Medieval Armor and Weapons
With the word 'war', comes the concept of weapons and protective armors. As an obvious fact, armors were primarily used against lethal weapons in wars and combats. Armors also signified a knight's status and lifestyle. In earlier times, rocks, sticks, animal bones, flint and stones were used in combat. Gradually armors were developed for self defense, and were made from copper, bronze and steel. As weapons were becoming lethal, better armors were designed. Armors and weapons went hand in hand in battles and wars, as the soldiers had to attack with their weapons, and defend themselves with their armors. With increasing incidents of wars, better weapons and more reliable armors were manufactured for protection against enemies.
Padded garments and chain mail were the first set of armors to be used in the medieval times. The chain mail armors were among the most primitive metallic armors worn by knights in the medieval times. Soldiers wore such armors in the form of a shirt, coif or leggings. Since, the armors were made of steel, they were hand woven in a riveted manner. This prevented the thousands of interlocking rings from spreading and opening under the weight of the metal used. In addition to the chain mail armors, the knights also wore padded garments. These garments were known as 'aketon' or 'gambeson'. The knights also used a protective shield and a helmet. This defense equipment provide effective body protection against various weapons during battles.
Speaking of the medieval weapons, they included battle axes, maces, bill hook, bow and arrows, dagger, spear, war hammer, baton and scimitar. These weapons were used by the infantry. Lance, shields and medieval swords such as broad sword, great sword and longsword were weapons which provided ease in fighting while on horseback. So, these weapons were meant for knights.
The weapons in the medieval times were manufactured in more than one variety, due to the Feudal system. Apart from the soldiers, the common people were also supposed to fight for their king. It was made mandatory for every man to master the art of at least one weapon. This policy was to provide an extra backup for the king's army during the battle.
The most common types of swords used by the knights in the medieval world include:
- The Broadsword: had a double-edged blade
- The Falchion Sword: single-edged, was short and heavy
- The Great Sword: large, two-handed swords
- The Long Sword: meant for two-handed use, had a long handle and long blade
- The Scimitar: curved blade, and ended with a sharp point
- Wooden swords: used for trainings
Chain mail armors gradually ceased to exist owing to the development in the weapons. More powerful weapons like the long bow and cross bow were developed. In countering the attacks from these weapons, chain mail armors did not provide solid defense. As the Middle Ages progressed, the medieval knight armor was invented. This type of armor was extremely expensive and was manufactured in the form of a complete suit. The body fit of the armor was extremely important during battles, lest it could hamper the knights ability to fight. So in order, to ensure the correct fitting, the armor was tailor-made for the knight.
As mentioned earlier, an armor also reflected a knight's status symbol. The better the quality of the armor, the more important was the position held by the knight. In the 13th century, plate armor was first introduced for protecting the chest and shoulders. Thereafter, the full plate armor suit was developed to enhance the defense against deadly weapons. The chain mail armor was used to protect areas such as the underarms and the groin. As the armor suit was a total body defense mechanism in itself, the shield was no more important. As there was no shield to carry, the knights fought with more agility. The armor suit was a combination of leg and feet armor, arms armor, head, neck and body armor.
Protecting Armors for Different Body Parts
There were different sets of armors for protecting each part of the body. 'Sabatons' protected the legs and feet. The calf and ankles of the soldiers were covered with armors called the 'greaves'. Thighs and knee caps were protected by 'cuisses' and 'poleyns', respectively. To protect the arms against weapons, soldiers wore 'rerebrace' for their upper arms and the 'vambrace' for lower arms. Even for fingers, special armor gloves called 'gauntlets' were manufactured. Chest and back, being the vulnerable parts during battles, the breast plate and the back plate were used for their protection. For protecting the face and eyes, a detachable visor was used. The helmets which were manufactured at that time were called the 'bascinet'. Not only the soldiers, but the war horses were also covered with proper armor to protect the animals from getting injured during battles.
The history of medieval armor and weapons is like a never ending stream of knowledge and records. The craft that was used in the manufacture of these goods is something to be greatly admired. Museums are a great place for those who are interested in learning about the intricate facts on medieval armor. Museums not only provide theoretical information for people, but a visual treat as well.