Thursday, December 29, 2016

Crusades Armor – Steel for the Warrior of Faith



For Templar knights called upon to defend their faith and kingdom, a robust Crusades armor was paramount. What sort of helmet did they wear? What about greaves? Shields? Vambraces? Let us find out.

During the first two Crusades, a knight would be literally covered in mail armor, primarily to protect against the broadsword. While the broadsword was not the sharpest tool in the enemy’s armory, its mass and the momentum of the rider in a running horse generated enough power to crush bones. 

Under the heavy armor the knight wore bries (medieval underwear) and chausses (padded garment for the legs) and his body was covered by a gambeson – a heavy, thick quilt-like coat. 

Over this coat the crusader wore his mail hauberk. The hauberk featured sleeves that ran down to the elbow or wrist. The hauberk, which could be slipped over the head, weighed between 25 and 40 pounds. Heavy? Very. However, when belted this could be fought in easily and enabled smooth movement that was imperative to survive on horseback.

The knight wore the surcoat over the mail shirt. The surcoat was of great significance to the knight. It was often printed or embroidered with his arms, which identified him, his family and others who fought with him. The surcoat served another important purpose during the 11th and 12th centuries when the knight’s iron cap was replaced with a fully-enclosed helmet, and identifying someone in full armor became near impossible. Also, it helped keep the scorching sun off the metal armor. On Crusades, the knights wore a simple white surcoat with a cross as a reminder of their Holy mission – the classic attire that we have come to associate with the Crusader.

Over the surcoat the soldier wore the long knight’s belt. This belt helped to support the mail’s weight on his hips so that it didn’t rest on his shoulders. 

To protect the legs, the knight used chaussesor padded garment which helped prevent chafing. Over this chausses was another set of mail defenses to cover the legs, also called chausses. 

Initially, the head was protected by a cloth cap and roll that padded the iron helmet and kept the iron links out of the knight’s hair. This was followed by the mail camail, a hood of chain mail with an opening for the face that protected the neck and shoulders from cuts. Then came the great Crusades helmets that weighed from 4–10 pounds and featured a narrow slit for the eyes called “ocularium.” While the immense protection made it difficult for the enemy to do any significant damage to the head, it also led to difficulty in breathing and communication between soldiers.

The “lambrequin,” a piece of cloth covering the helmet, kept the sun out and helped identify fellow soldiers. A set of mail mittens and the Crusader was ready to raise hell.

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