The Templars of Doom

Today, I’d like to talk about the Templars.

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Knights Templar had no cars, so they rode little tiny horses at parades.

And no, I’m not going to talk about your strange uncle who wears the eye-in-the-pyramid Illuminati ring and performs strange ceremonies on Tuesday nights. And no, I’m not talking about these guys on the left. I’m talking about the original Templar knights. You know, The Poor Fellow-Soldiers of Christ and of the Temple of Solomon (who were obviously better at fighting than coming up with names).

The Templars started out as a Christian security force in the Holy Lands. Think of the Blackwater private security firm that provided protection (and, at times, chaos) in the Middle East recently, but add religious zeal, ZZ Top beards, and a blessing from the Pope, and you’re on the right track.

The Order of the Templar Knights started in France, around the time of the First Crusade. A man named Hugh de Payns, who some say was from France (and some say was from Italy), and a French knight named Godfrey de Buillon, started the order to protect pilgrims journeying to and from the Holy Lands during the First Crusade. And it wasn’t long before their soldiers became the special-ops forces of the Crusdades.

Templar Swords were works of art. Like this tempered beauty at Strongblade.com

Templar Swords were works of art. Like this tempered beauty at Strongblade.com

But I digress. Let’s get back to Hugh de Payns and Godfrey de Bouillon (who is now better known for his savory soup-flavoring cubes). (Okay, I made up the bouillon cubes thing). Hugh got permission from King Baldwin of Jerusalem to start a new order of monks. But these monks would be really cool ones, who could carry crusader swords and kick ass, Kill-Bill style. Baldwin, who was surrounded by hundreds of thousands of grumbling Muslims, thought it was a splendid idea and even gave the order a headquarters at the Temple Mount. Yes, I see the wheels spinning. King Solomon’s Temple Mount. Hugh de Payns sat on the Temple Mount with his closest friends and, after a few days, came down with the name of the order: The Poor Fellow-Soldiers of Christ and of the Temple of Solomon. Yeah, the coolness factor just dropped a bit. But it would rise again! Stick with me.

Hugh decided that the Templar Order would protect Christians wherever they needed protecting, and kick enemy ass in the Holy Lands. Whoever those enemies were (and believe me, telling friend from foe out there became a bit of a thing . . .) Even the Pope got on board. Pope Honorius II approved of the order, and suddenly, the Templars were legit.

The original Navy Seals.

The original Navy Seals.

Except for one teensy, weensy detail.

Monks don’t kill. It’s kind of their thing, you now?

So what, right? I mean, desperate times and such, no?

Lots and lots of people were all sorts of upset by the new order of killer monks. So Bernard of Clairvaux (St. Bernard, of shaggy dog fame) was called in to help. Bernard was a really respected figure in the church, and, better than that, the man could *write.* He was a Middle-Ages spin master. So good, in fact, that they called him the “honey-mouthed doctor.” Although that may have just been his mistress. (I’m joking, he really was called that). And he was so respected, that he was also sometimes called The Second Pope – which is confusing because there actually were two popes not long after. But I digress again.

Anyway, Bernard rolled up his sleeves, cracked his knuckles, and wrote an essay on why it was okay for these new monks to go around dismembering people, in spite of that pesky “Thou Shalt Not Kill” thing. He called the new monks Knights of Christ, and gives a heart-thumping accounting of why they are better than typical knights or typical monks. Here’s a highlight:

When someone strongly resists a foe in the flesh, relying solely on the strength of the flesh, I would hardly remark it, since this is common enough. And when war is waged by spiritual strength against vices or demons, this, too, is nothing remarkable, praiseworthy as it is, for the world is full of monks. He [the Templar] is truly a fearless knight and secure on every side, for his soul is protected by the armor of faith just as his body is protected by armor of steel. He is thus doubly armed and need fear neither demons nor men.

 

The man had skills.

No one could argue with the Honey-Mouthed Doctor (or the Second Pope, really), so the Templars were given the blessing to exist, and to make their enemies not exist. And, for a time, nothing could stop them. They fought in the Holy Lands, armed with beautiful Templar swords and heavy chain armor, and pretty much anywhere in the world where Christians were threatened. Bernard had done such a good job making them look like heroes that everyone wanted to either become a Templar or donate to them. And the Pope helped by proclaiming that Templars were not subject to any laws but his own. Within a few years, the Templars were the richest monk order in the world. And that’s saying something, because monk orders were usually filthy rich (never mind that vow of poverty thing).

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This is what it must have felt like when a Templar approached you in battle.

The Templars had so much money that they had to invent modern banking. Someone could deposit money in a Templar bank in Paris and receive a chip confirming their deposit. That person could then show the chip to a Templar bank worker in Rome and withdraw the money there. It was pretty revolutionary at the time.

But banking wasn’t what the Templars were known for. They were known for being elite fighters, and fight they did. In 1177, five hundred mounted knights Templar led a few thousand infantry against an enemy army of 30,000 at the Battle of Montgisard. The Muslim army was led by the brilliant military leader, Saladin (insert your own joke about Thousand Island dressing or dieting), but not even he could defeat the heavily armored and rigorously trained Templar knights.

The Templars gained hundreds of victories, throughout the world, even helping to capture Jerusalem itself. But, in time, most of their gains were slowly wiped away. Saladin’s forces gathered around Jerusalem and shouted, “Lettuce in!” (my apologies). And, after a long struggle, they recaptured Jerusalem.

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After 12 hours of Justin Bieber, I’d jump in the flames on my own.

The Holy Lands were lost but the Templars continued their meteoric financial rise in Europe. And, sadly, it was their wealth and power that ultimately did them in. Jealousy led to rumors of strange induction ceremonies for the Templars. Rumors of devil worship and secret conspiracies involving Solomon’s Temple. King Philip IV of France, who had borrowed vast sums of money from the Templars for his war against England, seized upon these rumors. He convinced one of the two Popes (two real popes, not talking about St. Bernard again), that the rumors were true, and, on a cold day in October 1307– a Friday the 13th  — soldiers across Europe arrested any Templars they could find. Many of the knights were locked in dungeons, tortured, forced to confess to the horrible rumors (under duress), made to listen to Justin Bieber music for 12 hours, and then mercifully burned at the stake.

That’s right—the fall of the Templar Knights started with Saladin, and ended with stake.

 

 

Having a Ball, and Chain Mail

Showing up to a ren faire in a wool robe and a Gandalf staff is nice, but nothing says “medieval badass” quite like a suit of riveted chainmail and a snarl.

Chain Mail--And we're not talking about annoying emails that you have to send to 5 friends.

Chain Mail–the kind you don’t have to send to five friends.

Chainmail was the little black dress for medieval warriors. It was a staple of the Middle Age soldiery, and, before the 13th century, a coat of iron rings was pretty much the only game in town.

The greatest threat to a soldier wearing chain mail wasn’t a huge, beefy warrior holding a mace with a head larger than your horse’s. No, the greatest threat to a coat of mail was rain.

That’s right. Rain. Steel rings can stop the tempered blade of a longsword, but they are powerless against the faint patter of a mid-day drizzle. Good armorsmiths quenched the rings they made for armor in oil, to help protect them from the elements, but the oil was simply a deterrent. Men-at-arms usually spent the evenings after a battle oiling and cleaning their mail, but this wasn’t always effective either. In the end, rust would set in, and the armor had to be rolled in barrels of sand, or scraped by squires.

What a pain in the ass.

Steel chain mail these days isn’t much better. You can add a zinc coating to your mail, to protect it from the elements, but zinc is heavy. And if you add zinc to steel, you’ve made a heavy suit of armor ridiculously heavy.

Don't let your chain mail become a science project. Buy anodized aluminum.

Don’t let your chain mail become a science project. Buy anodized aluminum.

That’s why Strongblade sells chain mail made from riveted and anodized aluminum rings. Aluminum is beautifully light, but looks just like steel. If you’ve ever worn a suit of steel mail for more than an hour, you will truly appreciate aluminum chain mail. If you’ve ever tried to spar in a steel suit of chain mail (I have) you’ll cry tears of joy when you wear the aluminum one. And if you’ve ever gone swimming in a suit of steel chain mail, you are not reading this.

True, aluminum won’t stop a battle axe, but if you’re at a ren faire and someone attacks you with a battle axe, you’ve got bigger problems than tensile strength.

Aluminum chain mail -- Great looking, comfortable, and no care needed.

Aluminum chain mail — Great looking, comfortable, and no care needed.

And yes, it’s true, aluminum can corrode. Thank you for the chemistry lesson, Heisenberg. But *anodized* aluminum does not. The anodizational process (yeah, not a chemist) shields the aluminum from the tiny, horned, corrosion monsters that eat aluminum and poop that crusty stuff in your eyes every morning. (Did I mention I’m not a chemist?) Yeah, I’m not sure exactly how it works, but it works. Get a suit of anodized aluminum chain mail and you’ll never have to worry about the rings ‘breaking bad.’

So if you’re looking for a suit of mail to wear for ren faires, costuming, cosplay, or any other non-lethal purpose, have a look at our chainmail offerings. They’re squire-approved!

 

The World According to LARP

Have you ever hit someone with a duct-taped log before?

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Duct tape. What can’t it do? LARP, that’s what.

Of course you haven’t. No one would ever hit someone else with a duct-taped log. (Well, I did, but I was wearing a chicken costume at the time, so it made perfect sense.) But first-generation LARP weapons (Live Action Role Playing) weren’t much different than taped up logs.

They were supposed to represent swords or axes or maces, but a stick figure looks more like Michelangelo’s David than those things resembled medieval weapons. There was no style, unless of course you were going for third-grade shop-class style. And yes, I realize there was no shop class in third grade. But if there was, I bet they could make better LARP swords than those first generation ones.

Calamacil weapons will reduce your opponents to tears. A definite advantage.

Calamacil weapons will reduce your opponents to tears. A definite advantage.

Fortunately for us, some really smart people got involved. LARP weapons today are sometimes difficult to distinguish from real ones. In fact, many fight choreographers use LARP weapons in movies. Makes sense, considering that Viggo Mortenson had a tooth knocked out by a steel sword when filming a fight scene in the Lord of the Rings trilogy (seriously!).

The newest LARP equipment is realistic, durable, safe, and beautiful to look at. Some are more beautiful than others, but all are a thousand times better than the taped up PVC pipes that most people were used to.

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Palnatoke engineering.

LARP swords and weapons can be divided into a few categories. There are the artwork pieces—weapons like the Calamacil range—so beautiful that opponents simply fall to their knees and weep, rather than risk damaging them with their heads. These sorts of weapons are usually made from a proprietary rubber that allows for fine details and makes them nearly indestructible, but are typically a little heavier than other LARP weapon, but are comfortable and amazingly durable. The Calamacil LARP swords have no core, but the rubber is firm and rugged.The artwork weapons are relatively new on the scene. Because of their unique construction, they weren’t always accepted at LARP events in the early days. But most major LARP organizers have now approved of their use.

So you have no excuse not to get one.

The next line of weapons are in the high-end comfort range. These weapons—often made by Scandanavian companies—look great, although you typically wouldn’t confuse them with real weapons. They are fast, light and safe, often with compound cores and varying layers of foam. Many in this range, like the Palnatoke swords, contain well-engineered features, like thicker latex coatings and vari-flex tips that prevent breakage. These sorts of weapons are easy to carry, well-balanced, and won’t tire you out after your first battle.

Vari-flex tips and differential foam layers make a LARP weapon into a martial masterpiece.

Vari-flex tips and differential foam layers make a LARP weapon into a martial masterpiece.

Scandanavian companies often have an excellent selection of weapons – from traditional medieval weapons to high-fantasy elven and warhammer style equipment. Epic Armory is an excellent example of a company with a broad range of genres.

If you're all about high fantasy, then fantasize about Epic Armoury.

If you’re all about high fantasy, then fantasize about Epic Armoury.

What else is there? Well, there are several Indian-made lines of LARP weapons that are an excellent combination of value, beauty and safety. The Indian manufacturers are getting quite good at making weapons, and they are very careful to stick to the parameters set by organizations like NERO. And some, like the Windlass line, can match the Scandanavian and Canadian companies. In fact, the Windlass LARP line has just come out with a Conan line that is worthy of a Cimmerian.

So, are you ready to make your choice? Have a look at all of our LARP weapons and LARP armor and have it! And don’t forget the silicone spray. Didn’t your third-grade shop teacher always tell you to take care of your equipment?