Knight Hospitaller vs. Knights Templar

Knight Hospitaller Vs. Knights Templar: The Difference

Numerous military and religious orders have existed throughout history, each with unique aims and objectives. Among these, the Knight Hospitaller and Knights Templar are two of the most well-known and influential groups. While they share many similarities, there are also key differences that set them apart. In this article, we will explore the distinctions between the Knight Hospitaller vs. Knights Templar to provide a deeper understanding of these iconic orders.

Knight Hospitaller vs. Knights Templar: The Origins

To understand the differences between the Knight Hospitaller vs. Knights Templar, it is crucial to delve into their origins. The Knight Hospitaller, also known as the Order of the Hospital of Saint John of Jerusalem, was founded in 1113 by the Blessed Gerard. The order aimed to provide medical assistance to pilgrims in the Holy Land, making it the oldest of the two orders. The Hospitallers initially functioned as a purely religious order but eventually took on military responsibilities, particularly in defense of the Christian territories.

On the other hand, the Knights Templar was a Christian military order founded in 1119 by Hugues de Payens and Godfrey of Saint-Omer. Initially a small group of knights, the order grew in size and prominence with the primary mission to protect Christian pilgrims traveling to Jerusalem. They were so named because their headquarters were located near the Temple Mount. Although the two orders had different beginnings, both were created in response to the needs of pilgrims traveling to the Holy Land.

Knight Hospitaller vs. Templar: Purpose and Missions

Though both orders were established to help Christian pilgrims, their missions evolved and differed over time. The Knight Hospitaller continued to prioritize the provision of medical aid and support to the sick and injured. However, as threats to the Holy Land increased, they also took on a more militaristic role, becoming one of the key forces in the Crusades.

The Knights Templar, in contrast, was established as a military order from the outset. Their primary objective was to protect and ensure the safety of Christian pilgrims in the Holy Land. They participated in many military campaigns, emerging as a powerful and skilled fighting force. Additionally, the Templars were known for their financial understanding, as they established an early form of banking and were responsible for transporting wealth from Europe to the Holy Land.

Organizational Structure at the Glance 

A notable distinction lies in their organizational structures when comparing the Knight Templar or Knight Hospitaller. Both orders had a hierarchical structure, but the Knight Hospitaller had a more decentralized approach, with each monastery or commandery enjoying relative autonomy. This allowed the order to adapt to the needs of different regions and maintain a strong presence even during times of conflict.

The Knights Templar, however, was organized more centrally, with the Grand Master as the highest authority. Although this structure gave the Templars clear command and control, it also made the order more vulnerable to external threats, as demonstrated by their eventual decline and dissolution.

Knight Hospitaller vs. Knights Templar: The Role of Religion and Spirituality

Religion and spirituality played a pivotal role in the founding and development of both the Knight Hospitaller and Knights Templar orders. As Christian military orders, their core values were rooted in the teachings of the Church, with a focus on service, charity, and protection of the faithful. Still, the way these values were expressed and enacted within each order differed, highlighting the unique aspects of their religious and spiritual identities.

For the Knight Hospitaller, providing care and medical assistance to pilgrims was a concrete manifestation of Christian values. The order operated under the patronage of St. John the Baptist, who represented humility, compassion, and service. By building hospitals and providing care to the sick, the Hospitallers embodied the Christian ideal of charity. Although the order eventually took on military responsibilities, their commitment to the care of others remained at the heart of their mission.

In contrast, the Knights Templar were primarily a military order dedicated to protecting pilgrims and defending the Holy Land. Inspired by the monastic tradition, the Templars followed a strict rule emphasizing poverty, chastity, and obedience. They saw themselves as warrior monks, upholding Christian ideals through acts of courage on the battlefield. For the Templars, spiritual devotion and martial prowess went hand in hand, as they believed they were fighting for God and preserving Christendom.

Despite their different approaches, the Knight Hospitaller and Knights Templar orders were deeply influenced by their time’s religious and spiritual climate. They sought to express their faith through their respective missions, shaping the ways they contributed to the broader Christian community and the world beyond. The distinct roles of religion and spirituality in each order provide insight into their unique identities and reveal the diverse ways in which faith can be translated into action.

Iconic Symbols: The Crosses of the Hospitaller and Templar Orders

The crosses associated with the Knight Hospitaller and Knights Templar orders are among history’s most iconic and enduring symbols. Though both crosses represent Christian ideals and values, their designs and colors are distinct, reflecting the unique identities of the two orders.

The Knight Hospitaller’s emblem is known as the Maltese Cross, a symbol that has become synonymous with the order’s history and mission. It is an eight-pointed cross, with each point representing one of the eight Beatitudes or blessings from the Sermon on the Mount. The design symbolizes the Hospitaller’s commitment to living by these Christian principles and their dedication to caring for those in need. Traditionally, the Maltese Cross is rendered in white on a red background. The white color signifies purity and innocence, while the red represents the blood of Christ and the order’s willingness to sacrifice for their faith.

In contrast, the Knights Templar’s emblem is a red cross pattee on a white background. The cross pattee, also known as the “Templar Cross,” features arms that are narrow at the center and flare out toward the ends, with each component ending in a flat, broad tip. The red color symbolizes courage, martyrdom, and bloodshed in defense of the Christian faith. The white background signifies purity, innocence, and the knights’ vow of poverty. This simple yet powerful design reflects the Templar’s dual identity as warrior monks, embodying their dedication to both spiritual devotion and military prowess.

Both the Maltese Cross and the Templar Cross have transcended their historical origins, becoming emblematic of the Knight Hospitaller and Knights Templar orders’ unique identities, values, and missions. The crosses continue to captivate and inspire as symbols of the two orders and as reminders of the Christian principles they sought to uphold. Through their iconic symbols, the enduring legacies of the Knight Hospitaller and Knights Templar orders are preserved, commemorated, and celebrated in various forms across cultures and throughout history.

Codes of Conduct: The Rule of the Knight Hospitaller and the Rule of the Knights Templar

While sharing common Christian foundations, the Knight Hospitaller and Knights Templar orders followed separate rules that defined their codes of conduct, shaped their identities, and distinguished them from each other. These rules governed various aspects of their lives, such as daily routines, spiritual practices, and behavior on and off the battlefield.

The Rule of the Knight Hospitaller, also known as the “Rule of St. John,” provided guidance for the order’s members in fulfilling their dual roles as caregivers and warriors. The Rule emphasized the importance of hospitality, emphasizing that all guests, regardless of social status or nationality, should be treated with equal respect and dignity. Members of the order were also required to adhere to a strict daily regimen, which included attending religious services, performing manual labor, and engaging in training exercises. The Rule of the Knight Hospitaller also outlined the roles and responsibilities of the order’s various ranks, ensuring that each member clearly understood their duties.

In contrast, the Rule of the Knights Templar, inspired by the Rule of St. Benedict and adapted by St. Bernard of Clairvaux, focused on the order’s monastic and military aspects. Known as the “Latin Rule,” it prescribed a life of simplicity, self-discipline, and purity for the members of the order. Templar knights were expected to maintain a vow of chastity, poverty, and obedience, mirroring the ascetic lifestyle of monks. The Rule also included detailed instructions on matters such as attire, weaponry, and horse care, highlighting the order’s commitment to military excellence. Notably, the Knights Templar was forbidden from retreating during battle unless outnumbered by at least three to one, further solidifying their reputation as fearsome and steadfast warriors.

The distinct rules governing the Knight Hospitaller and Knights Templar orders reflected their unique missions and values. While both sought to uphold Christian ideals, their respective codes of conduct emphasized different aspects of the faith, leading to divergent paths and identities. The Rule of the Knight Hospitaller emphasized hospitality and service, whereas the Rule of the Knights Templar highlighted monastic discipline and martial prowess. These differences in their codes of conduct not only shaped the daily lives and behaviors of their members but also contributed to the lasting legacies of the two orders.

The Contributions of the Hospitallers and Templars to the Crusades

The Crusades, a series of religious and military campaigns spanning centuries, involved numerous Christian military orders, including the Knight Hospitaller and Knights Templar. Both orders significantly contributed to the Crusades, although their roles and accomplishments varied.

The Knight Hospitaller initially focused on providing medical aid and shelter to pilgrims and expanded their mission to include military support as the Crusades progressed. They played a crucial role in defending Christian territories and fortifications in the Holy Land. As skilled warriors, the Hospitallers participated in key battles and sieges, including the pivotal Battle of Hattin in 1187, where they fought alongside the Templars and other Christian forces.

The Knights Templar, established as a military order, protected Christian pilgrims and defended key locations throughout the Crusades. Their disciplined fighting force, innovative military strategies, and extensive network of fortresses and commanderies earned them a fearsome reputation. The Templars were often at the vanguard of the Crusader armies, exemplified by their participation in the Battle of Montgisard in 1177, where they played a decisive role in achieving victory against overwhelming odds.

Although serving different roles and purposes, the Hospitallers and Templars collectively contributed to the Christian cause during the Crusades. Their bravery, dedication, and sacrifice had a lasting impact on history. Today, their contributions to the Crusades serve as a testament to the complex interplay between faith, politics, and military power in shaping the medieval world.

Knight Hospitaller vs. Knights Templar: Notable Events and Achievements

Both orders significantly impacted the course of history, participating in key events during the Crusades. Yet, their achievements and outcomes were distinct. The Knight Hospitaller gained a reputation for their tenacity and prowess on the battlefield, especially during the Siege of Rhodes in 1480 and the Siege of Malta in 1565. These events highlighted the order’s resilience and commitment to defending Christian territories.

On the other hand, the Knights Templar’s downfall was as dramatic as their rise. One of their most notable achievements was establishing an innovative financial system that laid the groundwork for modern banking. However, their growing wealth and power eventually led to their undoing. Accused of heresy, corruption, and other crimes, the order faced persecution by King Philip IV of France, who sought to seize their assets. In 1312, under pressure from the French king, Pope Clement V disbanded the Knights Templar. Many of the order’s members were arrested, tortured, and executed, including their last Grand Master, Jacques de Molay.

Enduring Legacies

The legacies of the Knight Hospitaller and Knights Templar differ significantly due to the contrasting fates of the two orders. The Knight Hospitaller, despite facing numerous challenges and territorial losses, managed to endure and evolve. After the fall of Rhodes and their relocation to Malta, the order became known as the Knights of Malta. Today, the Sovereign Military Order of Malta still exists as a recognized sovereign entity, maintaining its humanitarian mission and upholding the values of its origins.

On the other hand, the Knights Templar left behind a legacy shrouded in mystery and controversy. Their abrupt and tragic demise sparked numerous conspiracy theories and legends, including those related to the Holy Grail and the Ark of the Covenant. The order’s secretive nature and complex history inspire books, movies, and popular culture, perpetuating its enigmatic reputation.


In conclusion, when examining the Knight Hospitaller vs. Knights Templar, it becomes apparent that while they share similarities, such as their origins in the context of the Crusades and the protection of Christian pilgrims, their purposes, organizational structures, and legacies are quite distinct. The Knight Hospitaller primarily focused on providing medical assistance. It evolved into a military force, while the Knights Templar was a military order from its inception, with a strong financial influence. The enduring legacy of the Hospitallers, exemplified by the modern-day Sovereign Military Order of Malta, contrasts starkly with the mysterious and tragic end of the Knights Templar. By understanding these differences, one can better appreciate the remarkable and complex history of these two iconic orders.