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Templar Flag

Posted: Sat Jul 01, 2017 9:02 pm
by Tetardd

I'd like to make a Templar shield. I have a conundrum regarding the colours.

I have found two medieval images (well, they look medieval to me), supposedly of templars. They show the flag being white at the bottom with a black band at the top.


However, I'm told that these maybe mistakes as the logical design would be black (darkness) bottom defeated by light (god) above, which would make sense (this idea comes from a freemason source, so with a claim to Templar heritage).

Has anybody got insights that they can share (please can you clearly indicate if your answer is a scholarly fact or an opinion so that I can weigh the insights and solve my conundrum)?

THANKS massively.

Re: Templar Flag

Posted: Sat Jul 01, 2017 10:01 pm
by Brother Ranulf
Here's a few scholarly points to consider:

(1) Any connection between Freemasonry and the Templars is relatively modern and tenuous at best, despite what the Freemasons claim (their first lodges date to the 18th century), so treat their opinions with an articulated lorry load of salt . . . In the words of one scholar, "There is no historical evidence connecting the Knights to the Freemasons." [Miller, Duane (2017). Knights Templar in War and Religion, Vol 2]

(2) Go to original period depictions of Templar shields and flag and you will be left with one certainty - the historical evidence is confusing, contradictory and muddled.

(3) Your images are by the extremely reliable English Benedictine monk Matthew Paris, who was working on various books from 1236 to his death in 1259. He was a chronicler, artist, historian and recorder of genuine heraldry - he definitely knew what he was talking about.

(4) The period of the Templars was one where uniformity did not exist; there was no universal calendar, no "correct" time of day and certainly no military uniforms as we understand the term. Monasteries each made their own arrangements for obtaining cloth and making up the garments worn by monks - and the same certainly applies to the Drapers in Templar Preceptories. The idea of uniform shields is a modern one, suiting modern concepts of how military organisations should appear.

(5) In his article Military Orders of the Holy Land, Chris Gravett (historian, writer and senior curator at the Royal Armouries) describes 12th century Templar shields as being white with a red cross, sometimes central, sometimes in the top left corner, sometimes with splayed ends to the arms of the cross. One source has a shield with a cross above an eagle, another has a cross surrounded by spirals or foliate scrolls. An illustration of about 1240 has a Templar shield with a white field and a black band across the top section. Yet another illustration of about 1260 shows a black shield with a white band across the top, with a black cross with flared arms in the white area. Gravett describes the flag as either mainly white with a black section at the top like this shield, or half white and half black (the black at the top). Both are seen in period sources. Other sources state that a red cross was superimposed over these two areas. All of these are equally likely to be accurate, possibly evolving and changing over time. Note the complete lack of uniformity in these sources.

(6) It is likely that, just as in the case of the flag, Templar shields could vary in their design - certainly the shape changed over time and I suspect that the design did too. Senior people in the Order might choose their own shield design and it is possible that the rank and file did the same. Uniformity was an unknown concept, beyond what is set out in the Templar Rule.

(7) The baucent (piebald, meaning black and white) banner definitely did not have to be the same as the design on the shield - compare the Hospitaller's 1260 banner of red with a white cross, while shields of that time seem to have been black.


12th century frescoes at Templar chapel at Cressac-sur-Charente

Matthew Paris, Chronica majora of about 1240 - 1250

Fresco of about 1250 at the Templar church, San Bevignate, Perugia

The Anglo-Norman Dictionary, citing , Eight thirteenth-century rolls of arms in French and Anglo-Norman Blazon of the late 13th century, where the banner is described as Le baucent del Temple, d’argent al chef de sable a un croyz de goule passant [The piebald banner of the Temple: white with a black upper portion and a red cross over all].

Chris Gravett: Military Orders of the Holy Land

Helen Nicholson: Templars, Hospitallers and Teutonic Knights, Images of the Military Orders 1128 - 1291

Flemish map of Jerusalem of about 1200 showing St George as a Templar Knight

Re: Templar Flag

Posted: Tue Jul 04, 2017 10:23 pm
by Ne'erdowell
Tetardd wrote:
However, I'm told that these maybe mistakes as the logical design would be black (darkness) bottom defeated by light (god) above, which would make sense (this idea comes from a freemason source, so with a claim to Templar heritage).
My opinion is that this is probably incorrect. Symbolism isn't common in heraldry.

Re: Templar Flag

Posted: Wed Jul 05, 2017 11:15 am
by Brother Ranulf
Ne'erdowell is right about heraldry not being prone to symbolism, but even people at the time might occasionally see some meaning in the design even if it was not intended. The French canon regular Jacques de Vitry describes in his Historia Hierosolymitana of about 1220 how the black over white flag signified 'that they are fair and kindly towards their friends, but black and terrible to their enemies'.

The historian and author Ian Heath has stated that the baucent banner was in use from 1128 and "the Templars had a secondary banner of a red cross on a white field, and each commandery had its own banner plus a reserve one to be unfurled if the first was lost", indicating that there were a number of different banners in use at the same time - but he gives no supporting evidence for this. If this is correct, then it may also help to explain the many varieties of known shield designs, with each commandery (Preceptory) coming up with its own designs for flag and shields.

Re: Templar Flag

Posted: Sat Jul 08, 2017 3:41 pm
by Brother Ranulf
The Templar banner from 12th and 13th century sources:
Templar Banner 1.jpg

The Italian Templar banner and shield, about 1270:
Templar Banner 2.jpg

Re: Templar Flag

Posted: Wed Jul 12, 2017 2:39 pm
by Brother Ranulf
This drawing may help to explain some of the points made above, illustrating Templar lance pennons and just a few of the known shield designs:
Templar shields2.jpg

1 is from the Templar frescoes at Cressac-sur-Charente, France, dating to about 1163 - it is associated with shield B. The cross only "reads" correctly when the lance is horizontal, as in a charge.

2 is from the map of Jerusalem of about 1200, associated with shield C


A is taken from the second seal of the Templars, dating to 1158. The diagonal bands are generally thought to represent iron straps, as seen here.

B is from the Cressac frescoes - colours are conjectural.

C is from the 1200 map of Jerusalem.

D is from the Chronica majora by Matthew Paris, 1240 - 1250.

Re: Templar Flag

Posted: Thu Jul 13, 2017 3:09 pm
by Jorge
Thank you, Brother Ranulf, for your insight and for sharing your deep knowledge, once more, with everybody here! Much appreciated.

Re: Templar Flag

Posted: Fri Jul 14, 2017 8:23 am
by Tetardd
I also salute the deep encyclopedic knowledge of Brother Ranulf with my humblest bow. Much appreciated.
I hope to meet you one day in a reenactor event somewhere.

Re: Templar Flag

Posted: Sat Aug 12, 2017 10:29 am
by Mark Griffin
2nd the above. As Templars seem to crop up a lot in my line of work doing tv and film stuff I often face the same question. I simply lay out the designs, point out what might or might not be 'right' or at least likely and see what the director likes. Much as I suspect people did to their commanders at the time.

Re: Templar Flag

Posted: Thu Aug 17, 2017 5:59 pm
by Tetardd
Inspired by the really good answers I got, I did a bit more research (mainly to add referencing with links) and I have summarised the discussion with its results and my decision there:

http://www.durhammedievalcombatacademy. ... mplar.html

Brother Ranulf, I have credited you. If you think you are not credited enough, let me know (e.g. if you have a personal web site, I could link my credit to it).

Also, if there are mistakes anybody, let me know.


Re: Templar Flag

Posted: Thu Aug 17, 2017 7:36 pm
by Mark Griffin
Good page, nice job!