The Middle Ages is one of the interesting periods in warfare history. Many love portraying the Medieval armor in any classical movie or documentary.
Some of you may have imagined knights in their full armor. Knights of armies were ready to fight and defend their kingdoms. Most of you may be familiar with these scenes, most likely because of fairytale stories, movies, or books.
The medieval armor expanded and developed starting from the 5th to the 16th century. Though arguably, until today, scholars and experts argue for the right timeline of the Middle Ages. This period marked the invention of multiple base armor types like the mail and plate.
It is proven to be one of the richest periods in the time of armor history. Throughout the years, new and old designs of armor were evolving in many interesting ways. This is what makes Medieval armor fashionable.
Three General Types of Medieval Armor
There were three main materials in making any armor. These materials were handpicked with the idea that it could prevent blades from cutting through. It was also believed that these materials could soften the impact of a weapon.
Leather or Fabric
Leather or animal hides were cheap and easily accessible during those times. When dried and lamellated together, it turns to solid and sturdy leather armor. They usually combined fabric and leather as the fabric was more comfortable.
Also, if a leather armor was padded right, it could cushion any impact to reduce the damage. They either weld or sew it with strong iron pieces, too.
As the name goes, this armor was made of thousands of tiny rings interlocked together. These were either made out of iron or steel and done by hand. Armorers sometimes took a few months to build just one so this was one of the expensive types of armor.
The ring sizes differed according to ones desired level of protection. Some mails only covered the torso, some had long sleeves, and others reached the knee. Each country and period in the Middle Ages had different styles and designs.
Rigid or Hard Armor
These types of armor were mostly made out of iron, metal, or steel. Sometimes they were made of wood or ivory.
Oftentimes, they were round or rectangular and covered the chest and the back.
Some hard armor would only have two big circles on each side of the torso connected by leather straps or mail.
Others had multiple big plates strategically covering vital body organs.
This type included the plate armor and the breastplates.
Most breastplates were made of a few big plates put together to form a sleeveless metal vest.
This led to the creation of the full-body plate armor, which we often imagine when we talk about medieval knights.
Army units would wear different types of medieval armor depending on their roles in a battle.
For example, others wore only leather without the rigid or hard armor. Some only wore the rigid or hard armor without the ring mail, while others wore both.
Crucial Parts of the Medieval Armor
The basics of all armors included something that protected the head, the torso, and the legs. Even ancient and modern armor sets have these three.
Medieval helmets covered the whole head and even the face. Though they dont often come decorated, armorers made extra efforts to shape or add distinctive designs.
Some helmets were worn together with neck armor. They made them out of mail or leather. Before, helmets were worn separately with the chain mail. Now, some have become part of the whole armor.
Some helmets were designed with a comb or a feather on top. Others pierce holes enough for air to seep through.
Also, some helmets were designed with moving parts like the visor. A visor allows a soldier to see his enemies but is protected from facial attacks.
There were various types of medieval helmets. One of the most popular helmets was called the ‘Spangenhelm’, a basic skull-cap with a domed or raised center. It had a nasal bar, a single strip of metal in front extending over the nose for extra facial protection.
A surcoat was an important part of medieval armor. Towards the end of the medieval period, it identified the army or the wearers identity. Usually, it was a long garment worn above an armor.
It came in different colors according to a soldiers country. Others decorated them with symbols relating to their belief or group name.
Chainmail and Breastplate
A chainmail is also known as the net of armor. This is often interchanged with ring mail but chainmail pertains to a ring mail armor that was made for the body or torso.
One specific kind of this armor was called the ‘Hauberk’, which was like a coat or shirt. Some were long, covering the torso and the upper thighs, while others were shorter, reaching the waistline.
Another type of chain mail was the reinforced mail. Though the based material was ring mail, there were a few plates interlocked with the mail. This could be sets of plates or one big plate usually in the torso or abdomen.
Breastplates became popular because first, they were easier to make. Second, metal, iron, or steel became more available. Armorers discovered how to put big plates together to form one piece of armor exclusively for the torso.
Other breastplates came with two or three big plates connected by mail so a soldier could wear them easily. Breastplates could either be with or without sleeves.
Parts of the Famous Plate Armor
This was one of the strongest armor during the medieval era. These are made out of iron or metal and fitted together with rivets or straps. It is sometimes painted to keep it from rusting
The breastplate was one of the most common and popular parts of medieval armor. It consisted of two pieces, a front, and a back. Both were fastened together at the side and shoulders, plus a padded surcoat could be sewn into it.
The gorget protected the neck and could extend to the clavicle and the sternum. It held or served as a base for the helmet, too. Extending to the shoulder was the pauldron or shoulder guard.
Rerebrace was what they call the armor that protected the elbow to the shoulder. The cowter protected the elbow and could be movable or adjustable. Another was the vambrace, which protected the forearm and was connected by metal splints.
Next was the gauntlet, which were metal gloves that protected the wrist and entire hand. The hand was one of the most vulnerable parts of the wearer, but this was the most challenging part of the armor to create.
The need for flexibility and good movement was important for the wearer. Only the hand could grasp or wield their weapons.
The extra layer that protected the belly is called a plackart. Below it, extending from the breastplate was the fauld. This protects the waist and the hips. The cuisses are those parts that protected the thighs.
The greaves weare those that protected the lower leg. Connecting it with the cuisses was a poleyn or the knee guard. Last but not least are sabatons, which were metal shoes. Sometimes, it could be a piece of its own or connected to the greaves.
Medieval Shield and Weapons
Though shields are ancient, it still served a purpose until the medieval period. It may be rare to see them in the modern world, but the shields were the best defensive weapon at that time.
Medieval shields vary by location and army groups. Wood was the main material, but metal and iron were built into it over time. Towards the later centuries, armorers created iron shields, too.
A typical medieval knight wouldnt be complete without his broadsword. This was sometimes referred to as the knights sword. Its blade was straight and double-edged, and it had a cross-looking handle.
Of course, there were more weapons than just the sword. Lances, mace, and spears were popular, too. Longbows and cross developed so well that sometimes it can penetrate plate armor.
The Medieval armor was more than just a piece of protective tool. They were a work of art. It symbolizes the reputation, origin, or lifestyle of the person wearing it.
Also, this is more than just a history. The people during the medieval era showed great courage, and they fought bravely to defend their kingdom and beliefs.