The Knights of the Temple were founded around 1120 as a military order to protect Christians in the Holy Land, and quickly prospered as their numbers grew and their wealth increased. Over the following decades their role in defending the Christian kingdoms in Palestine was very important, and they were recognised as amongst the best knights the Christians could call upon. Despite their efforts however the Christians gradually lost their lands to a resurgent Muslim cause until the last mainland cities fell in 1291. The Templars held on to the offshore island of Ruad for another 12 years, but after that was lost their principal reason for existing was gone and their last battle was against western Christian kings trying to suppress them and take their wealth, a battle they also lost.>/p>
In the early days of the Order it seems the knights wore a cappa or mantle over their armour, but during the 13th century this changed to a more usual sleeveless surcoat such as is worn by most of these figures. A couple wear a full great helm – another innovation of the first half of the 13th century, which gives these figures the appearance of knights from the second half of the Order’s existence. However the older conical helmet is also being worn here, which would certainly have appeared at the same time as the helm but could also make those figures for an earlier date. Finally we have the shields, which are all of the kite style – a style that was disappearing during the 13th century, particularly with the rounded top. Therefore as knights of the 13th century these figures are OK but all have the very old-fashioned shield which would probably not have been carried by those with the helm – the heater type shown on the box artwork is much better. Perhaps the sculptor has tried to incorporate many different items to make the figures timeless for the whole period, but it does not really work.
Only five poses is not a lot these days, and in fact there are only really three here. Two men have lance levelled and are at the charge. Both poses are fine and having some variety of such pose helps to give any recreated charge a more realistic unsynchronised look. The middle figure is also OK, but the two at the ends of our row are both less acceptable. Why exactly would a knight hold his sword horizontally over his head? While not impossible it is hardly a common posture and having two such poses did not meet with our approval.
The horses are very good, with mostly reasonable poses including one that does not seem to be at the charge. Most have the caparison cover and all have appropriate saddles for the period. The men fit the horses well, leaning forward as they would when in a charge.
The sculpting is very good, with all the right detail and excellent textures on areas such as mail. Clothing and mail looks very realistic and there is no flash. The suspect shields are not separate, sadly, but the two lances are. However these are 28mm and 36mm long, which equates to 2 and 2.6 metres to the tip. An average lance of the period was more like 4 metres in length, so while shorter ones were used we would have liked to have seen them longer here. However they do fit the ring hands easily.
All knights of the Order wore beards, but the first figure in our picture has none. He also lacks any sort of surcoat and has the older conical helmet, which makes us think he makes a better sergeant than a true knight.
On the whole this is a well made set although it seems Italeri have been fairly relaxed over a precise time period. This only really matters with the shields, which unfortunately are very hard to correct. Otherwise a reasonably attractive set of figures.