(About): A Faithful Historical Reproduction of the Tunic that Saved the Crusaders
When one imagines the archetypical Poor Fellow-Soldier of Christ who made up the ranks of the Order of Solomon’s Temple – the Knights Templar to you and I – you’ll imagine a fierce warrior in a big iron great helm, wielding a noble arming sword, arrayed in chainmail, with a surcoat bearing the Cross of the Templar Order. Our Templar Tunic is a deceptively simple garment: it gives you a fast-track to depicting a Templar knight-brother, wearable with an ensemble of other Templar garb for a faithful re-enactment, or on its own as a cost-effective broad-brushstroke for a LARP or Renn Faire.
Traditional Design; Modern Comfort
Our Templar Tunic is in a stand-out black, a spectacular contrasting dark surcoat. The Templars themselves used black as an identifying colour, for example in their gonfanon baucent, the ‘piebald’ black-and-white battleflag. Emblazoned upon the centre of the chest and black of our Knights Templar tunic is the iconic red cross patée, instantly recognisable as the mark of a Poor Fellow-Soldier of Christ. The tunic is made from a comfortable cotton, meaning that it is breathable and moisture-wicking over long periods – Western European knights arriving in the Holy Land quickly learned to adopt local Levantine garb to avoid heatstroke, adding flowing light cotton robes over their armor to deflect the sun, and our Templar Tunic replicates precisely this effect. The tunic is long-sleeved, meaning that it is a highly flexible piece of clothing: it can either be worn over chainmail as a surcoat, or, if you are putting together a LARP outfit or Renn Faire costume on a budget, it can do sterling service as a standalone outfit. The neckline is round with a small V-shaped slit to improve fit. The black Templar tunic extends to around mid-thigh, depending on the height of the wearer – this is a design shown by contemporary depictions from the Crusader period to have been common. There are generous slits at the front, rear and sides of the tunic to preserve maximum freedom of movement; again, this is seen in images of armored knights in the Crusades, whose armor had to be as unrestrictive as possible to permit agility in the face of lightly-armored opponents.
A Knights Templar tunic is both an instantly recognisable statement of a specific time and place, as well as an evocative impression of an entire period of medieval history. Our Templar Tunic can be used in a historically-authentic impression of a 12th-century Crusader Knight, replete with the great helm and arming sword that such a knight would have wielded. Or, it can be used to quickly create a historical impression of a medieval man-at-arms more generally, evoking the wide range of Christian iconography employed throughout the High Medieval period. Or maybe, you could use it to create a wholly different outfit, employing it with leather armor to create a fantasy cleric. The Templar Tunic is the perfect mix of the general and the specific, for a truly versatile addition to your medieval wardrobe.
(History): The Window to the Soul: Templar Symbology
The images and iconography of the Templars are almost universally familiar due to the enduring fascination that their meteoric rise and spectacular fall have engendered across the centuries. Analysing the symbology of the Templar Order can give us a unique insight into who they were – and, even more revealingly, who they believed themselves to be.
The Templar Cross
The Templars adopted the red cross as their official symbol in 1147, with the approval of Pope Eugenius III. The red colouration reminded the knight-brothers of the sacrifice made by Jesus, and their own vows required them to forsake all wordly attachments in pursuit of service: they could hold no lands, they could sire no heirs, they were not even permitted to receive personal letters! But there was no uniform type of cross chosen – especially as the Order of the Templars spread and diversified across Europe, the type and presentation of the cross varied significantly.
The most common form of cross was the cross patée, as in our black Templar tunic. This was a Greek cross (a ‘square cross’ where all the arms are the same length), the arms of which flare slightly towards their terminations. The cross patée appears on both images of the Knights Templar and upon their documentation, used on seals imprinted on wax in the 12th and 13th-centuries CE. It’s clear that Templar crosses were part of a wider melange of Christian symbology: it has been argued that the Templar’s red cross took influence from the red-on-white cross that had become associated with Saint George by the 12th-century, although this is far from a solid historical link, and Templar scripture makes no direct reference to the 3rd-century Turkish martyr. Crosses patée were also associated with several other religious Orders of knights active in the Holy Lands during the Crusader period, such as the Teutonic Knights (whose cross patée was usually black) and the Knights Hospitaller.
The frequent use of these symbols in the context of the Crusades clearly had its own influence on Western Christian chivalric ideals, as by the end of the 13th-century both the French and English-Angevin armies are commonly depicted with red crosses patée as part of their heraldry and symbology, imitating the Templar tunic. By the late 1400s CE, the cross patée had developed into the Maltese cross, an ‘eight pointed’ design which looks like four arrows pointing towards the centre. This was adopted by the Knights Hospitaller in their later years, mandated for all members of the Order in 1489 in the form of a white Maltese cross upon a black background – and the same style of cross was often adopted in the original white-and-red Templar colours by the successor organisations which claimed (with varying degrees of dubiousness) continuity with the original Knights Templar.
An early document written in 1128, not long after the Templars’ founding, sets out the regulations and structure of the Order. It is known as the ‘Latin Rule’, and it does so in great detail, right down to the forms of dress and behaviour that were expected from each of the Order’s ranks. It stipulates that the Order’s Grand Master should wield a staff of office: “The Master ought to hold the staff and the rod (baculum et cirgam) in his hand, that is to say, the staff (baculum), that he may support the infirmities of the weak, and the rod (cirgam), that he may with the zeal of rectitude strike down the vices of delinquents.“ This encapulates the Templars’ muscular approach to Christian doctrine, and underlines their function as a primarily military order. The Templar baculus is described as a plain staff topped with an octagonal cross patée, like that of our Knights Templar Tunic – William Dugdale’s 1693 Monasticon Anglicanum contains a copper engraving of a Grand Master with the baculus. The imagery of the religious leader wielding the staff has been a permanent fixture of Christianity, with the bishop’s crozier (hooked shepherd’s staff) remaining a prominent part of Catholic ceremony – the Templars deliberately fused this iconography with military organisation.
The Templar Grand Master received formal investiture of religious authority over the warriors and clergy in the Order by official order of Pope Innocent II by Papal Bull in 1139. The scope of these orders, known as the Omne datum optimum (‘every perfect gift’, a reference to divine providence as quoted in James 1:17), is quite staggering. On the surface, it presents the Templars as humble servants of God – but when taken together, it empowered the Templar Order with the potential to become a far-reaching and wealthy organisation. It formally recommended that the priests and brothers of the Order be ordained by a Catholic bishop – but makes clear that that bishop should do so at the direction of the Grand Master with his baculus. It granted the right to construct their own churches and to gather tithes. As well, it granted the Templars the rights to spoils taken from the conquests of the Muslim residents of the Levant, in a language of Christian supremacy which is quite shocking today. This edict was followed up by two subsequent Bulls in 1144 and 1145, which ordered the clergy to protect and shelter members of the Templars, giving them complete freedom of movement through all Christian lands, and eventually exempting them from oversight by local clerical hierarchies altogether. It is this permissive charter which cut the Templars loose to create an enormous trans-national empire encompassing banking, land management and military expeditions.
What the baculus represented – invested with holy power by Papal authority – is the success of an enormously effective lobbying effort undertaken on behalf of the Templars, who were themselves of course far too modest to sully themselves with anything so base as court politics. Clever churchmen such as Bernard of Clairvaux, as well as being enormously devout, were adept at achieving their political aims. The future St. Bernard was an early patron of the Templars, and one of his pupils became Pope Eugene III, promulgator of the 1145 Papal Bull which exempted the Templars from almost all worldly authority. Those who wore the Templar tunic had friends in high places, both spiritual and mundane.
Two Knights Upon One Horse
Perhaps one of the most enigmatic Templar symbols is the imagery of two knights riding upon a single horse. This image has not had the same enduring primacy in popular culture as the Templar Cross, but we know that it is contemporary with the early period of the Knights Templar – it is certain to have been used by the sixth Grand Master of the Templars Bertrand de Blanchefort as early as 1153 CE. It was adopted as part of the official Seal of the Knights Templar not long after, and was used throughout the Templar Order’s existence until its dissolution in 1312. However, its meaning is far from clear – and subject to much speculation, some of which is wild indeed.
A contemporary explanation for the image is that it symbolises the Order’s vows of poverty, citing that the founder and first Grand Master Hugues de Payens was so poor that he had to ride into Jerusalem with his close friend upon a single horse. However, the Latin Rule explicitly lays down the number of mounts to be provided to each rank of the Order, and none is permitted less than two horses (a Knight Brother would have four at his disposal). Others have speculated with less basis that it is a veiled reference to homosexuality, which the Templars were accused of during their trials for heresy in the early 1300s! However, the likeliest theory comes from a contemporary account of Richard the Lionheart’s tactics against Saladin: the Ayyubid Sultan’s contemporary biographer recounts that each mounted Knight bore with him on his horse a footsoldier, forming a kind of mobile infantry that could be deployed with lightning speed. If this was not the genesis of the image of two soldiers wearing Templar tunics, then it certainly cemented it.
Would you not wish to wear such a storied and complex garb, replete with its layers of historical meaning? Tarry ye not – our Templar Tunic awaits!
- Material: Cotton
- Color: Black with red cross
Small/Medium: Chest – 42 Inches, Waist – 41 Inches, Shoulder to Shoulder – 14.5 Inches, Sleeve Length – 20.5 Inches, Length – 42 Inches
Large/X-Large: Chest – 52 Inches, Waist – 51 Inches, Shoulder to Shoulder – 17 Inches, Sleeve Length – 21.5 Inches, Length – 45 Inches
XX-Large: Chest – 62 Inches, Waist – 62 Inches, Shoulder to Shoulder – 20 Inches, Sleeve Length – 22.5 Inches, Length – 49 Inches