In this blog post, we’ll describe and compare the uniforms of the Masonic Knights Templars and that of the historical Templars of the Crusades. Their uniforms are different even though they share similar names.
Uniforms of the Historical Knights Templar
Image credit: http://www.medievalwarfare.info/templars.htm
The Knights Templar were identified by the white mantle decorated with the red cross pattee their knights wore. The sergeants wore a brown mantle.
When the Knights Templar were first established, they did not wear the red cross on their uniforms as they were not permitted to do so. The Knights Templar were a noble body that followed strict guidelines and regulations with uniform conformity.
In 1129, the Templar Rule was written at the Council of Troyes in which Bernard of Clairvaux was a participant. The outcome of the council was the Primitive Rule. The Primitive Rule provided guidelines for garments, but did not permit members to wear the red cross.
In 1147, Pope Eugene III granted the Templars the right to wear the red cross. The red cross was placed over the heart by the left side of the mantle worn by the Templars. Most pictures of Knight Templars that you find around with the red cross placed at different places around the uniform is wrong.
The white mantle worn by Knights represents the Knights vow of chastity and a sign of purity. Some historians suggest that the Knights wore sheepskin under their garments. But that hasn’t been proven.
The Knight Templars kept their hair short, unlike other knights who wore their hair long. They were also forbidden to cut their beards. Short hair was more comfortable to fit into the helmets and head protection worn in those days. Short hair did not obstruct the vision of a Knight wearing a helmet, unlike long hair.
Uniforms of Modern Masonic Knights Templar
Image credit: http://www.surreyknights.org/News_0053.html
The uniforms of the Masonic Knights Templar are defined in the constitution of the Grand Encampment, Knights Templar, USA. The specifics of each uniform changes according to the rank. So, ranks like dais office, Grand Encampment officer, Grand Commandery officer and subordinate Commandery officer. We’ll provide a general description of the dress uniform without going into details of things like mantles and caps. You must also note that Grand Commandery officers and some others can modify uniforms within their jurisdictions, although subordinate Commandery may not be allowed to do so on their own.
The Templar Dress Coat is a black double-breasted frock coat. There are different crosses on the sleeve with variants for officers, Grand offices, members and Grand Encampment officers. There is nothing on the shoulders for non-dais officers and members of a subordinate Commandery. But dais officers have set shoulder boards showing their rank. On the left breast of some uniforms, you will have jewels from meritorious rank or service. The trousers of the uniforms are made of black broadcloth and made of standard military cut. So, the trousers look like regular military black dress pants.
The feathered chapeau is trimmed with black velvet blinding and with one white and two black ostrich plumes. The plums are arranged in a way that the black plumes will clearly show at the edges, and the end of the white plume does not extend beyond the chapeau more than 3 inches. The length and width are in proportion to the size of the Sir Knights. The dimensions vary with position and rank. Most times, the chapeau extends to the rear and front a few inches from the head. The side of the chapeau is beveled and lined with gold wire lace. The left side of the chapeau is a rosette that varies with rank.
The ceremonial swords are ornamented from the hilt through the blade, and the use of gold and silver swords varies with rank. In some jurisdictions, belts are worn, and in some jurisdictions, officers wear a shoulder strap that hides under the coat coming through a hip pocket.
Evolution of Modern Masonic Uniforms
The original uniform of Masonic Knights Templars was simple and it consisted of a black triangular apron with skull and bones, a sword and a shoulder-to-hip sash. All these could be worn over regular clothing. The Masonic Knights Templar body had not spread widely then, partly due to the American Civil War and the scandal known as the Morgan Affair.
But after the American Civil War, Freemasonry and other fraternal organizations began to proliferate. As they grew, their apparel became better. With the coming of the Victorian Age (1837 - 1901), The Masonic Knights Templar uniform became updated. The uniform changed from the simple design to a black frock coat, which was similar to uniforms worn during the Civil War, a sword and a scabbard, a black triangular apron that is no longer used by some jurisdictions and a feathered naval styled chapeau.
Here are some Knights Templar products on Bricks Masons