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Sander Marechal




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PostPosted: Tue 16 Mar, 2010 6:22 pm    Post subject: 13th century hospitaller (order of St. John) uniform         Reply with quote

Hi all, I am looking about information about the uniforms and changes in uniform of the Hospitallers in the 13th century. I have found only a little information about this. Much of it is only very general, just stating that first they wore black and later red. The only specifics (especially dates) I could find were in an Osprey book (Hospitallers part 1). Here's what I have so far.


  • In 1118 Raymond Dupuy succeeded Gerald, founder of the Hospitallers. It was Raymond who proposed that the Hospitallers take up arms. So, no arms & armour before 1118.
  • During the 12th and early 13th century, the uniform for brother-knights and brother sergeants was a black or brown cappae. I think that's a full robe with sleeves and a hood. It was worn over armour and had a small white cross on the left side of the chest.
  • In 1248 came a papal decree that brother-knights and brother-sergeants could wear wide, black surcoats with a small white cross on it. But only in dangerous areas (i.e. battle?)
  • In 1259 there was a papal order that the brother-knights (not the brother-sergeants) would wear black mantles (as opposed to brown?). And during war they would wear red surcoats with a white cross.
  • In 1278 the previous decree was revoked. Everyone started wearing the red surcoat to battle.


A couple of things come to mind here. First off, the Hospitallers were well funded. I assume that their arms and armour were modern for the time. Plenty of information about that. So I'm mostly wondering about the cappae versus surcoat and what colors to use.

Another thing that comes to mind is that papal decrees don't usually come out of the blue. It stands to reason that cappae hindered mobility in combat and that Hospitallers started to wear them before 1248 even though they were not allowed. For that same reason I can imagine that the 1278 revocation of the 1259 decree was because people got upset that brother-knights were so distinguished from brother sergeants. After all, nobility should not matter in a religious order, right?

I would love to find more information about the 13th century Hospitallers uniform, as this appears to be the transitional period for this uniform. What exactly is a 12th/13th century cappae? Are there any effegies or paintings that depict Hospitallers in this century? Any sources to back up the dates from the Osprey book?

Thanks in advance!
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Sander Marechal




Location: The Netherlands
Joined: 04 Dec 2009
Reading list: 17 books

Spotlight topics: 1
Posts: 671

PostPosted: Thu 18 Mar, 2010 2:02 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Nobody knows anything about Hospitaller uniforms?

Anyway, I have found two pictures so far. On Wikipedia.

The first picture shows the siege of Acre from 1291. The painting itself is from approximately 1840. It shows a mail-clad Hospitaller with a red surcoat that comes down to about mid-thigh.

The second image is the first in a series of twelve paintings commissioned in 1994 by the Knights of Rhodes that depict the Hospitallers. This image depicts Hospitallers between 1200 and 1250. What is interesting is that it also shows red surcoats, not black surcoarts or cappae. Historical research for these pictures was done by Marquis Anthony Bullegieg de Siro?? (I think... it's hard to read the text on the painting).



 Attachment: 132.5 KB
SiegeOfAcre1291.jpg
The siege of Acre (1291). Painted approx. 1840.

 Attachment: 57.48 KB
hospitallers-1200.JPG
Hospitallers 1200-1250
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Boris R.





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PostPosted: Thu 18 Mar, 2010 10:38 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

well if you could find a way to visit Malta yourself, that would be one great start. they have museum right there in Valletta, one that shows the whole history of the order, starting in Jerusalem, through battle of Rhodes, than siege of Malta and lastly the piracy of Knights and their capitulation to Napoleon in the eve of 19th century
and they are stack full of preserved suits of armour from whole of the last millenium

Never take life seriously. Nobody gets out alive anyway.
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Sander Marechal




Location: The Netherlands
Joined: 04 Dec 2009
Reading list: 17 books

Spotlight topics: 1
Posts: 671

PostPosted: Thu 18 Mar, 2010 12:02 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Boris R. wrote:
well if you could find a way to visit Malta yourself, that would be one great start. they have museum right there in Valletta


What museum is that? Wikipedia lists a large number of museums in Valletta but none match your description. The closest I can find is the Grandmaster's Palace Armoury Museum, but according to Wikipedia that mostly has armour from the Renaissance, when the Hostpitallers were in Malta. I don't have the opportunity to go to Malta anytime soon, but if there are pictures online somewhere I would appreciate a link to them.

Note that I am not so much interested in arms & armour. It's not that hard to figure out. The Hospitallers were rich so they would have top-notch arms & armour for the knights and pretty much everything else for the sergeants. I also know that because they were a monastic order, their armour would not be heavily decorated.

What I am really interested in is what they wore over their armour. I suspect that they started dumping their cappae for surcoats before the 1248 papal decree. I also suspect that after 1259 there was quite a kertuffle over the fact that the knights were dressed differently from the sergeants. But I'd like to back this up with paintings, effegies, brasses, existing research, etcetera. Anything besides just an Osprey book.
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Boris R.





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PostPosted: Thu 18 Mar, 2010 12:41 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Sander Marechal wrote:
Boris R. wrote:
well if you could find a way to visit Malta yourself, that would be one great start. they have museum right there in Valletta


What museum is that? Wikipedia lists a large number of museums in Valletta but none match your description. The closest I can find is the Grandmaster's Palace Armoury Museum, but according to Wikipedia that mostly has armour from the Renaissance, when the Hostpitallers were in Malta. I don't have the opportunity to go to Malta anytime soon, but if there are pictures online somewhere I would appreciate a link to them.



thats the one, it has all sorts of armour, from periods prior to when The Order took to Malta

Never take life seriously. Nobody gets out alive anyway.
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