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Medieval Armor, Arms, & Equipment

By: Lucy, Joey & Joe

Because of the unpredictability and violence of Medieval times, armor and weapons were part of the daily life of men to protect themselves, their family, and their land. Lords with enough wealth had the ability to create their own defenses in the form of castles and gates. They housed their family and men in arms in these castles, to provide the most amount of safety possible. Since plate armor was very costly the more common choice for knights from poorer families was chain mail. It was made up of small metal rings linked together to form a mesh. It was more often used on powerful knights than peasants because of its value. Chain mail was highly affective defense to the knights from the weapons of the time, it helped prevent stab wounds that were instead just bruises or fractured bones.

Chain mails flexibility morphed agility with strength, to allow the wearer to be very successful in combat since they could move to avoid blows. It was mainly used on humans but could occasionally be found on the neck of a horse. Leather armor was sometimes used on people for minor protection against spears and daggers. Leather armor could also be found on other war animals such as elephants. Piece by piece over the course of the middle ages small plates or disks of steel were added or replaced chain mail in the most vulnerable places, such as the chest and stomach. Eventually the elbows and even the underarm were capped with steel plating.

A small skull cap evolved into a bigger and really true helmet, which was called the bascinet, as it was lengthened downward to protect the back of the neck and the sides of the head. The most common headpiece or helmet of the era was the Armet

which was developed in Italy in the 15th century. It consisted of four pieces: the skull, the two hinged cheek pieces which lock at the front, and the visor. It grew very popular in the 15th and 16th centuries when knights from Europe wore plate armor into battle. Another common piece of medieval armor was the Barbute which was a visor-less war helmet of the fifteenth century and was also designed in Italy.

The most common head piece of the 14th and early 15th centuries was the bascinet. The original bascinet had no visor and was worn underneath larger “great helms.” They were used by knights and heavy infantry in many European armies. Often though in hand to hand combat the great helm had to be discarded because it impaired breathing and vision significantly. After that the bascinet became more popular and important in the world of war, it developed small nasal cavities to protect the nose and part of the face.

After years of evolution the bascinet developed the appearance of a mussel or a beak and an often removable visor for the fighters preference and environment and was present during the famous Hundred Years’ War. Another advantage of taking off the great helm earlier in a battle was comfort, the pig faced snout of the Bascinet was quite comfortable given the armor of choice.

One of the most used form of body armor, was a cloth garment, usually leather or canvas which had small medal engravings and was mostly used for minor protection of the torso and would deliver a major speed advantage for it was very light. A very

common source of protection for the arms was the Couter, originally it was just a piece of curved medal but was eventually broken into separate parts to compliment the different joints of the arm. Finally the source of protection for the feet and shin was usually the Sabaton.

A Knights primary means of defense was his armor, and as we have explained in the previous paragraphs their were obviously many changes and innovations in these essential garments throughout the centuries. These changes varied from something as simple as changing one moving part into two or completely altering the design of the creation. Now these transformations of armor really depended on the situation as well as the environment. For instance it was more likely that the armors design was changed in more populated parts of the world.

Medieval Horse Armor

The horse was an important piece of the knight’s equipment, since horses were so important and expensive knights wanted to take good care of them. In medieval times horse armor was developed called Barding (also spelled bard or barb). In tournaments it was considered not chivalrous to injure an opponent’s horse since it was a valuable trophy to be captured if you were the victor, instead of something to destroy and knights would be disqualified in a tournament for it. However in battle, horses were easy targets for archers who wanted to beat the knight on top, this tactic was effective

for the English at the Battle of Crécy in the fourteenth century where archers shot horses so the French knights were forced to dismount at the mercy of heavy infantry that then killed them. Because of this around the 12th or 13th century the first trappings were introduced as protection from such missiles such as arrows and rocks. They were first made of fabric, then hard-boiled leather, then later mail; as men’s’ armor progressed so did horses’.

Only the richest knights could afford to buy a full set of steel plates as armor. So if a knight had enough money for any part of armor they would choose the most important part of the outfit- a head piece. The head piece that protected the face was called a Champron; this had flanged eye guards, nose guard, ear protectors, and sometimes included hinged cheek plates or- in decorative ones a rondel with a small spike in the center of the forehead. Champrons originated in ancient Greece but only began to be used by knights in the 12th century. The same basic design was used until the 17th century although later ones often had engraved decoration as they were used more and more for show. The Champron extended from the horse’s ears to its muzzle with flanges to cover the eyes. In an open champron however the eyes had no protection. In jousting tournaments hinged extensions were attached to cover the jowls.

The Champron attached to the Crinet or Criniere which ran along the neck of the horse, protecting it. It could be, like the rest of the armor, made very fancy with etched and gilt decoration of animals or mythical figures. In full barding there was two sets of segmented lames that pivoted on loose rings and internal leathers, one set covered the

mane and the other covered the crest of the neck, connecting the Peytal and the Champron. Light barding- the cheaper and lighter version used only the upper lames, three straps held the Crinet in place around the horse’s neck and sometimes chain mail was fixed to the Crinet and wrapped around the neck for extra protection. It is thought that thin metal was used for these plates.

Peytral for the chest of the horse sometimes stretched as far back as the saddle. Flanchards were used to protect the flanks; it was attached to the side of the saddle, then around the front and rear of the horse and back to the saddle again. They appear from the examples found to have been metal plates riveted to leather or in some cases cuirboille armor, which is boiled or treated leather that is sealed with beeswax or something close. They sometimes had openings in the Flanchards for spur use by the rider. The first kind of spur used called a prick spur in around the 12th century was made of tin-plated iron. Two leather straps were passed over and under the foot and riveted to the end of each spur arm. By the 14th century spurs with a rotating spiked rowel at the end of the arm had replaced prick spurs. Called rowel spurs for obvious reasons they were generally made of copper and decorated, one of the main things a man gets when he is knighted is a pair of spurs.

The hind quarters of the horse were protected by the Croupiere added in the 15th century. It could be made from any combination of leather, chain, or plate. In the 15th century when armor became more of a showy thing at tournaments they used caparisons. These were cloth covers that sometimes enveloped the entire horse from nose to tail and extended to the ground. From paintings it is hard to tell however how much is actually supported underneath with metal. They could be used also as a way to

display heraldic arms and might be padded for extra protection. Textile covers may also be referred to as barding.

Another commonly used piece of horse armor was on the reins, metal plates riveted to them or chain mail linked around them kept them from being cut in the thick of battle. Often knights would ride with double reins one heavily decorated and one not.

The most costly and important type of horse for knights was the “destrier” or war horse. They were about the size of a modern heavy hunter. By the 13th century knights usually had at least two war horses, also a courser was a swift hunting horse, and travel horse called a palfrey that was well-bred, and easy paced.

In medieval times they had a variety of weapons used including, axes which was Battle-axe Danish axe Pole-axe Doloire Francisca and Mattock. Pole-axe (used in battle and foot combat, and used to strike the opponents head, poll meaning head, they also used the solid hammer head could concuss people even if they were wearing armor). The medieval axe was one of the most fearsome weapons of the medieval age. It had a variety of different uses in the axe. An axe usually had the long curved blade at the top and had a point or a tip at the top of the axe just above the curved blade for concussion damage. Most of the time it was used, it would be used as a close range weapon.

Most axes had some kind of tool at the bottom to puncture or to pierce that they could use at close range. They did have an axe called the throwing axe, which was lighter than a battle-axe and had to be a very well balanced weapon so it would be easier to throw. Then there are Daggers and knives. There were a lot of daggers and

knifes in the medieval age including, Baselard Cinquedea Dirk Ear Dagger Großes Messer Machete Mercygiver Poniard Rondel Scramasax Seax Stiletto Sword breaker. Daggers were used more in the 14th century by knights. The rondel dagger was the typical knight and it was carried in a decocted leather sheath (something to hold the knife). In general, a dagger is a double-edged blade that is used for stabbing or thrusting. They often fulfill the role of a secondary defense weapon in close combat. They were initially made out of flint, bones, or ivory.

Daggers and knives were first used in the Bronze Age, which was in 1000B.C.

Historically, knives and daggers were always considered secondary or even tertiary weapons. Next are the swords. There were many, many different swords used in the medieval times. Some of them were, Arming sword Broadsword Claymore Cutlass Falchion Flamberge Foil (fencing) Longsword Rapier Sabre Spatha Shortsword Two-handed sword. Of all the weapons used during the medieval times, the sword is the most religious and important. It was by no means the most often used of the hand weapons used in battle. This was mainly due to the expense of attaining and maintaining a sword.

Medieval swords were mainly used by medieval knights, and some solders. The infantry would primarily make use of polearms, this weapon being held by some to have been of far more use than a sword in expert hands, but if the polearm formation broke down or a polearm itself was broken, it was the sword, which was relied on for close quarters combat. The last weapon they used was, bows and arrows. Bows and Arrows,

Longbow Short bow Flat bow Composite bow Crossbow. The Longbow was usually made of a slice of yew wood around the height of the archer himself.

The longbow was usually used for long range shooting. The person who uses the bow is called the archer. These bows needed to pull at least 80 pounds and many others were far more powerful. Arrows from longbows could fly 1000 feet (300 meters), which meant that an enormous amount of arrows could be dropped on an advancing enemy.


Medieval warfare - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia and