Before looking at the seal that has become synonymous with the Knights Templar, it is important that we have an understanding of the purpose of such seals.
The most common way to show the authenticity of a document during the middle ages was to affix a seal to it. These seals were images carved into a block, which, when pressed into warm wax, left behind an inverse image of the carving – working much like a modern photo negative does. This seal identified the author of the document and was meant to stop people from forging or tampering with official documents and correspondences.
In an age when even illiterate people needed to conduct business transactions, seals allowed a person to declare their agreement even if they could not sign their names. Ecclesiastical bodies, monarchs, individuals and even orders like the Templars each had their peculiar seals.
Although one image would, in modern times, become synonymous with the order, there were in fact many seals used by the Templars throughout their two centuries of existence. However, it is but one seal, often referred to as the ‘traditional seal,’ that has garnered the most attention and speculation.
The traditional seal of the Knights Templar depicted two knights riding a single mount and was used by several Grand Masters over the Templars’ 200 year history.
As is the case with any symbol, the attached meaning can vary and great studies have been done into symbolism – perhaps most notably the eminent psychologist and occultist Carl Jung.
The image of the two knights astride a single mount was said to represent their vow of poverty – the original members who founded the order being so poor that each knight could not afford his own horse. This seems to have been little more than a poetic tradition, for as early as the Council of Troyes, when the Latin Rule was composed an individual knight was permitted to have three horses and a Grand Master was permitted to own even more.
Some have theorized that the dual knights riding a single mount was a reference to the homosexuality that the knights were accused of practicing. This theory most certainly came into existence after the accusations brought against the order during and after their arrest in 1307.
There has been some thought that the Templar seal’s two knights is neither a representation of the Templar’s vows of poverty or alleged homosexual activities, but rather a representation of the duality or conflict that existed in the order:
They were poor by vow, yet rich beyond belief (in their assets)
They were introspective, yet well versed in the matters of the world
They were monks on one hand, yet feared as warriors on the other
Others have cited the Gospel of Matthew as the source of the seal’s symbolic meaning claiming that the one knight represented a Templar while the other depicted Christ. This comes from the passage in Matthew where Jesus Christ says:
“Wherever two or more of you are gathered in My name, there am I, in the midst of them.”
The reverse of the traditional seal (above left) depicted the dome of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, although many have erroneously claimed that it is the Dome of the Rock. The image on the right shows the seal of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.