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Symbols of the Knights Templar & Templars in Fiction: Literature and Film

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Written by   439
7 months ago

This is the fourth and last article in my series about the Knights Templar.


How about the Red cross? Can their symbol be derived from that of the Templars? Did the Templars have other visual symbols than the cross?"

Henri Dunant who created the Red Cross organisation (la Croix-rouge) was a Swiss; the symbol of the organisation is the inverted Swiss flag. There is no reason to suspect any Templar connection.

The Templars adopted their cross in 1146. It was a cross patteé, a splayed cross (quite different from the cross of the Red Cross). The red colour symbolised, of course, the blood of Christ, and a red cross was a symbol of martyrdom. The white background, their mantles, stood for purity and chastity. It was a special privilege to be allowed to wear white garments, but one wonders how they looked after a battle, when all this shining white was soiled by dust and blood. Addison wrote (The Knights Templars, 1842):

"The second crusade was there [Paris, 1146 AD] arranged, and the Templars, with the sanction of the Pope, assumed their blood-red cross, the symbol of martyrdom, as the distinguishing badge of the order, which was appointed to be worn on their habits and mantles on the left side of the breast over the heart, whence they came afterwards to be known by the name of Red Friars and the Red Cross Knights."

Cardinal de Vitry, Bishop of Acre and contemporary to the Templars, describes a banner, Beauseant:

"They carry before them to battle, a banner, half black and white, which they call Beau-sant, that is to say, in the Gallic tongue, Bien-seant, because they are fair and favourable to the friends of Christ, but black and terrible to his enemies."

Then they had armourial bearings, "which were, on a shield argent, a plain cross gules, and (brochant sur le tout) the holy lamb bearing the banner of the order, surmounted by a red cross." (cited from Addison)

In heraldry, "gules" means red tincture. A cross gules simply means a red cross.

The only other known symbol is the picture of two knights on one horse, symbolising poverty, which is shown on the Order's seal.

Templars in Fiction: Literature and Film

The Templars have a prominent place in modern popular fiction. It started in the 1800s with novels such as Sir Walter Scott's “The Talisman” and not at least “Ivanhoe”. The latter's protagonist is Brian de Bois-Guilbert, a Templar with dubious character, and the Grand Master, Lucas de Beaumanoir.

More recent literature featuring Templars or Templar mysteries include “Foucault's Pendulum” (1988), by Umberto Echo; and “The Da Vinci Code” (2003), by Dan Brown.

Templars or Templar mysteries also figure in movies and at least two TV-series.

One series is Knightfall (2017-2020), by Don Handfield and Richard Rayner. Its main character is the Templar leader, Landry du Lauzon.

“The Last Templar” (2009) is a mini series, based on a novel from 2005 by Raymond Khoury.

Well-known movies with a Templar theme include “National Treasure” (2004), and “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade” (1989). And of course there are more than one film based on Ivanhoe; the best is probably the one from 1982, with Anthony Andrews as Wilfred of Ivanhoe.

In addition to this, Templars occur in several video games and in quite much pictorial art. If you are interested in the latter, just run “Templars in art” in a search engine.

Finally, a couple of examples of Templar occurrence in poetry:

"And on his brest a bloodie crosse he bore

The deare remembrance of his dying Lord

For whose sweete sake that glorious badge he bore

And dead (as living) ever him ador'd

Upon his shield the like was also scor'd

For sovereign hope which in his helpe he had;

Right faithful true he was in deed and word;

But of his cheer did seem too solemn sad

Yet nothing did he dread but ever was ydrad."

(Edmund Spenser (1552-1599), Faerie Queen, The Red-Cross Knights.

["ydrad" is past participle of dread; an obsolete form.])

"The Knights are dust,

And their good swords are rust,

Their souls are with the saints, we trust."

(T.S. Coleridge, also quoted by Sir W. Scott)

Read my whole series of articles about the Knights Templar. I list the articles here, in the best order for reading; it is not the order in which they were published.

1. The Order of the Temple - The Knights Templar

2. The Mysteries of the Knights Templar

3. Symbols of the Knights Templar & Templars in Fiction: Literature and Film

4. The Knights Templar & The Circular Number Nine

Copyright © 2008, 2021 Meleonymica/Mictorrani. All Rights Reserved.

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The Kings of Templar are some of the most fascinating groups in history. It's highly disputed, but it's been claimed that they even invented some form of the modern banking system. There were banks before, of course, but some of their contributions remain with us today.

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Yes, they developed banking. It was forbidden for Christians to take interest, but the Templars were exempted from that law by the Pope, so they could develop banking.

It was the same law that made the Jews money-lenders in Europe. They didn't have to follow Christian law, which forbade the taking of interest. There was a niche they could fill... and the consequences were that we got many Jewish bankers.

If you are interested in the Knight Templars, please read my whole series; it's four articles. You find the links after the article above.

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