Three years after the fall of Edessa to the Seljuk Turks in the Holy Land, the already well established Templars were given the papal thumbs up to emblazon their white mantles with a red cross.
Templars – white mantles and red crosses
This made them quite a dashing sight in battle as ranks of them charged forward, white mantles fluttering in the breeze and the scarlet crosses clearly on display – in contrast to the crescents of the Saracens.
The crosses though were not latin crosses, but Greek. In other words, the vertical line did not extend downwards as the latin cross does but was equal to the horizontal. This has always fuelled debate on whether the cross really represented the crucifixion or was a pre-existing ancient symbol used by religious groups pre-dating Christianity.
Some credence is given to this by the use of the Egyptian ‘ankh’ by Coptic Christians to this day and which clearly relates to earlier gods. Apart from anything else, the crucifix like the circle is an obvious design to attract spiritual meaning in ancient cultures.
There wasn’t just one type of Templar cross but the most common is the cross with each arm flaring out in to two points – giving eight points in total. However, that wasn’t the only cross the Order used but all of them conform to the Greek model unlike the Teutonic knights who insisted on using the latin cross.