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Plate armour in the late Middle Ages - 15th Century

Plate armour in the late Middle Ages - 15th Century
Middle Ages Thursday, 14. March 2024

Plate armour in the late Middle Ages - 15th Century

Plate armour in the late Middle Ages - 15th Century

The body protection of heavy and semi-heavy cavalrymen in the 15th century was already completely dominated by plate armour. Shortly after 1400 the limbs of the heavy cavalrymen, as before in the late 14th century, were protected by plate armour, which of course included gauntlets and helmets. The protection of the torso in the latests versions of so-called transitional armour was mainly provided by coat of plates, made up of smaller plate segments, riveted at leather and often covered with fabric. However, already in the last quarter of the 14th century the first cuirasses in the form of a breastplate began to appear, and shortly afterwards the first complete cuirasses followed. As the 15th century progressed, parts of plate armour were increasingly worn by infantrymen, who, in addition to the helmet, increasingly wore a cuirass or at least a breastplate, or partial arm-guards like rerebraces, couters, vambraces and gauntlets.

Šalířová zbroj

Armour of Archduke Sigismund of Tyrol, FFOULKES, Charles: Armour & Weapons. Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1909, s. 71.

The full plate armour of the late 14th century continued to serve well into the first quarter of the 15th century, however, when new elements began to appear. The hitherto widely worn helmet known as the basinet (or 'houndskull' - in the form of a typical snout-like visor) was supplemented and gradually replaced by the 'great basinet'. It was based on the previous model, but with a plate collar and a rounded visor. In the German cultural circle a special, usually box-like, type of cuirass called the 'kastenbrust' began to appear from the 1420s onwards and was quite fashionable until the middle of the century. 

Armet přilba

Armet, 15th Century.  LAKING, Guy Francis: A record of European armour and arms through seven centuries. Vol. 2. London G. Bell and Sons, 1920, s. 82

During the 15th century (and especially from the middle of the 15th century) two most common fashionable (but of course also functional) styles of full plate armour prevailed – the so-called German style and Italian style. The style referred to as German was characterised by slender elegant lines, the edges of the plates running out into points or pointed decorative incised motifs, and the channelling (or ribbing) of some parts of the armour, which provided as a practical reinforcement as well as an aesthetic one. On the other hand the style known as Italian was characterised by the smooth rounded surfaces of the plates and the specific shape of the rather bulky pauldrons. From the 1420s onwards, heavy cavalryman´s enclosed helmet with a movable visor, known as an armet, was also developed in the Italian milieu. 

Šalíř

Sallet helmet - LAKING, Guy Francis: A record of European armour and arms through seven centuries. Vol. 2. / London G. Bell and Sons, 1920, s. 40.

In central Europe, around the 1420s-30s, a helmet that became almost iconic for the late Middle Ages appeared on the scene: sallet. This helmet, which evolved from a kettel hat with a folded brim and with visors in the front, became a common part of the late medieval full plate armour of heavy cavalrymen. However, this helmet was also favoured by infantrymen who often wore it like kettel hat pushed slightly to the back of the head. Due to this helmet the general term 'sallet armour' is nowadays derived and refers to the type of the plate armour from the second half of the 15th century made in the so-called German style with the protection of the head provided by a sallet with a bevor.

látové podbradí („plechový vous“), 2. polovina 15. století.

Bevor, 2nd half of 15th Century. LAKING, Guy Francis: A record of European armour and arms through seven centuries. Vol. 2. / London G. Bell and Sons, 1920, s. 47

 

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