Twelfth-century frescoes in the Templars' church at Cressac-sur-Charente in
France show warriors riding out to fight wearing white surcoats over their armour
with crosses on the breast and carrying kite-shaped shields. Because the shields show
various different designs it is not certain that these are all Templars, although the
crosses on their white surcoats suggest that they may be. The brothers were also
issued with a lance, three knives of different lengths (a dagger, a bread knife and a
small knife) and a 'Turkish' mace. The lance, made from wood - ash wood was
preferred, as it is both strong and flexible - varied in thickness and in length, but an
average cavalry lance would be around four metres long (13 feet). The Order's
regulations also refer to the brothers having crossbows and 'Turkish' arms other than
maces, which had been captured in battle or purchased locally. As the Turks were
fast-moving, lightly armed horsemen, presumably these were lighter weapons than
their Western counterparts.
The Order's regulations contain no details about the crossbows that the Order
generally used. We might guess that the brothers preferred to use the best weapons
available, and that therefore by the late 12th century they would be using composite
horn bows rather than wooden bows, as the former were lighter and smaller than
the latter. The advantage of a crossbow over a simple bow was that it could be used
effectively by a comparative novice and was much more powerful than the simple
bow. In a siege situation, or where a large group of crossbowmen were operating
together on a battlefield, the crossbow could be devastating, for it could pierce chain
mail. But drawing back the string of a crossbow, locking it in place with a 'trigger'
and placing the arrow or bolt in position, ready to shoot (the process was called
'spanning') was more difficult and time-consuming than drawing a simple bow. In
the 12th and 13th centuries as crossbows became stronger, new and more effective
methods of spanning them were developed: the crossbow was given a 'stirrup' into
which the user could place one foot, while the bow string was held on a hook
suspended from a belt around the user's waist. To span the bow, the user gripped the
hook and pulled while pressing down with the foot in the stirrup. It is reasonable to
assume that the knight-brothers and sergeant-brothers would operate crossbows in
siege situations or when they had to fight on foot.
The Order's later regulations say nothing about the Templars' battlefield
'uniform', but in around 1240 Pope Gregory IX wrote to the Templars on the subject.
Although the pope was no warrior himself, as God's representative on Earth (as the
Latin Christians believed) he was responsible for the wellbeing of the Order, which was
dedicated to God's service. He also had the authority to approve changes to the Order's
regulations and customs, which included the armour that they wore in battle. In place
of the cappa, which impeded their hands and arms and made them more vulnerable to
their enemies, the pope allowed the brothers to wear a large supertunic over their
armour, with a cross on the breast. It is not clear what this looked like, as the
contemporary fresco in the Templars' church of San Bevignate shows the Templars
without any coverings on their armour, but it was probably a sleeveless surcoat.
According to the Order's statutes, the armour of armed sergeant-brothers
covered less of the body than that of the knights. Presumably they were given a
padded jerkin to wear under their armour. Their chain-mail shirt had no sleeves,
their chain-mail leggings had no foot coverings (so that they could walk more easily,
and therefore fight on foot), and they wore a kettle-hat rather than a full helmet.
They wore black surcoats, with a red cross on the front and the back. Their weapons
were apparently similar to those of the knight-brothers, but as they were under the
command of the turcopolier on the battlefield - who also commanded the lightly
armed mercenary troops called turcopoles - they were presumably more lightly
armoured than the knight-brothers, and would have ridden lighter horses.
The most important piece of equipment for a knight was his warhorse. Even
though he might dismount to fight, the warhorse gave him status, speed,
manoeuvrability, and extra height in battle. The Templars' rule and statutes laid down
how many horses each brother was allowed to have; ideally a knight required more
than one warhorse, in case his first was killed in battle, and he would also require a
riding horse and pack horses. The knight-brother could have up to four horses: two
warhorses (destriers), a riding horse (palfroi) or mule and a packhorse (roncin). He had
at least one squire to assist him. The sergeant-brothers had one horse each and no
squire, but sergeant-brothers holding military commands such as the under-marshal
and the standard-bearer could have two horses and one squire to assist them.
A riding horse could be a gelding or a mare, but a warhorse had to be a stallion.
The fictional literature of the 12th to 15th centuries suggests that medieval war-horses
could be very tall, but the evidence of archaeology and medieval art indicates that in
fact horses were not over 15 hands high (five feet to the shoulder), so that the knight
would have stood shoulder to shoulder with his warhorse.
The horses' equipment, like the brothers' armour, was to be plain and undecorated,
and the brothers were not allowed to adapt it to their own preference (for example,
shortening the stirrup leathers) without permission. The Order's 12th-century
statutes refer to the horses' bridles, saddles and girths, stirrups and horse blankets.
Each brother and each squire was allowed one saddlebag, in which to carry their
drinking cups, flasks, bowl and spoon and other personal equipment, as well as a
leather or wire mesh bag for carrying chain-mail shirts. There is no reference to
armour for the horses; this did not become common in any case until the late
12th century. The Templars' horses in the San Bevignate fresco, dating from the 1240s,
have horse-coverings with the brothers' arms - black and white with red and black
crosses - but they do not seem to be wearing metal horse armour. This would make
them more vulnerable to enemy weapons, but also quicker on their feet than horses
weighed down by metal armour. When the Templars were arrested in Cyprus in 1308
and an inventory was made of their armour and weapons, the Order had armour for
both men and horses.
The marshal of the Order had control over all the weapons and armour of the
Order. All gifts, bequests and booty of this type were to be handed over to the
marshal. Although much of the Order's equipment must have come from gifts and
from booty, the Order also had workshops where equipment could be made.
Brothers were not allowed to take things from these workshops without permission.
The marshal also controlled the horses. The horses used by the Order in the East
would usually have been the heavier Western European warhorses rather than the
lighter horses used by the Muslims. When horses arrived from the West the marshal
had to inspect them, and he was responsible for allocating horses where they were
needed. Brothers were not allowed to request a particular animal, but they could
return a horse that was unsuitable. The fact that the Order's statutes specify that the
marshal could buy male and female horses suggests that the Order also bred its own
horses, but whereas the Teutonic Order had organized stud farms there are only
passing references in the Templars' statutes to putting horses to stud.
The brothers were responsible for the care of their own horses and weapons.
They were not to exhaust their horses, and were to ensure that they were properly
fed. They were not to tryout their swords by hitting them against a hard object, such
as an anvil, in case they broke, and they should not throw their equipment about, as
it might be damaged or lost. If they lost a weapon they would be punished: section
157 of the Catalan version of the Order's Rule and Judgements tells how one Brother
Marli, who lost a sword and a bow through carelessness, was expelled from the
Order. Similarly, a brother who killed, lost or wounded a horse or mule was in
danger of being expelled from the Order 'at the brothers' discretion' (section 596 of
the Rule). Although the Order had vast possessions in land, its expenses in
equipment and personnel were very high, and it could not afford to lose money
through carelessness and irresponsibility.-- From Osprey Warrior #081 – Knights Templar 1120 - 1312






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