HISTORY AND EVOLUTION.
medieval armours were a essential element for the middle age knights,
protecting them in the assaults that they could suffer with swords or
other weapons. From the antiquity when the man had to face a hand-to-hand
combat, they tried to protect them somehow, first with animal skin,
then leather, and finally with metals, with armors.
armours have evolved through time, overcoat on the
protection and decoration.
So, we can call medieval armor to the set of pieces used for the
defense, made with steel (or some other metal) that covered the bodies of
the middle age and beginning of the modern age knights completely. The
armors of the knights were used in the combats, tilts and warlike clashes,
so the armors helped them a lot in their defense,
to receive the minor possible damage
Axes, lances and swords
were one of the most effective medieval weapons
We can say that the
beginning of armours use was in Egypt in 4.000 b.C.
The materials that
were used in most of the armors was crocodile leather and leather
reinforced with bronze . This materials to make the armours have evolve
trough time, beginning with leathers and bones and coming up to the use of
The first pieces that were
made for the protection were destined to the weakest and
zones of the body, or the parts where a wound could easier cause the
warrior death, like the head or the trunk, that was the first thing they
protected. They started using the
(the evolution of the belts) made with buffalo skin that were reinforced
with metallic scales, some of them coming up to the hip and longer ones
coming up to the feet. Some knights also used shinpad in order to protect
the front part of the legs.
The zone of the head and
proximities was starting to protect because the shield did not cover it
completely. It is necessary to say that the helmet was the piece that
characterized the knight, metals were used to make them and they
adornments to stand out between the others. Sometimes they reinforced
them with bronze or wild boar tusk because where lighter.
During the first millennium
b.C, in the ancient Egypt, the
came from the axillas to the knees and were supported to the shoulder with
straps. This straps were made with leather, reinforced sometimes with
quilts, broad metallic sheets and even with bronze scales (some of them
with more than 20 cm. width). The warriors used for the first time with
the shinpad metal rings to cover the arms.
In the XV century b. C.
stars to appear armours covering the torso, this ones were made with
animal skin where they set bronze pieces, were called scales or loricas
armors. On the other hand they started to use shinpad with metallic sheets
to cover the legs and a big belt to protect the abdomen. Also in this
century in Syria they started to strengthen the traditional suits. They
used long-sleeved shirts covered with bronze
(sewed in flexible
sheet rows), that were used as armors, this was made because in a lot of
occasions they moved in carriage and could not take shields because they
had hands occupied driving the carriages.
Later the Greeks
developed these armours making forge or metal one piece breastplates and
back bars, one piece on the other one with quilts reinforcement and also
with shinpad to cover the legs
In the time of Greek
magnificence, the lower part of the body was not protected and either the
lower part of the legs (was
covered only with a skirt with loose strips) not even the right arm
because they supposed that this zones were safe for the
of the warrior in the hand to hand combat and the protection of the
shield. The shield was very important, not only protected the left arm it
also protected the heart zone.
The Iberians used an
armour with discs to protected mainly the chest. The Samnitas
(warriors of the
Italic villages) used disc cuirasses but this ones covered more part of
the chest zone. The Celts on the other hand used breastplates that covered
the torso and the shoulder zone, and the helmets sometimes were decorated
with geometric finished where they added some feathers.
Samnitas warriors protected the chest zone with disc armors
In Rome the light
infantry (Vélites) like the Samnitas and later the gladiators wore
on the left leg, while the hastatos (middle class men who formed the heavy
infantry) wore them on the right leg, depending of which leg moved
forwards in the combat.
About the trunk zone,
the Romans used the metal scales (and also bones and horns) that they
sewed. This one covered the chest, back, abdomen, hips and shoulders and
in the heavy cavalry soldier case used a similar armor that covered also
feet and hands.
the lorica was reduced quite a lot, without sleeves, and covering only up
to the hips,
covered with a net of small
and tight rings of iron, nevertheless during the imperial time a more
malleable cuirass was made formed with broad sheets of steel covering the
whole trunk that gave more freedom to the soldier. But the more known
piece of the Roman Empire was made of two pieces, the breastplate and the
wall bars. Both of them adjusted to the body giving more movement freedom.
Regarding to the
helmet, seemed Etruscan, had nape-guard and jugular.
highest inconvenience of the roman lorica was that the axillas were not
After the Roman empire
declivity there was development decline of the armours. We can say that the
development started again from the beginning, using clothes that only
protected from swords, daggers, axes, halberds
The German and Francs
warriors used leather smocks without sleeves or quilt cloth, in the XIII
century they added more rings, mails and metal sheets even with metallic streeps that formed a latticework finished off in the hollows with thick
nails. They called this lorica, which come up to the hips, although in the
X century they covered also the thigh up to the knee and after they added
sleeves that came mainly up to the elbow and later they added sleeves that
came up to the wrist, hands were still not covered. In the German and
villages the helmets were a simple wide-brimmed hat, did not have visor or
jugular, starting the X century they added a rectum nasal.
In Spain the Visigoth
invaders used the lorica
(with steel hoop) and the
helmet. Also they started to use quilted garment (tight shirt that covered
from the shoulders to the waist), also called aketon, so the body was
protected from frictions that could produce the lorica or knocks that
could weaken the soldier.
There were also the
Normans that wore
a longer and tight lorica that covered the knees and arms up to the
wrists. They started to separate the sleeves and the breeches in different
pieces that were held
to other with clasps and straps. The neck and the nape were
a hood of mail placed under the helmet or the
basinet. If this pieces
were together they were called
basinet with channel.
The first important
developments that suffered the armors were that the loricas disappeared
(they left without protection the axillas), so they are replaced for the
coat of mail, this happen in all Europe about the XI century. This coat of
mail was formed by forged rings and have an
small diameter, was made with a leather base reinforced with
metallic discs. The disadvantages were, they were very expensive ( and
that is the reason why only nobles could use it) and the other reason was
that they were very heavy , approximately eleven kilograms.
Metal was improving to
get to the mild steel, stronger and more malleable. This way the plates
armors appear, handcrafted by master armourers. The first complete piece
that extended was the breastplate even thought the pauldron also had an
important evolution to adapt to it articulated sheets to make easier the
movement whereas the face was protected with the rondel and the neck with
of mail was made by the union of small metallic discs
The breastplate was
every time shorter to facilitate the movement of the warrior while he was
riding, this left the stomach unprotected, but this was solved with a
articulated pieces called loin-guard. But still the hips were unprotected,
so a new piece was invented to cover the hips, called tasset. The crotch
was also unprotected and this was solve with the
To fight the heat effect
and overcoat as decoration, from the second crusade, a coat of arms
without sleeves to which the sword belt was united to hang the sword. Soon
this sobrevesta, like the helmet and the
shield was decorated with signs and figures to distinguish the knight and
later would have an heraldry meaning
(coat of arms). To
prevent frictions in
the face and neck of the
knight this wore a cup or a quilt cloth hood whose tops were tied up under
the beard, this garment could be dyed with the favourite colours of the
knight that soon formed part of the shield too.
Protection for specific
zones were introduced, for example, leather gloves, were covered with
mails or small metallic pieces, also mail stocking and mail sock,
cuishes and pauldrons,
placed on the doublet. All the visible zones of the knight were covered
with steel plates, except for the low part of the thighs and the buttocks
that were protected by the saddle and the horse.
armours were improved with the use of specific pieces , for example, the
elbow-cod to protect the elbows
For the people that
could not afford this kind of armors were made two different types on the
XIV, XV centuries and the beginning of XVI. Were the jacerine on one side
and the brigandine in the other. The first one very used in oriental
Europe, made with metal sheets joined to a interior cloth suit and the
second one was the same as the jacerine but
in the inverse order, the sheets were rivet inside of a jubom with
brilliant colours, finished off with carved and golden stud heads. This
protections were very common in Spain and Italy.
The armour of plates
appears on the XIV century, at the end of the century called white
harness, the harness that all knights wanted. An armour could have more
than 250 pieces and weigh 30 kilograms.
Though this pieces
did not have always a precise name we can list some of the more common
parts of the armour ( or plates armour like they were traditionally
medieval armour could be formed for more than two hundred pieces
or similar, to, protect the head.
the helmet had a visor to cover the face.
to protect the mouth, chin and jaws.
With the bevor they protected the mouth and jaws part
to cover the neck, and lower part of the chest and breast.
nape-guard to protect the zone from the neck to the shoulders.
clamshell close helmets, were closed helmets. This helmets were formed
for the crest (to decorate the upper zone), the helmet
(to protect the head) and the collar (adorns all the low
circumference of the helmet). This was the more expensive piece because
was the piece that protected the most important zones of the brain.
clamshell helmet was the same as the helmet but completely closed
was the mobile piece, next to the visor to close the previous part of the helmet.
aventail, covered the neck
and shoulder but given mobility.
lance-rest , was a iron piece in the breastplate armor to hold the
breastplate to protect the breast.
The breastplates were adapting and becoming shorter to allow the warrior
to move easily
backplate, to protect the back.
loin-guard to cover the waist and hips.
it was longer that the loin-guard and was tied to it.
like the tasset but
bigger, that extended with joints up to the knees.
was an extension of the backplate, developed to protect the lumbar part.
for the abdomen and the stomach.
to protect the crotch.
for the gluteus, made with horizontal strips.
pauldron, to cover the shoulder blades
covered also the front part replacing the bufas).
pauldrons were one of the specific pieces of the medieval armour to protect
the shoulder zone as its name indicate.
gardbrace, to protect the upper part of the arms.
besagew, to protect the front and back part of the
to protect the elbow.
rerebrace and vambrace, to cover the arm and forearm.
cangrejos, for the opposite part of the
gauntlet, with mobile pieces for each finger to protect hands and
gauntlet were made every time more comfortable for the warrior, the
fingers zone was articulated.
bufas, to protect the
to protect the thighs.
cuisses were to protect the thighs zone
knee-cop , protecting the knees, almost always accompanied by some
pieces around of the knees to protect the sides from lateral knocks
for the lower part of the
legs, sometimes they had articulated greave stocking to protect the lower
part of the knees.
solleret , to protect the instep, they also used ironwork shoes to
target, was a shield on the
left upper zone of the breast-plate with the knight emblem.
The first piece that a
knight should place when they dressed with the armour was the coat of mail
(this could have a hood under of the helmet). After the coat of mail goes
the gorget then the breastplate and the pauldron. In the legs zone they
had to start on the feet zone. They
the pieces with straps, hooks, nuts and nails. When they finished to put
the armour their weight was 30 or 40 more kilograms, sometimes more.
Because of this the knight could not move easily, this knights were
unbeatable but on the other hand they could not move. To set up all the
armour the knight needed a squire to help him to dress and undress and get
on the horse. They were assiduous companios and servants, they cleaned the
armours, the weapons and were guardians of their goods and also
close to them as guardian. They also cured their injuries and in the case
the knight died the squires were in charge of the funeral.
squires had to help the knights, even, cleaning the armour and the weapons
A knight with a medieval
armour was nearly unbeatable, but if the knight fell down on the floor
would be really easy to defeat, due to the weight of the armour would be
very difficult for the warrior to get up and to move easily.
To fight they used
horses with armours to be able to defend from the soldiers attack. On the
XII century some horses had an armour. The pieces used for the horse
armour were very similar to the knight armour . first they used leather,
then mail and finally, metal. The horse armours were diverse, with
different shapes and styles and sometimes even nicer than the warriors
a medieval horse armour
Some of the pieces of
horse armour were:
chanfron, to protect the horse head.
to protect the neck of the horse.
peytral, to protect the chest zone, on this piece is were the heraldic
emblem could be.
flanchard, to protect the sides zone of the horses.
crupper, To protect the croup or the back part of the horse.
We also can
name the pommel, is the part joined to the saddle, though its
function was to protect the warrior more than to protect the horse. The
function was protect
the warrior from knocks in the genital zone.
On the XV century come
the peak epoch of the combat armours, this armours were called Gothic
armour, with smooth zones and shiny, with suggestive curves and decorated,
but not too much only in the edges. The
breastplate, helmet, arm
zones had clefts and
while the fingers and feet zone were made broader. The armours of this
epoch were one of the most magnificent and though they made this armours
to fight never again were made so splendid armours. During this century
the warrior was completely armed and completely wrapped in the armour.
We could not talk about
armours without the gunsmith, the people who create the armours. This
trade come from time before and had a lot of importance during the Roman
empire. A lot of complete families worked making them.
The first thing that was made in this process was the forge then they
polished it and assembled the pieces, placed the straps, lining and
case they had shield
or emblem it was engraved and adorned, some of them with gold. The most
traditional way of decorate the metal was engraving it, was a difficult
and hard process. We also can talk about the heraldry, were emblems to
distinguish the knights in the battlefield. Each nobleman had his own coat
of arms that was stamped in the shield and flag. Emblem was individual.
This way was possible with the different emblems to distinguish the
The gunsmith were in charge to make the medieval
The use of armours was
falling down in declivity, this was caused by the invention of the
gunpowder, the armours did not have any more the utility that they were
created for, face to face combat . Now the combats were distanced. The
gunpowder was discovered on the XI century in China, but they used it only
for fireworks or similar. The European were who discovered and developed
the most destructive uses. At the begin of the XIV century, appeared the
first fire weapon , this was a cannon that projected lances, later they
started to use stone and iron bullets.
Some interesting places
were we can see some
of this armours are: The royal gunsmith in Madrid, in the army museum of
Paris, in London tower, in New York or the historical museum of Vienna.
We can mention some
anecdotes about armours, for example, when a warrior wanted to get on the
horse they needed a crane because the warrior was not able to get on the
horse on his own. The armour weigh was minimum 35 kilograms, but this
could vary a lot, they could dress with more than one armour, one on the
top of the other one. Sometimes warriors death cause were heart attacks or
embolisms, also the food aten
before the battle. The horses were trained specially to be stronger and
lighter, but because of the weigh of the warrior the mobility was also
Toledo knight and horse with medieval armor.
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