Knights Templar Armour, Weapons and Battle Tactics Also on this page: The author’s idea of an Historical Templar Investiture (Initiation) Ceremony

Author : The Most Reverend Gary Beaver KGCTJ, Retrieved from

So much has been written over the past centuries regarding the Knights ofthe Temple, but as the ancient Order captured the imagination of the generalpublic with whispers of secret treasures and mystical powers, the sluicegates of poorly researched books and imaginative stories that stretchplausibility have been written to swell many an author’s bank balance.

This research paper has as its goal, the clear intention to highlight andaward the reader with an historically correct report on the most importantassets of the Knight Templar, his weaponry, armour and fighting transportthat made the warring monk an enemy to be reckoned with.

This paper is a working document, and has come about after 20 years of Templarresearch and the construction of a personal Archive of Templarism containingoriginal assets and translations of the ancient Order’s early days.Along with my archive, this document will no doubt evolve over the yearsas my supporting research expands and brings to light more and more of thelittle known facts on the subject matter.

1. Knights Templar Training

The actual training of the Templar Knight is little documented over the lifespan of the Order, although we do find references of lion hunting beingacceptable as a means to teach tactical approach and close quarter combat.

As the white mantle of a Knight of the Temple was only achievable by oneof noble descent, we can see that the main reasoning behind this was to buildthe core of the Order with noblemen who had grown up with the chivalric codeand trained in the art of warfare and horsemanship.

To grasp what a Templar Knight would take as his basic knowledge, we mustfirst look at his early days as a squire and depict his duties that aidedthe forming of this “puer” (boy) of 12 or 13 into a Knight of the most fearedfighting unit. The early saying “you can make a horseman of a lad at puberty,after that, never” clearly depicts the thoughts of the day, especially withthe latter remark of ” He who has stayed at school till the age of twelve,and never ridden a horse, is fit only to be a priest”.

One could be forgiven for mistaking the squire for a human equivalent toa pack horse, as he was often heavily laden carrying not only his master’sequipment and weapons, but also his own meagre pack. Later in our Order’shistory, we can see from The Rule, that a squire was only permitted to ridethe heavy pack-horse or a “rouncy” (rouncy = normal riding horse, not a warhorse) from which he lead his master’s war horse being always saddledand armoured, ready for battle at a moment’s notice.

On arriving at the battlefield, the squire’s first duty was to takehis master’s war horse to the rear, behind the foot soldiers and archersoffering protection to the most important asset on the field, which was themounted Knight. He would then set about dressing his master and put on hisarmour. Once the Knight was mounted, the squire would pass his master’sshield and assorted weaponry, and depending on the status of the Knight,he may very well have a second squire and substitute war horse, who had thetruly dangerous duty of following his master into battle at a safe as possibledistance, ready to aid his master should the first mount be killed.

There are many references of squires donning armour and being permitted tofight with the foot soldiers, a great position of pride for the young knightin training, and a position which amusingly awarded the squire with the rightof carving the meat at the meal table for his master and other Knights. Thereasoning behind this peculiar award has been lost in time, but we can speculatethat there was some connection with carving meat and the swordsmanship againstthe enemy.

During the Crusades, the squire would put up the Knight’s tent and providethe firewood and water and tend all the horses, ensuring that the horseswere watered first. What is most interesting, is that squires appeared tohave foraged in quite large groups with their fellow squires, sometimes withan escorting Knight watching over them.

The days were long and hard, not only preparing and supporting his masterand taking part in the actual hand to hand fighting, but also training tobecome a professional cavalryman, where his skills would include what wenowadays take as professional grade horsemanship, with the added masteryof riding with very little hand control on the horse due to the use of lance,sword and mace.

The war horses used were hot blooded stallions, well fed on oats which heatedthe blood even more, giving the rider a truly boisterous animal to control,demanding a harsh bit and the formidable prick-spurs. It is hard for us toimagine being weighed down with armour and weapons, sat upon a raging stallion,the unbearable heat, the fear of charging headlong into the swarm of oncomingarrows, spears and the porcupine appearance of the enemy’s foot soldierslances. The charge at full gallop, screaming “Non nobis, Domine, non nobis,sed Nomini Tuo da gloriam” as the noise of one’s own armour reacheda deafening pitch in the ears, then remembering to drop the reins upon yourhorse’s neck at the moment of contact with the enemy, enabling the useof shield in the left hand and weapon in the right.

An authentic Knights Templar Spur of the 12th century
Courtesy of The Barony of Richecourt Private Collection

It would take many years of practice to become proficient in close combat,and many squires were killed during their lance or javelin training. Oneof the most trusted training device was the “PELL”, a tall wooden post driveninto the soil and used as a cutting post to perfect one’s sword cuts.The pell actually dates back to Roman military training manuals, and beingso simple and easily acquired, became the standard training device for centuries.A special training sword being of double or triple the weight of the usualfighting sword was used to increase the squire’s muscles and fightingspeed.

Once the sword was mastered to an acceptable level, the knight in trainingwas introduced to the lance and the almost impossible art of staying in thesaddle after the shock of an impact, and how to grip the lance correctlyand not allow it to slide under the arm when it found the target of yourenemy.

The Templar Knights were the first to remove the ring behind the graspinghandle, as it was found to ram against the armpit and cause friction burnsthrough their chain mail and underclothing after multiple strikes duringthe many charges against the Saracens.

Day one of lance training consisted of being seated upon a wooden horse pulledby fellow squires, the pupil aiming at a shield nailed firmly to the pellwhich was sunk deep into the ground to prevent it from falling over. Thepupil was taught to grip hard with his legs and grip hard to the lance, toensure he neither loses his seat nor his weapon. This same method was usedto practice basic mounted sword cuts and offensive shield movements.

After 8 or 9 years of training and reaching 21 years of age, the “peur” couldbe dubbed a Knight, usually by a rough boxing of the ears, seen by the chivalriccode as the last blow the Knight may receive without retaliation. Suchinvestiture was performed by another Knight, usually the Lord of the Householdor the squire’s master. The new Knight would have his sword girthedabout him and his new spurs buckled to his feet, and would be expected toshow his prowess in a celebratory tournament.

All new Knights were known as “Juvenis” and remained with such a title untilthey acquired recognition of their Chivalric status and settled down, whereuponthey were referred to as “Vir” which loosely translates to man.

2. Mounted Tactics

The mounted Knights Templar preferred the “conrois” tactic, consisting ofsquadrons of 25 or 50 men, charging in single line, so close that they rodeknee to knee. Such tactic was so successful it remained the core charge forthree centuries, as recorded during the 12th century with ” the chargingKnight being able to punch a hole in the walls of Babylon” and a scholar’sstatement made during the 3rd Crusade being ” one group of Knights rode soclose that an apple thrown into their midst would not have touched the ground”.

The charge consisted of two initial stages, the lance was first couched thenraised with the charge begun at the slow trot, only breaking into the fullgallop with the lance lowered at the very last moment so as not to tire thehorses, and most importantly, not to lose the formation.

The Knight was taught never to look at his opponent’s lance or swordpoint during his charge, as this would make him close his eyes or flinchat the time of impact. His role was to either “drive the iron” into the enemy,unseat his foe or overthrow the enemy’s horse by squarely striking theknight or his shield.

Upon the success of the charge breaking through the defence line, the Knightbeing thrust into the melee, would draw his secondary weapon and rain blowsin a well aimed but expeditious manner, never turning round as this wastestime and tires the Knight.

The cavalry charge was seen as the best means to weaken or punch throughthe enemy lines, thus permitting the knights and sergeants on foot to burstthrough in a second charge with drawn swords.

The mounted Knights of the Temple soon confronted the Saracen mounted bowmen,whose accuracy was unquestionably deadly, especially against the facelesshelmets worn by the Templar and their poorly protected horses. This new enemytactic was answered by the mounted Knights remaining behind the well armouredspearmen and archers, where they would await the most opportune time to deliverthe charge after weakening them with the pounding of loosed arrows and javelins.

The most successful engagements against an enemy of far greater numbers consistedof two lines of attack, the first line of mounted Knights followed by theirbrothers on foot, each forming a spearhead or wedge formation. The cavalrybreaking through the enemy’s first line, driving them back into theirown second line creating confusion at the crucial point when the men on footfollow the charge.

3. Plate and Weapons

The first thing we think of when picturing a Knight is his mailcoat, whichchanged over the centuries and became not only a form of protection, butalso somewhat of a fashion statement even for the poor Knights of Christ.

The early mailcoat was knee length and split at the sides, which was suitedmore to the use on foot than that of a mounted Knight. The mail consistedof many individual linked iron rings, every ring passed through four others,and shaped by varying the numbers of links. On inspecting ancient mail, Ihave found that in areas such as the armpit which would pull the mail intoa knot, a ring would not be joined to all four partners, this acquiring thenickname of “idle ring” by the makers.

Example of Early Chain Mail Construction and the Tools Used by the Blacksmith

Other variants such as scale armour appeared, and to enable cheaper manufacture,the armourer made this from iron, bronze, horn, bone or leather plates fixedby a rivet and washer to a canvas backing. Overlapping each scale downwardsguarded the rivets of those scales below, although the maker would use eitherstaggered designs like fish scales or in vertical lines.

Example of Early Scale Mail Construction

Much speculation has circulated the medieval researcher’s halls throughoutthe world concerning the strange square shape on the chest of Knights recordedsince the Bayeux Tapestry and throughout the middle ages. Many have identifiedthis as an added layer of mail or breastplate for additional protection ofthe Knight’s heart, which is plausible but incorrect. What we are seeingis the introduction of the ventail or throat flap which guarded the neckand chin of the Knight when in battle, but was unlaced and allowed to flapdown over the chest when not in use.

3.1 The Knights Helmet

It is disappointing that very few Knights Templar helmets survive, and noneof the linings have stood the test of time. What we know for fact, is thatthe Knight’s helmet was originally of northern French design, with theleather lining band being secured around the inner brim by rivets and squarewashers. The adjustable lining was then hand stitched to the band and thenlined with layers of canvas stuffed with wool, tow, hay, hair or grass andseamed to keep it all in place. The final touch was the seaming of the topedges and eyelets placed in the four tongues of leather with a leather thongrunning through to enable adjustment for the head of the wearer.

The modular construction of the Knights Helmet is
clearly depicted on the left, with an excavated example of an original KnightsHelmet.

The Knight would pay particular attention to the correct fitting of his helmet,which when correctly worn would be a firm fit and the brim aligned directlyabove the eyes, thus offering maximum protection. Once correctly fitted,a leather chin strap that was riveted in place at two points each side, wastied (not buckled as some have suggested) and gave the wearer a most stableand comfortable as possible helmet.

3.2 The Shield

The Templar shield was actually made of wood andnot metal as many believe, and progressed from the early Norman round shieldto the well known kite shape. The construction varied from several planksglued together then cut to shape or constructed from a single piece of carvedwood. As early Crusade depictions show, the squires and sergeants who madeup the lower ranks of the Templars carried various styles of shields, manydating back to the early Norman round shields, painted white and made tolook as uniform as their brothers later kite designed shield.

The straps for carrying and fighting were of many different designs, butmost included the “guige” strap and buckle which looped around the neck andallowed the shield to hang down on the left side of the wearer when not inuse.

The “brases” or “enarmes” were the straps screwed to the back of the shieldwhich wrapped around the forearm and the carrying hand to firmly hold theshield in place and to in essence, become part of the Knights own body. Astuffed pad filled with horse hair or cotton was fixed to the shield behindthe hand grips, which offered the wearer a cushion to his hand when usingthe shield to repel the heavy sword or axe blows from the enemy.

Some Templar shields have been found with remnants of parchment or leathercovering over the entire backing, which would suggest these were of higherquality than the normal issue, therefore implying that they were carriedby men of noble rank opposed to the lower sergeants and squires.

3.3 The Sword, Mace & Lance

During the period of Knights Templar, the sword was the most highly prizedpersonal weapon. The Templar sword were pattern-welded, made from bundlesof twisted iron rods mixed with carburised iron (mild steel) forged and beatentogether with a twisting action forming it into a sword shape. Once beateninto the sword, it retained the wavy design along the entirety of its surface,hence the name “pattern-welded”.

The hilt was formed by sliding the cross-guard down until it rested againstthe shoulders of the blade. The grip was made from two halves of cut woodwhich were glued together around the tang. The pommel was slotted over theend and the tip of the tang hammered over and splayed to hold the whole gripassembly in place. Generally, the grip was further embellished with leathersheath and lace to provide a firm grip with sweating hands.

Most of the Templars swords had a plain, straight or slightly curved cross-guard,which helped prevent an opponents blade slipping up the blade to the hand.There are several references to Knights hooking their forefinger over theguard to assist in controlling their weapon, although they ran the risk ofloosing a digit. There are also a few references to the pommel not only actingas a counter balance for the sword, but also an additional grip when placedin the lower part of the Knight’s palm and swung in an arc movement.

Scabbards were made not of leather as some think, but rather of two slatsof wood covered with leather and lined with wool, fur or parchment, completedwith an iron “chape” or “U” shape piece of metal adhered to the base of thescabbard to protect the point of the blade and to stop the sword from cuttingthrough the base of the scabbard.

Construction of the sword-grip and scabbard along with various means of attaching the sword to the belt.

The Lance, usually made of ash wood, was fitted with an iron head that fitted the shaft by nail fixings. The Templar pennon would be nailed below the lance head.

Depiction of Knights Templar Lance Heads and a cross-view of the internal construction from forged iron strips.

12th/13th century mace head cast in copper alloy, offering a light but highly dangerous weapon (British Museum)

Glossary of Knights Templar Terms

Aketon – A padded garment, quilted to keep the stuffing in place,worn under or instead of armour (first mentioned in the 12th century)

Arcon – The saddle bow and cantle

Bailey – Courtyard of a castle

Baldric – Belt slung across the shoulder to suspend a sword

Boss – Metal hand-guard on circular shield; decorative on kiteshaped shields.

Braies – Linen Drawers

Cantle – The rear protuberance of a saddle

Caparison – Cloth covering for a horse

Chape – Guard fitted to the end of a scabbard

Chausses – Leggings of cloth and mail

Coif – Headwear made of cloth, usually quilted for military use;a mail hood

Conroi – Squadron of horsemen, usually in units of 25 or 50

Destrier – The warhorse

Donjon – The Great Tower of a castle

Fuller – The groove running down a sword blade to lighten it

Gambeson – See Aketon

Gonfalon, Gonfanon – Penon carried by a Baron

Guige – Strap supporting shield around the neck, or for hangingit up when not in use

Hauberk – A neck guard

Helm – Helmet enclosing the whole head

Hilt – The cross guard, grip and pommel of a sword

Housing – See Caparison

Infulae – Pair of cloth strips worn on the rear of the helmetby men of rank

Keep – See Donjon

Kettle Hat – Open helmet so-called from its likeness to an upturnedcauldron

Lamellar – Armour composed of small mettle strips laced together.

Locket – Metal, ivory or bone guard for the mouth of the scabbard

Palfrey – A good riding horse

Translation of the Original Requirements and Investiture Ceremony of a Knight of the Temple
By The Most Revd. Gary Beaver KGCTJ Back to Top

Our Order, when fully developed, was composed of several classes: chieflyKnights, Chaplains and serving-brothers. Affiliated were those who were attachedto the Order and worked for it therefore receiving its protection, withouttaking our vows.

A candidate for knighthood should prove that he is of Knightly family andentitled to the distinction. His father must be a Knight, or eligible tobecome one. He must prove that he was born in wedlock (the reason for thisrequirement is said to be not only religious: there was the possibility thata political head such as a King or Prince might influence the Order by managingto have one of his bastard sons enter it, later perhaps to rise to high ranktherein, and finally attaching it to the service of his dominion.

The candidate must be unmarried and free from all obligations. He shouldhave made no vow, nor entered any other Order; and he must not be in debt.note: Eventually the competition for admission became so great from eligiblecandidates that a very high fee was exacted from those who were to bemonk-warriors of the Temple.

All candidates are to be Knighted before entry into the Order ( the periodof probation which was originally demanded was entirely abolished). No youngman could be admitted until he was twenty one years of age, because he wasto be a soldier as well as a monk, and this was the minimum age at whichhe could bear arms.

When the new Knight was admitted to the Order, the ceremony was held in secret.The ceremony was held in one of the Order’s chapels, in the presenceof the assembled chapter alone.

The Master (or the Prior, who took his place in chapels other than thosewhich he was present) opened the proceedings:

“Beloved brethren, ye see that the majority are agreed to receive thisman as a brother. If there be any among you who know anything of him, onaccount of which he cannot lawfully become a brother, let him say it; forit is better that this should be signified beforehand than after he is broughtbefore us.”

If no objection was lodged, the aspirant was sent to a small room with twoor three experienced Knights, to coach him in what he had to know:“Brother, are you desirous of being associated with the Order?”if he agreed, they would dwell upon the trials and rigours of being a Templar.He had to reply that for the sake of God he was willing to undergo anythingand remain in the Order for life; they asked him if he had a wife or wasbetrothed; had he made vows to any other Order; did he owe money more thanhe could pay; was he of sound mind and body; was he the servant of any person?

After satisfactory answers, the result was passed to the Master. The assembledcompany was then asked again if they knew anything that may disqualify him.If noe objected, they were asked: “Are you willing that he should bebrought in, in God’s name?” The Knights answered, “Let himbe brought in, in god’s name.”

The candidate was now again asked by his sponsors if he still desired toenter the Order. Receiving an affirmative reply, they led him to the chapter,where he folded his hands and literally flung himself upon his knees: “Sir,I am come before God and before you for the sake of God and our Dear Lady,to admit me into your Society, and the good deeds of the Order as one whowill be all his life long servant and the slave of the Order.”

“Beloved brother,” answered the receptor, :you are desirous ofa great matter, for you see nothing but the outward shell of our Order. Itis only the outward shell when you see that we have fine horses and richcaparisons, that we eat and drink well and are splendidly clothed. From thisyou conclude that you will be well off with us. But you know not the rigorousmaxims which are in our interior. For it is a hard matter for you, who areyour own master, to become the servant of another. You will hardly be ableto perform, in future, what you wish yourself. For when you may wish to beon this side of the sea, you will be sent to the other side; when you willwish to be in Acre, you will be sent to the district of Antioch, to Tripolis,or to Armenia; or you will be sent to Apulia, to Sicily, or to Lombardy,or to Burgundy, France, England, or any other country where we have housesand possessions.”

“When you will wish to sleep, you will be ordered to watch; when youwill wish to watch, then you will be ordered to go to bed; when you willwish to eat, then you will be ordered to do something else. And as both weand you might suffer great inconvenience from what you have mayhap concealedfrom us, look here on the holy evangelists and the word of God and answerthe truth to the questions which we shall put to you; for if you lie youwill be perjured and may be expelled the Order, from which God keep you!”

All former questions were asked on Holy writ.

If the answers proved acceptable, the receptor continued:

“Beloved brother, take good care that you have spoken the truth to us:for should you have spoken false on any one point, you might be put out ofthe Order-from which God keep you! Now, beloved brother, attend strictlyto what we shall say unto you. Do you promise to God, and to our dear LadyMary to be, all your life long, obedient to the Master of the Temple, andto the prior who shall be set over you?”

“Yea, sir, with the help of God!”

“Do you promise to God, and to our dear Lady Mary, to observe all yourlife long, the laudable manners and customs of our Order, both those whichare already in use and those which the master and Knights may add?”

“Yea, sir, with the help of God!”

“Do you promise to God, and to our dear Lady Mary, that you will, withthe strength and powers which God has bestowed on you, help as long as youlive to conquer the Holy Land of Jerusalem; and that you will, with all yourstrength, aid to keep and guard that which the Christians possess?”

“Yea, sir, with the help of God!”

“Do you promise to God, and to our dear lady Mary, never to hold (leave)this Order for stronger or weaker, for better or worse, than with the permissionof the Master, or the chapter which has the authority?”

“Yea, sir, with the help of God!”

“Do you finally promise to God, and to our dear Lady Mary, never tobe present when a Christian is unjustly and unlawfully despoiled of his heritage,and that you will never, by counsel or by act, take part therein?”

“Yea, sir, with the help of God!”

“In the name, then, of God, and our dear Lady Mary, and in the nameof St. Peter of Rome, and of our father the Pope, and in the name of allthe brethren of the temple, we receive to all the good works of the Orderwhich has been performed from the beginning, and shall be performed to theend, you, your father, your mother, and all your family whom you will lethave share therein. In like manner do you receive us to all the good workwhich you have performed and shall perform. We assure you of bread and waterand the poor clothing of the Order, and labour and toil enow.”

The candidate was admitted. The white mantle with its red cross was placedby the master over the neck of the candidate, and clasped firmly by him.The Chaplain recited the 132nd psalm and the prayer of the Holy Ghost, andeach brother repeated a paternoster.

Then the Master and the Chaplain kissed the new entrant. As he sat down beforethe Master, the latter delivered him sermon on his duties.

Above article Retrieved on Jan 15, 2007 from