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Walter S




Location: Czech Republic
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PostPosted: Sun 05 Sep, 2010 1:10 pm    Post subject: Cut armor in Maciejowski Bible and other period art         Reply with quote

I was recently examining Maciejowski Bible and other period art. Pretty much every depiction of battle shows sword hits into mail and even helmets causing bleeding wounds. As this is proven to be unrealistic, I was starting to think the artists didn't give a damn about realism, but then I noticed interesting thing...

Daggers are always shown used in very realistic manner, usually thrust against unarmored face during grappling (where they then cause bleeding wounds). This to me proved that the artists were knowledgeable about realities of combat and that the bleeding from armor must have some explanation.

I came to conclusion that the bleeding is a way of showing that the weapon is striking somebody as opposed to just being swung through air. Otherwise it would be very hard to make out who is struck and who is just overlapping with a weapon, particularly because of non-existent perspective in the paintings.

What do you think about this conclusion?
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Thomas R.




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PostPosted: Sun 05 Sep, 2010 1:40 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I think that the depictions of swords hacking through helmets show very rare events, which occured from time to time, but not so often as they are depicted in this bible. To understand, why there are so much of this events are drawn, you have to know, that the picture bible wasn't only produced to show the audience mere biblical scenes. It was aimed for people, who did not only know biblical events very well, but also the poetic literature of their time. Perhaps the Rolands Song and others. In these poems and stories the heros fights are frequently described with the same words. e.g like "he draws his sword and thrusts it thru his opponents armor and chest until the blood flows in streams..." That's what is depicted there. It's a symbol for the heros acting. Like in the contemporary "knightly" stories.

Secondly: even if you don't cut through maille, you can hurt your opponent so badly with a sharpened sword, that his skin lacerates and blood is spilled. I have seen some youtube videos (I think it was Clements Arma doing the tests) in which porkskin bursted after a hit onto maille and padding.

Thomas

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Kel Rekuta




Location: Toronto, Canada
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PostPosted: Sun 05 Sep, 2010 7:24 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

How else would a painter convey the awesome power of biblical heroes if not by performing feats of superhuman strength and ability? If everybody cut through helmets and split armoured foes like bundles of wheat - wow! What would the point of armour have been then?

The Mac bible is an excellent resource to study arms and armour of the mid 13thC. The illustrations in it shouldn't be taken as immutable fact. It was supposed to create wonder and teach the old Testament not catalogue contemporary warfare for posterity.
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Jeff A. Arbogast





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PostPosted: Mon 06 Sep, 2010 4:19 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I personally believe that helms and mail were cleaved from time to time, although I've met some pretty intense denials from some people regarding this. It may indeed have been rare, but I cannot believe it NEVER happened, as some claim. That's simply a flat denial without any reasonable consideration. At Bannockburn, Robert the Bruce split Sir Henry Bohun's helm and skull in half with his axe when Bohun attacked him before the battle when he saw Robert alone between the armies, breaking his axe handle in the process. Or so the story goes. But why not? Supposedly both sides witnessed this event, greatly cheering the Scots and dismaying the English. As Robert returned to his men, he lamented "I have broken my good battle-axe." At Hastings, there are many accounts of helms and mail sheared "like silk" by the English axes. I don't believe they were bludgeoned to death by mere impact, although that would debilitate them as well. Nor do I believe that the axemen aimed only for unarmored opponents. The Housecarls would have concentrated on the mounted knights when they could, as they were the biggest threat. The rest of the army could deal with the less well-armored footmen.
I know there are many tests that people bring up showing how a weapon only dents a helm, etc. That's fine, as far as it goes. But that is NOT definitive proof. It's just a "Deadliest-Warrioresque" (bleh) test that may or may not have any validity, depending on many factors. Who can say for sure what happened a thousand or more years ago on ancient battlefields? Armor and weapons constantly evolved, like an arm's race, because armor was NOT impervious, not because it was. Anyone can go on Youtube and watch Albion cleaving steel 55 gallon drums with their swords. But people poo-poo that test as well, while holding up their own test that makes their case for the impossibility of armor failing.
This argument will go on and on, with everyone lining up on one side or the other. I've had some pretty intense debates with Peter Fuller about this, but it was great fun, because he's extremely knowledgable but also very courteous, although we both finally parted with no agreement. But it gave each of us something to think about, and we parted with a mutual respect for the other's opinion, although neither of us convinced the other. That's how it should be.

A man's nose is his castle-and his finger is a mighty sword that he may wield UNHINDERED!
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Adam Smith





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PostPosted: Mon 06 Sep, 2010 8:25 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I agree with the above post, how can modern day tests against helmets made of homogenius rolled steel of even thickness possibly dismiss the ancient depictions as fantasy. The fact that early ancient sheet had to be painstankingly hammered out from a lump of iron ore should be seriously considered. This proces would of more than likely produced sheet with many overstressed, fatigued, brittle and thin areas that could not resist powerful blows from sharp weapons. In my opinion more fantasy lies in the deductions of todays so called experts than in the ancient depictions. The material of the day was iron and although some carbon would be absorbed thruogh the smithing process it was not homogenius steel. Mail was made from wire of the same material that had been drawn many times through a die to correct thickness. This process fatigues and stressess the iron tremedously so its resistance to direct and powerfull blows must of been minimal.
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Kel Rekuta




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PostPosted: Mon 06 Sep, 2010 9:37 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Adam Smith wrote:
This process fatigues and stressess the iron tremedously so its resistance to direct and powerfull blows must of been minimal.


Hence its enormous and widespread popularity as military equipment for more than a thousand years. Really. Razz
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Adam Smith





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PostPosted: Mon 06 Sep, 2010 10:19 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Kel Rekuta wrote:
Adam Smith wrote:
This process fatigues and stressess the iron tremedously so its resistance to direct and powerfull blows must of been minimal.


Hence its enormous and widespread popularity as military equipment for more than a thousand years. Really. Razz


Yes and with good reason, it is extremely flexible, does not rot , mould, stink or house vermen like leather and cloth but still provides good protection against draw , glancing and badly executed slashes. The fact that it was popular is no proof that it was not vulnerable. Modern day body armour is vulnerable to many calibers of projectile yet it is not discarded and remains standadrd equipement to military and police.
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Dan Howard




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PostPosted: Mon 06 Sep, 2010 3:54 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

There have been countless tests against mail made of far poorer quality than that which was available at the time and even these easily resist the best sword cuts.
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Dan Howard




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PostPosted: Mon 06 Sep, 2010 3:56 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Adam Smith wrote:
I agree with the above post, how can modern day tests against helmets made of homogenius rolled steel of even thickness possibly dismiss the ancient depictions as fantasy..

Because there have also been tests done against museum samples and even these resist the hardest sword cuts. Use the search function. This subject has been done to death. I have no doubt that it happened on occasion. But these flukes would have been few and far between. I can't think of any primary accounts saying that it happened in Europe before the 18th century.
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Peter Fuller
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PostPosted: Tue 07 Sep, 2010 10:41 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Jeff -

Thank you for your kind comments. I've always enjoyed our discussions - you're a consummate gentleman.

Adam -

Well, I've never been referred to as a "So-called expert" before. I guess there's a first time for everything. To be honest, I don't consider myself an expert in anything; and when it comes to armour, I like to think of myself as nothing more than a serious student.

However, you brought up several points that I think need to be addressed, so from one "So-called expert" to another, here goes.

First of all, you don't give medieval armourers the credit they deserve. Having examined more authentic armour than most people have ever seen, and having worked in a museum with a major armour collection for more than eight years, not to mention the fact that I've been making armour for over thirty years (professionally for over sixteen years), I think I can say with confidence that even early medieval armour was produced with a quality that modern armourers (including myself) have difficulty matching. I would even go so far as to say that we're not there yet; modern reproductions are inferior in quality to the real thing.

Is modern rolled steel more homogeneous than medieval steel (or iron)? I'll give you that. Are there inclusions in medieval iron? Yes. Did these inclusions create weak points in the iron sheet that the armour was made of? Yes. Did all medieval armour contain said inclusions that weakened the armour? Probably not. Would these inclusions make it easier to cut through helmets in the way depicted in the Maciejowski Bible? I don't think so, unless the inclusion was considerable, and in such a case I think the armourer would have spotted it during the construction process, scrapped the piece, and replaced it with another.

You mentioned plates being

"...overstressed, fatigued, brittle and thin areas that could not resist powerful blows from sharp weapons."

Thin spots? Not that I've ever noticed, except from extreme wear or cleaning, but not from shoddy workmanship.

Also, there's a very important point that you're overlooking in your argument. Several times during the construction process, the metal being worked would have been "Normalized", which would have eliminated any work-hardening, fatigue, or brittleness you mentioned. This would have been the case with mail as well. (An interesting side-note - when Hank Reinhardt and I were doing cutting tests years ago, we found that mail made of rings of softer metal would bend around the blade of even the sharpest swords, while rings made of harder metal would break when struck. It also appears from the historical record that even the most expensive mail was made of rings of softer iron.)

Could medieval warriors cut through helms and mail as depicted in the Maciejowski Bible? I don't think so. Consider this; 13th century knights wore a combination of protection on their heads that began with a padded arming cap, a heavy linen head covering that was either made of many layers of cloth, or it was stuffed with horsehair or tow; an effective piece of armour in its own right. (don't believe me? Take your sharpest sword and try to cut through 18-20 layers of thick linen all stitched together). Then they wore a steel under cap, which can be seen in the images of the Mac. Bible. (someone else with more computer skills than I will have to post those images for me). Then on top of this cap was worn the mail coif. and finally, over this was worn the great helm, which would have had a leather lining in it, suspending the helm off the wearers' head. Striking the helm on the leading edge as depicted in the Mac. Bible would mean you would have to cut through two layers of iron, since this is where the sides and the top of the helm are overlapped and riveted together.

So, add up all the layers of defense that your sword blade has to slice through before it can split a skull and draw blood like it shows in the Mac. Bible -

Two layers of iron on the great helm
The thick leather liner of the great helm
The mail coif
The iron under cap
The thickly padded arming cap

Now that's an awlful lot of material to cut through with a single hand stroke before slicing into skull and brains. And this is all through armour that was made with a degree of skill that modern armourers can't replicate. In my opinion Kel is right; it was a manuscript that depicted Biblical heroes in a "larger than life" way.

But then what do I know? I'm only a "So-called expert"...

Peter Fuller
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Craig Shackleton




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PostPosted: Tue 07 Sep, 2010 11:06 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I do think that there is some merit in the OP's original point that the depictions in the Mac Bible, intentionally or not, help clarify that someone is actually being struck. Having spent endless hours staring at the images from I.33, I can say for certain that there are some instances in which it is difficult or impossible to judge whether a combatant has been stabbed, cut, or missed entirely without referring to the accompanying text. While the artistic style isn't exactly the same, both manuscripts suffer from a lack of perspective (at least for us modern viewers).

I do agree with Kel that it's most likely that the Mac Bible meant to show amazing feats by larger than life heroes for the most part. However, given the sheer number of cloven skulls and run-through bodies depicted in some images, I also think it is possible that it's also to make the scene more dramatic. Not just by showing the carnage, but by verifying that these guys are actually hitting each other, instead of just waving their swords near each other.

Ottawa Swordplay
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James Arlen Gillaspie
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PostPosted: Tue 07 Sep, 2010 11:41 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

If memory serves, the majority of depictions of helm cleaving occur in the context of mounted combat. The forces involved in mounted combat are FAR beyond those involved in foot combat. The combined speeds of two horses moving past each other can be as high as 60 MPH, which means we are talking energies like a car wreck, before anyone even swings a weapon. The war saddles of the time helped to transfer some of the momentum of the horse into the blow. This is what makes those little light- weight horsemen's maces into effective weapons. If anyone has done simulations involving sword cuts at these speeds, steer me to them!
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Thomas R.




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PostPosted: Tue 07 Sep, 2010 11:46 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I advise the following book about the Mac Bible to really understand, how and why the bible was composed. (see my first posting)

http://www.myArmoury.com/books/item.1903942160.html

As many forumusers stated in other threads, medieval illuminations should not be treated like they were photographs or anything like that.

Thomas

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Chad Arnow
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PostPosted: Tue 07 Sep, 2010 11:56 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Thomas R. wrote:
I advise the following book about the Mac Bible to really understand, how and why the bible was composed. (see my first posting)

http://www.myArmoury.com/books/item.1903942160.html

As many forumusers stated in other threads, medieval illuminations should not be treated like they were photographs or anything like that.

Thomas


Thomas,
There's also an older George Braziller Inc., facsimile which can often be found for cheaper than that book ($25 and up for a full-size facsimile). It can be seen here: http://www.myArmoury.com/books/item.0807605131.html .

Happy

ChadA

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Chad Arnow
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PostPosted: Tue 07 Sep, 2010 12:03 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I think part of it has to be the nature of this kind of art form. Stories have the luxury of unfolding over time, introducing important points at a slow pace, often one-at-a-time. Pictures like those in the Morgan Bible are meant to depict an entire story all at once. All the highlights need to be painfully obvious at first glance. The many (landed or not) blows that don't cut through something don't further the story and can't be shown anyway. Blows of good guy vs. bad guy need to be painfully (no pun intended) obvious: guy A killed dude B because he's chopped him in half.

I think we can chalk some of these feats up to the artistic license needed to depict the heroic. Also, to the need to show things very obviously, since the picture is telling the story to a likely illiterate audience. And there is likely at least some truth to some of this. We do have textual accounts (the Song of Roland, perhaps and various chronicles of the Crusades) that describe blows that go through the person and into the horse, etc. Those may have been exaggerated, too, of course.

Happy

ChadA

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Jeff A. Arbogast





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PostPosted: Tue 07 Sep, 2010 3:27 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

[quote="Peter Fuller"]Jeff -

Thank you for your kind comments. I've always enjoyed our discussions - you're a consummate gentleman.



As you are, Peter. I see your opinion is as undented as ever. But I will persist. Let me ask you this question-do you utterly dismiss the account of Robert the Bruce cleaving Sir Henry Bohun's head in half with his axe, helm and all? There are many accounts of this, and many witnessed the event. Robert did bust his axe-haft doing it, so it must have been one heck of a wallop, since I can't imagine a King using an axe with a crack in it's handle, especially right before a battle was to begin. I would assume that he was either unaware of a hairline crack somewhere, or he simply busted it outright when he nailed poor glory-seeking Sir Henry. But by all accounts his head and helm WERE split in half.

A man's nose is his castle-and his finger is a mighty sword that he may wield UNHINDERED!
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Adam Smith





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PostPosted: Tue 07 Sep, 2010 3:45 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

It is extremely unlikely if even possible that the people who weild the weapons in modern day tests do so with the strength, ferocity and experience of ancient professional warriors?
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Jeff A. Arbogast





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PostPosted: Tue 07 Sep, 2010 4:17 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Adam Smith wrote:
It is extremely unlikely if even possible that the people who weild the weapons in modern day tests do so with the strength, ferocity and experience of ancient professional warriors?


Well, let's face it, SCA combat ,with all it's rules and regulations, no more resembles REAL medieval combat than, as a previous poster once put it, foil fencing resembles a rapier duel. It would be hard to visualize the brutality of it. Even movies like Braveheart, with all it's much-ballyhooed blood and guts, doesn't come close to the horrific reality of spilled guts and splashing brains on all sides. As for strength and skill, that's something they worked at constantly all their lives. I don't think any of us would last more than ten seconds against a trained knight of those days. Just my opinion, of course.

A man's nose is his castle-and his finger is a mighty sword that he may wield UNHINDERED!
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Jan Svejkovsky




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PostPosted: Tue 07 Sep, 2010 4:50 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Where can I get a decent copy of the Maciejowski Bible in the USA?
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Chad Arnow
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PostPosted: Tue 07 Sep, 2010 5:00 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Jan Svejkovsky wrote:
Where can I get a decent copy of the Maciejowski Bible in the USA?


I've given a link in my post above to our Bookstore, linked to Amazon. There are copies on that page starting at around $25.

Happy

ChadA

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