Components of medieval armour

This table identifies various pieces of body armour worn from the medieval to early modern period in the Western world, mostly plate but some mail armour, arranged by the part of body that is protected and roughly by date. No attempt has been made to identify fastening components or various appendages such as lance rests or plumeholders or clothing such as tabards or surcoats which were often worn over a harness.

There are a variety of alternative names and spellings (such as cowter/couter or bassinet/bascinet/basinet or besagew/besague) which often reflect a word introduced from the French. Generally, the English spelling has been preferred (including mail instead of the lately used maille or the inauthentic term chainmail).

Summary comparison of components of medieval European harness
Name Example Period
Mail coif400BC? to 15thMail hood, often worn with a hauberk.
Nasal helmetLate 9th to 13thThe nasal helmet was characterised by the possession of a nose-guard, or 'nasal', composed of a single strip of metal that extended down from the skull or browband over the nose to provide facial protection. The helmet appeared throughout Western Europe late in the 9th century, and became the predominant form of head protection till the enclosed helmet and great helm were introduced in the 12th and early 13th century.
Enclosed helmetLate 12th to early 13thPrimitive great helm or early great helm, forerunner of the great helm. The enclosed helmet covered the entire head, with full protection for the face and somewhat deeper coverage for the sides and back of the head than that found on previous types of helmets. It was developed near the end of 12th century and was largely superseded by the true great helm by c. 1240.
Great helmLate 12th to 14thStarted as a simple cylinder with a flat top but later developed a curved "sugar loaf" pointed top to deflect crushing blows. Has small slits for eyes and breathing/ventilation which may be decorative as well as functional. Often removed after the initial "clash of lances" as it impedes sight and breathing and is very hot. Often worn with another helm underneath. A stereotypical knight's helm from the crusader period.
CervelliereLate 12thSteel skull cap worn as a helm or underneath a great helm.
BassinetEarly 14th to early/mid 15thOriginally worn underneath a great helm and had no visor but did develop "nasals" to protect the nose. By the mid-14th century it replaced the great helm and was fully visored, often "dog faced" (the conical hounskull visor), often worn without a visor for visibility and 'breathability'. Worn with an aventail then later with a gorget. Visors on English bassinets have a hinge at each side whereas German bassinets have a single hinge attached at the middle.
SalletMid-15thWhen worn with a bevor as is usual, a sallet covers the entire head. It is distinguished by a long, sometimes pointed (if Italian) tail that extends to cover the back of the neck and by a single, long eye-slit. It has no ventilation holes as there is a gap where the helm and bevor meet. A favoured helm in England and Western Europe, including Germanic areas (the tail may have influenced design of German helmets in World War 2).
Barbute15thClose fitting helmet with a characteristic Y- or T-shaped slit for vision and breathing, reminiscent of ancient Greek helmets
Armet15thA bowl helmet that encloses the entire head with the use of hinged cheek plates that fold backwards. A gorget was attached and a comb may be present. May also have a rondel at the rear. Later armets have a visor. A stereotypical knight's helm. Favoured in Italy.
Close helmet or close helmMainly 16th centuryA bowl helmet with a moveable visor, very similar visually to an armet and often the two are confused. However, it lacks the hinged cheekplates of an armet and instead has a bevor.
BurgonetEarly 16thOpen face bowl shaped helmet with a neck collar, a peak, a very characteristic comb, sometimes with cheek pieces. Sometimes has a buffe (a visor that is lowered, rather than raised).
Aventail or CamailDetachable mail hung from a helmet to protect the neck and shoulders, often worn with bassinets.
BevorWorn with a sallet to cover the jaw and throat (extending somewhat down the sternum). May also cover the back of the neck if worn with a bassinet rather than a sallet. May be solid or made of lames. Sometimes worn with a gorget.
GorgetSteel collar to protect the neck and cover the neck opening in a complete cuirass. Quite unlike a modern shirt collar in that as well as covering the front and back of the neck it also covers part of the clavicles and sternum and a like area on the back.
Brigandinelate12th to 16thCloth garment, generally canvas or leather, lined with small oblong steel plates riveted to the fabric.
Hauberk or Haubergeon? to 15th (mostly died out during the 14th and 15th centuries.)Mail shirt reaching to the mid-thigh with sleeves. Early mail shirts generally were quite long. During the 14th-15th century hauberks became shorter, coming down to the thigh. A Haubergeon reaches the knee. Haubergeon replaced by the Hauberk due to the use of plate; with the legs now encased in steel, the longer mail became redundant.
Cuirass14th to 17thCovers the breast, not the back, however the name is sometimes used to describe the breast- and backplates together. Developed in antiquity but became common in the 14th century with the reintroduction of plate armour, later sometimes two pieces overlapping for top and bottom. Whether of one piece or two, breastplate is sometimes used to literally describe the section that covers the breast.
Pixane, Standard or Bishop's mantleA mail or leather collar. In common with a gorget, it is not like a modern shirt collar. Rather, it is a circle with a hole for the neck to fit through. It covers the shoulders, breast and upper back, perhaps like an extremely small poncho.
PlackartExtra layer of plate armour initially covering the belly. Often decorated. Worn as part of a cuirass.
FauldsBands to protect the front waist and hips, attached to cuirass.
CuletSmall, horizontal lames that protect the small of the back or the buttocks, attached to a backplate or cuirass.
Couter or cowterPlate that guards the elbow, eventually became articulated, may be covered by guard of vambrace (see below).
SpaulderBands of plate that cover the shoulder and part of upper arm but not the armpit.
Pauldron15thCover the shoulder (with a dome shaped piece called a shoulder cop), armpit and sometimes the back and chest.
GardbraceExtra plate that covers the front of the shoulder and the armpit, worn over top of a pauldron.
Rerebrace or Brassart or Upper Cannon (of Vambrace)Plate that covers the section of upper arm from elbow to area covered by shoulder armour.
BesagewCircular plate that covers the armpit, typically worn with spaulders. See also rondel.
Vambrace or Lower Cannon (of Vambrace)14thForearm guard. May be solid metal or splints of metal attached to a leather backing. Bracers made of leather were most commonly worn by archers. Developed in antiquity but named in the 14th century. Vambrace may also sometimes refer to parts of armour that together cover the lower and upper arms.
GauntletGloves that cover from the fingers to the forearms, made from many materials.
Guard of vambraceAn additional layer of armour that goes over cowter, in which case it is proper to speak of the lower cannon of the vambrace which is the forearm guard, and the upper cannon of vambrace which is the rerebrace.
ChaussesMail hosen, either knee-high or covering the whole leg.
Poleyn13thPlate that covers the knee, appeared early in the transition from mail to plate, later articulated to connect with the cuisses and schynbald or greave. Often with fins or rondel to cover gaps.
Schynbald13th to 15thAntiquity, lost but later reintroduced. Plate that covered only the shins, not the whole lower leg.
GreaveCovers the lower leg, front and back, made from a variety of materials, but later most often plate.
CuissePlate that cover the thighs, made of various materials depending upon period.
Sabaton or SolleretCovers the foot, often mail or plate.
Tasset or TuilleBands hanging from faulds or breastplate to protect the upper legs.
Gousset14thMail that protects areas not covered by plate.
LameBand of steel plate, put together severally so that several bands can articulate on various areas like around the thighs, shoulders or waist. Such pieces are named for the number of bands, for instance, a fauld of four lame.
Arming doublet or GambesonPadded cloth worn under a harness.
RondelAny circular plate. Rondels protecting various areas may have particular names, such as a besagew protecting the shoulder joint.

Japanese analogues

The following components of Japanese armour roughly match the position and function of certain components of occidental armour:


    This article is issued from Wikipedia. The text is licensed under Creative Commons - Attribution - Sharealike. Additional terms may apply for the media files.