Wednesday, 25 April 2018

REENACMENT: Knight Hospitaller (about 1187-1206)


NOTES: This was a project about an hypothesis of an historically accurate Hospitaller that I used in reenacment events in Italy. I commissioned it to expert reenactors and artisans in 2009-2010. They used high quality materials (wool, iron, linen, felt wool) and all of them are historically documented. All the visible stitchting (eyelets, buttonholes included) are handmade. All the militay equipment (helm, sword, shield, sheath etc) are done by italian or european artisans, only the chainmail coif is done in India by a big company (Deepeka I suppose).

However now I'm looking to update the Hospitaller, thanks to new reconstructive hypotheses. There will be some minor but important changes, especially for the color of the painted helmet, a new painted shield and a different surcoat.

Sources: KNIGHT HOSPITALLER(1) 1100-1306 by David Nicolle, Hospitaliers de Saint-Jean De Jerusalem of the association “Les Guerrier du Moyen-Age” ( ), Les frères de l’Hôpital del collettivo “1186-583” ( ).


The Knights Hospitallers (or Hospitallers), with reference to their mission, are also called Knights of St. John of Jerusalem, and therefore also (in italian language) Giovanniti or Gerosolimitani. With the end of the presence in the Holy Land and the conquest of the island of Rhodes in 1310 the members of the Order became the Knights of Rhodes. In 1530 the Emperor Charles V gave the island of Malta to the Order. From here the members of the Order take the last name that is still the most used today: Knights of Malta.

The birth of the Order dates back to 1048. Some merchants of the ancient maritime republic of Amalfi would have been granted permission by the Caliph of Egypt to build a church, a convent and a hospital in Jerusalem in which to assist pilgrims of all faiths or race. The Order of St. John of Jerusalem - the monastic community dedicated to the management of the hospital for the assistance of pilgrims in the Holy Land - becomes independent under the guidance of its founder, Blessed Gerardo. Pope Pasquale II, with the bull of February 15, 1113, places the hospital of Saint John under the protection of the Holy See, with the right to freely elect its leaders, without interference from other secular or religious authorities. By virtue of this bubble the Hospital became an exempt Order from the Church. All the Knights were religious, bound by the three monastic vows, of poverty, chastity and obedience. The Constitution of the Kingdom of Jerusalem by the Crusaders forced the Order to assume the military defense of the sick, the pilgrims and the territories taken away by the Crusaders to the Muslims. The task of defending Christianity is added to the hospital mission. Together with the Knights Templars, formed shortly after in 1119, the Hospitallers became one of the most powerful military orders in the area. The Order began to stand out in battle against the Muslims and its soldiers wore a black monk-like cape with a white Greek cross. Many of the most important fortifications in the Holy Land were the Templars or Hospitallers: in the Kingdom of Jerusalem the Hospitallers held seven great forts and another 140 possessions in the area. The two majors, their bases in the Kingdom of Jerusalem and in the Principality of Antioch, were the Krak of the Knights and Margat, located the first in Syria and the second near Tripoli (today in Lebanon). The properties of the order were divided into priories, organized into baillies which, in turn, were subdivided into


At the moment it is not still clear whether the hospitallers made use of a black or brown tunic (or even gray, when black discolored, probably), with or without a Greek cross ... what seems to have been ascertained is the presence of the black cloak with a Greek cross without a cap. For what concerns the adoption of the tunic in battle (some reconstructors claim that they limited themselves in wearing only the mantle over the armor), this probably depended on the area in which the Hospital was, availability of material or even simply personal choices; on the other hand there was no real uniformity so it is possible that there were various interpretations of the dress. Actually there is no iconographic source that clearly shows a hospitaller in arms of the twelfth century, this only happens from the fifteenth century, where such iconographic sources abound. All that remains is a statute dating back to 1206 which provides some information concerning the clothes supplied to the order.

In this Spanish manuscript of the 13th century, there is a the tunic with hood.
They are Templars, but the style is also attributable to the Hospitallers.

However, there is an iconographic source, traceable by the same manuscript, where two Hospitallers are shown, whose tunic does not have a hood.

The dilemma arises concerning the effective and practical use of the tunic over the hauberk. Some hypothesize that it was not used. However, according to the texts of the period the military orders were obliged to dress the cross, wearing monastic clothes, only from 1248 was allowed by Pope Innocent IV the use of a more comfortable surcoat, but only in combat and under certain conditions.

In a fresco of the Templar Church of Cressac, in Western France (late 12th century), it is possible to notice some crusaders or templars wearing a long tunic over the armor which also covers the arms, however without a hood and with the typical cross in the side left chest.


Flag with three tails of the Order of the Hospital of St. John of Jerusalem. A simple white Greek cross with red background. In the twelfth century, with some exceptions, the tail flags were the most used. The form was similar to that represented in the following iconographic source, a fresco also present in the Templar Church of Cressac.

The helmet with, mask used for the reconstruction was inspired by a knight illustrated in a Spanish manuscript of 1185. It was painted based on the miniature in the Hunterian Psalter manuscript of the twelfth century. The white Greek Cross was placed at the center of the helmet, following the imitation of this source.


The reconstruction about the Hospitaller is an reconstructive hypothesis based on a the available sources. For example, the group "Les Guerrier du Moyen-Age" has created a version of a brother in arms that does not wear the hood on the tunic, but only the black cape without a hood and with a white Greek cross. shield is red, with a white Latin cross.


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