The Templar Order had a gonfalon (a military standard of a specific type) of black and white called the beauseant (I have come to prefer the spelling most common in the book I first took it from though it's not a great historical source, namely, Walter Scott's 'Ivanhoe'). The Wikipedia link describes the Templar banner as:

Baucent (bauceant, baussant, etc.) was the name of the war flag (vexillum belli) used by the Knights Templar in the 12th and 13th centuries. 13th-century sources show it as a white gonfanon with a black chief (argent a chief sable).1 Jacques de Vitry, writing in the 1220s, mentions the gonfanon baucent and explains that the black and white colours symbolise the Templar's ferocity towards their enemies and their kindness towards their friends.

The name of the war-flag also came to be a battle-cry (though, traditionally, it's been my understanding that 'Deus Vult!' was the main battle-cry of the Templars though this information was gained from Jan Guillou's Crusader trilogy).

I came to wonder, as the Knights Hospitaller were quite similar after they turned into military orders (elder military monastic order, both extensive landholders in the Outremer, both popular with European gentility), -- how did the Knights Hospitallers' gonfalon look and did it also had a distinctive name? If they did, was this name also used as a battle-cry?

Edit: I just wanted to say that simple searches I have conducted have mostly brought up the fact that Templars were forbidden to flee the field of battle if a Hospitaller gonfalon was standing, which does indicate that the Hospitallers had one:

And if he sees there is nothing else for it, he should make for the nearest gonfalon of the Hospitallers, or some other Christians if there are any.

This still leaves the question of what this gonfalon looked like up in the air, however.

  • 3
    Knights Hospitaller are now known as Sovereign (Military) Order of Malta - this is the info on their flag. Why don't you contact them?
    – J Asia
    Mar 20, 2018 at 20:21
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    @JAsia: I received a response from the Sovereign Order of Malta which says: Dear Sir, I inform you that the design of the State Flag, red with a white Latin cross, comes from the design worn by the Knights Hospitaller during the Crusades. The bull of Pope Alexander IV, dated in 1259, decrees a distinctive dress for the Knights of Justice putting this drawing on the mantle of the Knights. I suggest you to consult the books of Luttrell, Dauber, Vatin, Victor-Mallia. Yours sincerely,
    – gktscrk
    Mar 26, 2018 at 9:27
  • So it's not as useful as one might have hoped. I am wondering how much extra info these books can provide, but I haven't the chance to investigate immediately.
    – gktscrk
    Mar 26, 2018 at 9:28
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    Truth is I'm not surprised that they're not inclined to discuss their military history. As gonfalon was most likely based on Roman vexillum, which were multi-purpose military flag/banner. This is one area that is not celebrated today (i.e. the crusades). Not familiar with the book references. You might find this link useful. Sorry, I can't be more helpful.
    – J Asia
    Mar 28, 2018 at 13:48

1 Answer 1


Jaroslav Folda of the University of North Carolina described the gonfalons of several military orders as follows:

The Templar battle standard is well known to have been a long narrow vertical rectangle, argent with a chief sable, that is a white standard topped by a broad band of black. This is the famous gonfalon baucent, or the piebald standard. We know about this standard from the Rule of the Templars. The Hospitaller standard was a white cross on a red field, and the standard of the Teutonic knights was a black cross on a white field. As is well known, these banners or standards were specifically represented as such by Matthew Paris in the mid-thirteenth century along with many other heraldic devices.

Matthew Paris' depiction of the banner appears in the Chronica Maiora, Parker MS 16 fol. 141r, dated to c. 1250, and the Historia Anglorum, Royal MS 14 C VII, fol. 130v.

In Chronica Maiora, the Hospitaller gonfalon is shown alongside the banner of the Templars and the Oriflamme of France:

Banners of the Hospitallers and Templars, and the Oriflamme of France from the Chronica Maiora by Matthew Paris (Click to enlarge)

While in the Historia Anglorum it is shown with just the banner of the Templars:

Banners of the Hospitallers and Templars from the Historia Anglorum by Matthew Paris (Click to enlarge)

Notice that in this case, both banners are inverted. This is not uncommon with depictions in marginalia.

  • I came across this statement today in my reading: "In battle, banners served as means of identification, as rallying points and for rudimentary communications. They were so important that a gonfanonier; or standard-bearer, was liable to severe punishment if he personally struck a blow during the fighting. The Templars always carried folded spare banners in case the first were lost, and the German Military Orders would have done the same." This from "Lake Peipus 1242" by D Chandler. Not too relevant to the answer, but relates to policies regarding gonfalons for which this topic is a near-proxy.
    – gktscrk
    May 15, 2020 at 13:23

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