(About) A Bloody Sword for Holy Men
The Knights Templar Sword is a meticulously re-created Templar battle sword, hand-forged by renowned sword-maker Darksword Armory, drawing together Templar iconography and symbols into a truly stunning functional sword that would grace any sword collection or noble LARP outfit.
This sword has a long, wide steel blade made from 5160 high-carbon spring steel. It is classified as an Oakeshott Type XIIIa – these were the fearsome greatswords which were developed by the Crusader Knights, which appear amongst medieval artwork and in the historical record in the early 12th-century CE. It is lenticular in cross-section, with a deep fuller to draw the balance-point of the blade closer to the hilt, making this long blade far more agile. The fuller is engraved with the legend ‘Militaris Templi’, referring to the military order of the Temple of Solomon, that is the Knights Templar themselves. The inscription is bracketed by two crosses patée, after the most recognisable of all Templar symbols: the red Templar cross.
The cross-guard of our Knights Templar Sword is a stark mild-steel cruciform: almost all of the surviving weaponry and arms associated with the Templars are plain and functional, emphasising their status as poor-fellows with no aspirations of wealth or grandeur. The grip is for two hands, and is wrapped in leather, and the large octagonal pommel balances this blade perfectly. The Knights Templar Sword has a full-tang, peened construction – meaning it is fully suited to re-enactment and light combat.
Our Knights Templar Sword also includes a period-accurate leather scabbard and a handsome optional sword-belt, and it can be shipped factory-sharp or rebated. It is a fantastic weapon from makers Darksword, and would make an excellent companion to a Crusader re-enactment, or the perfect weapon for a devout paladin LARP costume.
(History) The Real Templars
The Knights Templar have become a mainstay in popular culture, particularly since their starring role as custodians of the Holy Grail in Dan Brown’s 2003 sensation The Da Vinci Code. The real Templars, although sadly unlikely to be guardians of Jesus’ bloodline into the modern era, are much more interesting. They evolved from a brotherhood of selfless knights who pledged to defend pilgrims to the Holy Land, into the first multi-national corporation with interests in landholding, military expeditions, banking and healthcare. Large, powerful organisations outside of worldy jurisdiction tend to make enemies – they were eventually violently suppressed by the Papacy they pledged to serve.
“The Very Noble Armor of Obedience”
The Templars, or to give them their full title, the Poor Fellow-Soldiers of Christ and of the Temple of Solomon, were formed in Jerusalem in 1118 CE. Ever since the First Crusade and the capture of Jerusalem in 1099 by Frankish Crusaders, pilgrims and settlers from all over Europe, known in the Holy Land simply as ‘Franci’, had flowed into the new Crusader States established by the victors. However, the overland journey from Western Europe to modern Israel-Palestine was enormously dangerous, and many were waylaid and robbed. Hugues de Payens, a Frankish knight, along with eight friends and relatives, petitioned King Baldwin II of Jerusalem (another Franci) for permission to establish an armed monastic order to defend the pilgrims and settlers on their journey.
The Templars were far from the first Western Christian order to establish themselves in the Middle East – the Knights Hospitaller had been based in the Holy Land as early as 603 CE – but the Templars were certainly the first explicitly military order, unlike the charitably-focused Hospitallers. In their 72 monastic regulations, known as the Latin Rule, the Templar ‘brothers’ vowed complete poverty and chastity. A knight (a wealthy and noble position), upon joining the order, would be relegated to the position of mere monk. He forsook all titles to his land and incomes. He was never allowed to so much as touch a woman, not even a relative. He was “to wear, and wear permanently, the very noble armor of obedience”. He was not even permitted to receive personal letters! The Order took its name from the site of the headquarters granted by King Baldwin – the Temple Mount, site of the ancient Biblical Temple of Solomon – and they found many willing recruits: their foundational documents indicate that they would specifically target excommunicated and disgraced knights for recruitment, offering them penance in return for servitude. And so, they got down to the hot, dirty and exhausting business of escorting gaggles of travellers across the Near East whilst wearing full chainmail and big helmets.
Giants On The Field
Templar arms and armor are iconic. The cruciform Knights Templar sword was the Templars’ main weapon; often it was of ‘bastard’ type, with a slightly longer handgrip, to allow occasional two-handed use – we can see one depicted in the 1284 Alphonso Psalter being used with both hands with the shield slung on the back. It seems likely that they would have also used other typical weaponry of the era: spears, maces and cudgels. As well, there are records of a few Templars who used enormous two-handed longswords of Oakeshott Type XIIIa, as much bludgeoning weapons with parallel edges and rounded tips. Templars would generally wield a shield of Norman style if their weaponry permitted it, which was an elongated ‘heater’ shape usually emblazoned with their simple flag: the red Templar cross on a black and white background. In terms of armor, the Templar would be clearly identifiable by the blazing white mantle and surcoat they wore over their armor, plain except for red Templar crosses on the chest of the surcoat and the back of the mantle. These were worn over a full suit of mail, consisting of a knee-length hauberk, chausses, coif and optionally chainmail gauntlets and sabatons, which would all have been worn over padded garments such as a gambeson and arming cap. This armor was itself a significant marker of their status as knights – it would have provided excellent protection from almost all weaponry of the period. Over their chainmail coif they would have worn a simple metal skullcap called a cervelliere – this was standard fare for Crusaders – but over that they would have worn the iconic Templar great helm or heaume (yes, two helmets!). Unlike the heavy and wildly impractical tournament armor we associate with armor knights, the heaume was a surprisingly practical piece of armor: it was not particularly heavy, and was designed to sit close to the eye so the slits did not much hinder vision. Rare for this period, their horses are recorded as being armored, likely with scale, as well as caparisoned in white with red Templar iconography. It shouldn’t be forgotten that the Knights Templar were all high-born, and so would probably have been the only soldiers who got proper nutrition growing up: they would literally have towered over their fellow troops as giants upon the battlefield, striking terror into their enemies.
Templars were the shock troops of Crusader armies, and were often deployed as a vanguard, charging in close order with their heavy warhorses straight into enemy lines to crack and scatter infantry formations. In the Latin Rule, Templars swore to never retreat, apart from when outnumbered three-to-one, when their gonfalon baucent (the ‘piebald banner’ Templar battle-standard) had fallen, and even then only at the order of their commander. These devastating tactics are traditionally said to derive from a dream had by St. Bernard of Clairvaux, an early patron of the Templars, who was told by God that a small force could defeat a much larger one, with the right courage and conviction. This was no clearer than at the Battle of Montgisard in 1177, where a sixteen-year old Baldwin IV of Jerusalem, badly struggling with leprosy, routed Saladin’s army of more than 20,000 with a force that probably numbered no more than 3,000. The spearhead of Baldwin’s army was a crack force of 80 Templar knights, led by the Grand Master himself, Eudes de Saint-Amand. We can imagine Saint-Amand leading the charge, drawing his Knights Templar Sword and holding it high above his head to catch the sunlight as his vanguard of Templar knights bore down upon the disorganised Ayyubids, crashing into them and scattering them into the muddy stream as wheat before the scythe…
A Garden of Earthly Delights
However, these penitent warrior-monks did not stay poor for long. The Templars received the formal blessing of the Church at the Council of Troyes in 1129, and this meant that they became favoured recipients of Church donations: money, land, business and fresh recruits. As the Order grew rapidly, as did their horizons, and their representatives began to court the Pope for favour. In 1139, the Pope issued the Omne datum optimum which gave direct Papal support to the Templars, as well as exempting them from all local tithes and taxes. Further Papal proclamations in the 1140s exempted them completely from local clerical laws, and permitted them to collect tithes and taxes of their own. In short, the Templars quickly developed from a brotherhood of knights who swore a vow of poverty, to a wealthy and propertied state-within-a-state which was not subject to any authority but the Pope’s.
Alongside the Templar’s military wing, an enormous bureaucratic empire sprang up to manage their financial affairs. They managed land, productive enterprises, and vineyards, they build thousands of ‘Templar Houses’ across Europe, they were even given permission to build churches and cemeteries (the unorthodox iconography in the surviving examples of which have proven to be fertile ground for conspiracy theorists). They began a system of early banking, whereby pilgrims could deposit their wealth in Western Europe and receive a promissory note of its value, which they would take with them to the Holy Land and then exchange for its value when safely arrived. At one point they even owned the whole island of Cyprus.
Inevitably, such a meteoric rise and unchecked power was bound to attract enemies. The Templar Order came unstuck in the early years of the 14th-century, when Phillip IV of France (who, it was rumoured, was himself enormously in debt to the Templars) seized upon religious controversy to have the Order suppressed. It seems likely that the Pope did not need too much persuading, as it was clear that their worldly power was becoming a doctrinal threat to the Papacy itself. The Templar leaders were arrested on spurious grounds, tortured into false confessions and swiftly burnt. But this swift reversal of fortune has itself seeded many theories and speculations about the real reasons for their suppression… Could it be merely a geopolitical and financial struggle that resulted in their downfall…? (Spoilers: yes)
The Knights Templar Sword embodies all of this complex history: it could not be a more perfect weapon for a Templar or noble LARP outfit, or a potent addition to a collection of spectacular historically-inspired swords.
- Total length: 46″
- Blade material: 5160 carbon steel
- Blade length: 36″
- Guard and pommel materials: Mild steel
- Grips material: Leather
- Weight: 4 lbs 3 oz.
- Manufacturer: Darksword Armory