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The Gothic plate armor: Designed to completely protect the knight’s body during battle

David Goran

For centuries, Medieval armor played a huge role in the life of European knights.

Although the usage of the term ‘gothic’ in art history can be traced back to spanning over the 12th to the 15th centuries, it was only between the 1420’s and 1440’s that Gothic armor was developed, (called “Gothic“ due to its similarity to the gothic style of architecture during those times).

The main European schools were German and Italian and at the time, national styles of “white armor” began to emerge, characterized by a full-body steel plate without a surcoat. The armor combined reliable protection and good mobility, achieved due to increasing the number of parts and, for use in battle, the reduction of its size.

Gothic plate armors in Royal Armories Museum in Leeds, UK. Photo Credit

Gothic plate armors in Royal Armories Museum in Leeds, UK. Photo Credit

 

Developed in the first half of the 15th century. Photo Credit

Developed in the first half of the 15th century. Photo Credit

The armor combined two main features: reliable protection and good mobility. Photo Credit

The armor combined two main features: reliable protection and good mobility. Photo Credit

 

Armor of the condottiero Roberto da Sanseverino, captured after his death at the battle of Calliano, 1487. Photo Credit

Armor of the condottiero Roberto da Sanseverino, captured after his death at the battle of Calliano, 1487. Photo Credit

Perhaps one of the main typical features of gothic armor was the Gothic sallet, a type of hollow helmet worn by knights during battle, for the protection of the back side of the head and the neck. It was used together with a bevor which was a piece of plate armor designed to protect the front part of the neck and the chin. The sallet helmet became almost universal and was a replacement for the basinet, an open-faced military helmet worn during the Medieval times.

Breakdown of individual components of Gothic armor. Photo Credit

Breakdown of individual components of Gothic armor. Photo Credit

 

 

Gothic helmets, illustration by Viollet Le-Duc. Photo Credit

Gothic helmets, illustration by Viollet Le-Duc. Photo Credit

 

Visored sallet. Photo Credit

Visored sallet. Photo Credit

Gothic Gauntlet. Photo Credit

Gothic Gauntlet. Photo Credit

 

Gothic Breastplate, the late 1400s. Photo Credit

Gothic Breastplate, the late 1400s. Photo Credit

 

Gothic armor for the horseman, late 15th century. Photo Credit

Gothic armor for the horseman, late 15th century. Photo Credit

 

Тhe armor is made up of parts from various late 15th-century German pieces. Leeds Royal Armoury. One of the main characteristics of the German armor was its sharp and piercing corners. Photo Credit

Тhe armor is made up of parts from various late 15th-century German pieces. Leeds Royal Armoury. One of the main characteristics of the German armor was its sharp and piercing corners. Photo Credit

 

A suit of Maximilian plate armor of the late 15th century, made by Lorenz Helmschmied of Augsburg, now kept in the Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg. Photo Credit1 Photo Credit2

A suit of Maximilian plate armor of the late 15th century, made by Lorenz Helmschmied of Augsburg, now kept in the Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg. Photo Credit1 Photo Credit2

 

Maximillian armor with a grotesque mask. Photo Credit

Maximillian armor with a grotesque mask. Photo Credit

The style changed during the Renaissance and armors with rounder and more curved forms were produced. This type was known as Maximilian armor (after emperor Maximilian I) and became popular during the second half of his reign.

Read another story from us: The Palace Armory: the main armory of a medieval Catholic military order is still housed in its original building

It wasn’t cheap and not every warrior could afford one. It was reserved only for the elite and the rest were equipped with only a few elements of body protection.

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