Knight Templar

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 haubergeon, which itself acted as an additional layer of protection against enemy blows. Over this they wore a hauberk, which was a long-sleeved shirt of chain mail with chain mail to cover the hands and with a chain mail hood or coif, 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.

Artwork by Christa Hook

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 recognise each other on the battlefield and distinguish them from other warriors, but it did restrict their movements.

On their head, over the coif, 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.