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Gothic (or German) style amour

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Sadurian Mike
541384.  Thu Apr 23, 2009 6:53 pm Reply with quote

Plate armour of the C15th was an evolutionary development of protection in the arms race of weapon against armour. As armour improved, so weapons were developed to deal with it, leading to the late medieval armour that gave rise to both "Gothic" and "Italian" style plate armour.

Firstly, it should be noted that the term "plate armour" is a bit of a Victorian invention. In contemporary terms it should be known as "harness" or "white armour", although the rule of common usage does mean that "plate armour" is certainly not incorrect and I will use it as it is more recognisable.

Armour development was down to the type of battle being fought and ultimately down to the area in which it was fought. Below are two suits of armour; Gothic and Italian. Notice the differences; the Gothic has numerous flutes and channels and looks a lot more flexible, whereas the Italian is more solid and business-like.

The terrain and battles in which the wearer of the Gothic armour fought were dominated by cavalry charges and mass melees on open fields. Large numbers of men would have been fighting, and flexibility to react to new threats was a major requirement. The Gothic armour, which originated in Germany and was primarily used in Northern Europe and the UK, was relative light, with flutes and ridges which added strength without excessive weight. The plates are well-jointed and allow the wearer to freely move their limbs, at the expense of protection at those joints.

Below is Gothic armour, with an equivalent style for the horse (barding).

The Italian (or Milanese) armour, on the other hand, grew from a world where battle generally meant besieging fortified towns, and these towns and sieges were dominated by crossbowmen. The crossbow was a powerful weapon which was able to penetrate mail but took a long time to reload. In an open battle this could be a liability, but in a siege it was not, and so in the Italian warfare of sieges and fortified towns it was dominant. Protection from a crossbow, and fighting in a siege, did not require such flexibility but did require strong and comprehensive armour. Thus the Italian style armour is heavier and offers better protection but at the expense of flexibility and weight.

The photo below shows Italian armour in use by recreationists.

Jousting armour, by the way, from where the Victorians and Hollywood took their idea of knights as lumbering leviathans, was never meant to be fought in and was a specialist development.

Demonstration of flexibility of (recreated) Italian plate armour.

541398.  Thu Apr 23, 2009 7:12 pm Reply with quote

Slightly OT but I saw my first piece of brigandine armour when I was on holiday and in the same place I saw, and heard of for the first time, anime (annie-may) armour which is a sort of articulated version of the laurica segmentata only more tightly fitting and covering the body from head to knee. The latter was specifically a cavalry armour according to the armoury of the knights of St. John in Valetta.

btw There is, or may still be, a thread somewhere where I talk about the Hospitallers wearing red crosses on white and white crosses on red (rarer and also in fact close to Templar dress) as well as the more usual white cross on black. I can confirm that this is the case and was not due to my memory being dodgy.

Sadurian Mike
541399.  Thu Apr 23, 2009 7:19 pm Reply with quote

Brigandine is (as I'm sure Celebaelin knows well) metal plates rivetted between layers of either leather of thick cloth. The outer appearance is that of small metal studs on the cloth or leather and it is this that game rise to the Victorian myth of "studded leather" armour (which was continued by some FRPG designers).

Surviving examples are rare. I'm jealous that you've seen some, Celebaelin.

541408.  Thu Apr 23, 2009 7:44 pm Reply with quote

I wasn't so much a suit as fragments but that did give you the opportunity to see how the thing was put together. The plates were about one inch high by two wide and overlapped with the next row by perhaps as much as a quarter of their height and width. The rivets on this piece were covered in gold leaf so the effect would have been of a red (cloth) studded with gold - quite eye-catching.

Sadurian Mike
541410.  Thu Apr 23, 2009 7:51 pm Reply with quote

I know that the Tower of London collection has two examples. Maybe I ought to go make a trip to London, there are plenty of bits I'd like to see again.

541416.  Thu Apr 23, 2009 7:56 pm Reply with quote

Won't they have been moved to Leeds?

Sadurian Mike
541418.  Thu Apr 23, 2009 7:59 pm Reply with quote

Possibly. That's another collection I need to get around to visiting, but I was going to go on the same weekend as Fiasco this coming November, assuming we are back from New Zealand by then.

Rudolph Hucker
541443.  Fri Apr 24, 2009 12:22 am Reply with quote

Jousting armour, by the way, from where the Victorians and Hollywood took their idea of knights as lumbering leviathans, was never meant to be fought in and was a specialist development

If not for fighting, what then?

Posing down the pub?

Wearing at wedding receptions?

I think we should be told.

541452.  Fri Apr 24, 2009 2:35 am Reply with quote

The joust is very formal and you pretty much know everything about how your opponent is going to come at you (mounted, from the front and with a lance) and the protection is matched to that challenge. In an actual combat situation flexibility, speed of movement and visibility are all valuable components of good armour which at least partially explains the lasting popularity of chainmail which, eg in the Ottoman empire, was not superceeded by heavier armours. Cost was an element of course as was the technical ability and resources to make relatively large quantities of sheet metal armour but the idea of Romans wearing the laurica is for the most part a false one - the majority of Roman troops over the life of the Empire wore chain. There is however no way chain armour would turn a lance strike from horseback at speed, its main use is in resisting slashing weapons with some resilience against piercing weapons and virtually none against crushing weapons. The vulnerability of chain against crushing weapons is incidentally why the mace became a symbol of power and tells us why sheet armours rose to popularity in Northern Europe although there were bodkin head arrows as well which will go through chain without much trouble; they'll go through cheapish/early breastplates at short distances as well mind.

Ion Zone
541882.  Fri Apr 24, 2009 3:16 pm Reply with quote

Hopalite (I think it was Hopalite) armour is very interesting, it's in layers like kevlar.

Sadurian Mike
541894.  Fri Apr 24, 2009 4:00 pm Reply with quote

Hoplite linen. It was only linen yet the multiple layers were surprisingly effective. It was also lighter, far more comfortable and cheaper than bronze.

gerontius grumpus
543795.  Mon Apr 27, 2009 4:27 pm Reply with quote

The Romans had their own equivalent of jousting known as Hippica gymnasia. Not much is known about what actually happened in it but a lot of fancy armour, including face masked helmets, thin ornamental greaves, horse armour and a highly decorated shield has survived. These items are thought toi have been made especially for hippica gymnasia.

Ion Zone
543798.  Mon Apr 27, 2009 4:30 pm Reply with quote

He must have been very rich. :}

Sadurian Mike
543814.  Mon Apr 27, 2009 4:39 pm Reply with quote

Goddamn gymnastic hippies....

543821.  Mon Apr 27, 2009 4:43 pm Reply with quote

Sadurian Mike wrote:
Goddamn gymnastic hippies....

Have you seen the wall paintings of Minoan bull jumpers?


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