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Jared Lambert




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PostPosted: Wed 08 Sep, 2010 3:47 pm    Post subject: How early did breastplates make an appearance in europe?         Reply with quote

I have been trying to find out how early solid breastplates came into fashion in central Europe (France, Germany, etc.). I can find evidence late 14th century but my question is "is there any evidence that suggests earlier use in Europe of solid breastplates?
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Randall Moffett




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PostPosted: Wed 08 Sep, 2010 7:52 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

They start showing up in inventories in the 1340s. Edward III for example has one for jousting in 1342. By the 1350s they are fairly common, so much so that the Black Prince gives some extras away in 1358. They show up in art and text from this point on fairly often.

RPM
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Craig Peters




PostPosted: Wed 08 Sep, 2010 9:46 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

There is a report around the close of the 12th century of Richard the Lionheart wearing a solid piece of metal to protect his chest along with his mail- I can't remember who wrote about it. This has lead more than one historian to state that the breastplate, or even plate armour (see Cantor's The Civilization of the Middle Ages), was a 12th century invention. It is probably more accurate to say that this was a single early example of something like a breastplate being worn; just the same, it is an interesting historical tidbit. But, as Jared has noted, the breastplate is properly a 14th century development.
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Elling Polden




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PostPosted: Thu 09 Sep, 2010 4:49 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Mid-13th c sources describe something called a "Chest protector of iron" or "plate" that should protect the fully armed knight from the nipples to the belt, and was worn under the hauberk. This is probably a front-only predecessor to the Coat of Plates, and the later breastplates.

If Richard wore a plate defence for his torso, it would probably be one of these.

"this [fight] looks curious, almost like a game. See, they are looking around them before they fall, to find a dry spot to fall on, or they are falling on their shields. Can you see blood on their cloths and weapons? No. This must be trickery."
-Reidar Sendeman, from King Sverre's Saga, 1201
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Matt Easton




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PostPosted: Thu 09 Sep, 2010 6:53 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Yep, I'd agree with everything above - Isolated examples until about 1340ish when they started to appear allongside 'pairs of plates' (coats of plates) in inventories/wills, and they were clearly widespread by the 1360's, as shown by the new wasp-shaped breasts on knightly brasses and effigies from then onwards (compared a brass of 1340 with one of 1370).

So to answer your question, they became 'fashionable' (ie. common) in the middle of the 14thC.

Matt

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Jean Thibodeau




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PostPosted: Thu 09 Sep, 2010 7:10 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Matt Easton wrote:
Yep, I'd agree with everything above - Isolated examples until about 1340ish when they started to appear allongside 'pairs of plates' (coats of plates) in inventories/wills, and they were clearly widespread by the 1360's, as shown by the new wasp-shaped breasts on knightly brasses and effigies from then onwards (compared a brass of 1340 with one of 1370).

So to answer your question, they became 'fashionable' (ie. common) in the middle of the 14thC.

Matt


With the art and funerary scuptures/effigies we have some idea of armour in the early transitional period but since we mostly just see the top layer whit mostly surcoats hiding any use of limited plate either over or under the mail.

In some cases the surcoats are obviously reinforced with plate or are actual coat of plates.

In French the word for breast plate is " Cuirasse " which generically applies to iron or steel but literally means leather chest piece ! We see this maybe as related to Roman muscle cuirasse which where leather and some Carolingian ceremonial armour at the time of Charlemagne may have copied the Roman cuirass to associate itself with the prestige of the Roman Empire.

Just supposition but a leather " Cuirasse " worn by itself or over maille is somewhat vulnerable to cutting or piercing even if of tough and thick leather, but put the same leather cuirasse under the maille and the maille protect the leather from being cut while the cuirass gives a lot of the same blunt trauma protection of an iron or steel cuirass.

Seem logical that wanting to give some blunt trauma protection a heavy leather piece over the chest maybe reinforced with iron strips or scales evolving to just iron or steel would make sense even in the earlier period of maille in the 13 th century.

With the common use of surcoats from the first Crusade on it become very difficult to know exactly what was worn under the surcoats unless mentioned in old writings.

( Again mostly just speculation ).

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Matt Easton




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PostPosted: Thu 09 Sep, 2010 7:19 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hi Jean,
Yes it can be difficult to guess what is under jupons sometimes. However sometimes it is easy - some effigies have opening at the side of the jupon where you can see the overlapping plates of the 'coat of plates'. Also, with effigies you have a 3-dimensional model and it is very clear that whilst in the 1340's they have quite flat chests, by the 1370's they have very domed chests. Either they were mostly wearing solid breastplates by that point, or they have some very serious medical condition affecting their chests. Wink
Finally, in the 1390/1400's brasses and effigies start to appear with no jupon covering and solid breastplates exposed (in the 1380's the breastplates occasionally appear worn on top of the jupon), and suprise surpise, they have the same outline and shape as the effigies from the 1360's-1380's which had jupons. So clearly solid breastplates had been quite common since the 1360's at least.

Of course all of this is also supported by the textual evidence.

There is no real debate to be had here - all armour experts agree on this, as far as I am aware.

Regards,
Matt

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Jean Thibodeau




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PostPosted: Thu 09 Sep, 2010 7:28 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Matt Easton wrote:
Hi Jean,
Yes it can be difficult to guess what is under jupons sometimes. However sometimes it is easy - some effigies have opening at the side of the jupon where you can see the overlapping plates of the 'coat of plates'. Also, with effigies you have a 3-dimensional model and it is very clear that whilst in the 1340's they have quite flat chests, by the 1370's they have very domed chests. Either they were mostly wearing solid breastplates by that point, or they have some very serious medical condition affecting their chests. Wink
Finally, in the 1390/1400's brasses and effigies start to appear with no jupon covering and solid breastplates exposed (in the 1380's the breastplates occasionally appear worn on top of the jupon), and suprise surpise, they have the same outline and shape as the effigies from the 1360's-1380's which had jupons. So clearly solid breastplates had been quite common since the 1360's at least.

Of course all of this is also supported by the textual evidence.

There is no real debate to be had here - all armour experts agree on this, as far as I am aware.

Regards,
Matt


Oh I agree, I'm partial speculating about extremely early adopters of some sort of reinforcements in the golden age of mail from the late dark ages to around 1250 to 1300. For the mid 14th century I fully agree and any impressions of disagreement are just musings and speculation: You bring up very good points and I'm not disputing them. Wink Big Grin Cool

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James Arlen Gillaspie
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PostPosted: Thu 09 Sep, 2010 12:35 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Years ago I was looking at a book on Italian frescoes (Siennese?), and came across one dated to 1340 that showed two fellows wearing exposed breastplates. Ring a bell with anyone? Hopefully it was not the result of someone 'touching it up' at a later date.
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Jared Lambert




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PostPosted: Fri 10 Sep, 2010 8:59 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

thanks for all the replies i thought they were a late 14th century thing like 1390s but it good to now they were earlier and ill have to look into the earlier investigations you guys mentioned as well.
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David Butchee




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PostPosted: Mon 13 Sep, 2010 1:52 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Elling Polden wrote:
Mid-13th c sources describe something called a "Chest protector of iron" or "plate" that should protect the fully armed knight from the nipples to the belt, and was worn under the hauberk. This is probably a front-only predecessor to the Coat of Plates, and the later breastplates.

If Richard wore a plate defence for his torso, it would probably be one of these.


I've never heard about that, could that possibly be reffering to lamellar?
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Elling Polden




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PostPosted: Mon 13 Sep, 2010 2:09 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

David Butchee wrote:

I've never heard about that, could that possibly be reffering to lamellar?


Probably not, since lamellar (mosty likely) is known a "Spangbrynje" in medevial norse, and the words used to describe this item is "brystbergir" (Chest protector) or simply "Plata" (plate)
I have seen the CoP-under-mail arrangement in Osprey's knight templar title as well, but I did not find their source for it...

"this [fight] looks curious, almost like a game. See, they are looking around them before they fall, to find a dry spot to fall on, or they are falling on their shields. Can you see blood on their cloths and weapons? No. This must be trickery."
-Reidar Sendeman, from King Sverre's Saga, 1201
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Dan Howard




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PostPosted: Mon 13 Sep, 2010 4:33 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Elling Polden wrote:
Probably not, since lamellar (mosty likely) is known a "Spangbrynje" in medevial norse,

We don't know that. All we know is that it doesn't refer to mail. It could be lamellar, or scale, or even a rudimentary coat of plates. It is likely that Gerald of Wales was talking about the same armour when he described some of the Danes during the attack on Dublin castle (laminis ferreis arte consutis)

Agreed that Richard probably wore a solid plate of some sort under his mail during his joust with William de Barres. Blair believed that some sort of solid plate armour was always worn. It's just that mail was far far more common. Keep in mind that we have surviving breastplates made of iron dating back to the Hellenistic period. Also keep in mind that it is far easier to make a breastplate of iron than it is to make a one-piece helmet, yet we have surviving examples of these dating to the 9th-10th centuries.
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Gabriele A. Pini




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PostPosted: Mon 13 Sep, 2010 10:55 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

OT: This discussion is giving solidity to my theory that we don't know very much of history, and the best quality for a studious of every type (archeology, reenactor, armchair...) are the same that Jesus recommends for every Christian: prudence and simplicity...
Only Sunday a guy who professed himself a "real Knight Templar" (ugh!) dismissed my claims of the possibility of the existence of a early breastplate under the mail as fantasies. The same person said that he has a trebuchet that with 8 meters of arm and 500 kgs of counterweight can hurl 50 kgs of stone to 827 meters...

Topic: I was always very confounded by two facts: the sudden apparition of mail in every corner in Europe and that the first example of it visible were the joints, the pieces more complicated and less useful to make, but also more complicated and less useful to cover with the mail. So what if to the XIV century the plate wasn't fashionable? Everyone (who could) would wear it but covered (they were not so stupid, or simply the stupids would die first). Then Edward III start wear it in public (more confortable? more protective?) and suddenly it became a fashionable piece, and everyone started to wear it over the mail.
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Jean Thibodeau




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PostPosted: Mon 13 Sep, 2010 11:29 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Gabriele A. Pini wrote:
OT: This discussion is giving solidity to my theory that we don't know very much of history, and the best quality for a studious of every type (archeology, reenactor, armchair...) are the same that Jesus recommends for every Christian: prudence and simplicity...
Only Sunday a guy who professed himself a "real Knight Templar" (ugh!) dismissed my claims of the possibility of the existence of a early breastplate under the mail as fantasies. The same person said that he has a trebuchet that with 8 meters of arm and 500 kgs of counterweight can hurl 50 kgs of stone to 827 meters...

Topic: I was always very confounded by two facts: the sudden apparition of mail in every corner in Europe and that the first example of it visible were the joints, the pieces more complicated and less useful to make, but also more complicated and less useful to cover with the mail. So what if to the XIV century the plate wasn't fashionable? Everyone (who could) would wear it but covered (they were not so stupid, or simply the stupids would die first). Then Edward III start wear it in public (more confortable? more protective?) and suddenly it became a fashionable piece, and everyone started to wear it over the mail.


the sudden apparition of mail : Did you mean sudden apparition of plate ? ( I underligned it in the quote ).

Yeah, I tend to think that we don't know as much as we think we do with any certainty and that some things we are sure about may be found eventually to be errors of interpretations or too wide generalities based on a few surviving pieces of armour or other period sources.

If we had a time machine and went back to have a look we might be surprised by what we got wrong, what we got right and what we didn't even know about to even speculate about.

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Jason Hollman




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PostPosted: Tue 14 Sep, 2010 12:48 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Gabriele A. Pini wrote:


Topic: I was always very confounded by two facts: the sudden apparition of mail in every corner in Europe and that the first example of it visible were the joints, the pieces more complicated and less useful to make, but also more complicated and less useful to cover with the mail. So what if to the XIV century the plate wasn't fashionable? Everyone (who could) would wear it but covered (they were not so stupid, or simply the stupids would die first). Then Edward III start wear it in public (more confortable? more protective?) and suddenly it became a fashionable piece, and everyone started to wear it over the mail.


I'd agree that the shaped pieces of plate made to cover elbows, shoulders and knees were difficult to make but I'd disagree that it is less useful to wear plate protection in these areas than mail. A severe bruise to the upper arm muscle is painful, the same injury to a joint can temporarily disable. Like wise a broken bone in a limb can heal (even with the primitive medical techniques of the early periods) but a broken elbow can leave you with a crippled limb even today. I'd say that, once the techniques of metal work allowed, plate armour to the joints worn in conjunction with mail would have quickly become an essential (as many contempary illustrations and grave effigies suggest) for the well off warrior leading to it's rapid adoption.

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Elling Polden




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PostPosted: Tue 14 Sep, 2010 5:12 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Dan Howard wrote:
Elling Polden wrote:
Probably not, since lamellar (mosty likely) is known a "Spangbrynje" in medevial norse,

We don't know that. All we know is that it doesn't refer to mail. It could be lamellar, or scale, or even a rudimentary coat of plates. It is likely that Gerald of Wales was talking about the same armour when he described some of the Danes during the attack on Dublin castle (laminis ferreis arte consutis).


Hence the "most likely". However, since the sources in question are late 12th century, and there are few sources on other kinds of plate defence in the period, lamellar would be the least radical assumption.
The use of "spangbrynje" also refer to an independent armour, not used in conjunction with mail like the "brystberjir". I remember two instances in Sverre's saga; it is worn by Erling Skakke, reknowned chieftain and father of King Magnus Erlingson at the battle of Kalvskinnet in 1179, where Erling was killed by a spear thrust to the belly because he left his Spangbrynje untied.
The other is a naval battle ca 1200, where one of the combatants is described as wearing "a spangbrynje and vendish(baltic) helmet)

"this [fight] looks curious, almost like a game. See, they are looking around them before they fall, to find a dry spot to fall on, or they are falling on their shields. Can you see blood on their cloths and weapons? No. This must be trickery."
-Reidar Sendeman, from King Sverre's Saga, 1201
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Gabriele A. Pini




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PostPosted: Tue 14 Sep, 2010 5:51 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Jason Hollman wrote:


I'd agree that the shaped pieces of plate made to cover elbows, shoulders and knees were difficult to make but I'd disagree that it is less useful to wear plate protection in these areas than mail.


My mistake. I intended to say "less useful than a breastplate". I would think that between the breast and the elbows I would choose to cover the first.

@Jean: thanks for your correction, obliviously I intended the "sudden apparition of plate" Razz
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Jason Hollman




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PostPosted: Tue 14 Sep, 2010 6:10 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I see your point!

Fairly sure the 'Coat of Plates' became the norm first, then additional plate defences to limbs which would follow your thoughts.

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Jean Thibodeau




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PostPosted: Tue 14 Sep, 2010 6:22 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Gabriele A. Pini wrote:
[
@Jean: thanks for your correction, obliviously I intended the "sudden apparition of plate" Razz


It happens to me at times also when I end up writing the exact opposite of what I mean. Wink Razz Razz

Oh, you could always click on the (E) edit button and correct your text/typo.

I often post and then re-read and use the EDIT button numerous times to correct errors I didn't spot the first time or missed by the spellchecker.

Same thing for people who post another post because they forgot to add a pic: They could just use the EDIT function and fix it rather than adding a new post.

Just mentioning it because I find it so irritating when a typo gets past me and I also notice that many people are not aware of the edit function. Wink Laughing Out Loud

Sorry for the OFF-Topic pet peeve. Wink Sad Laughing Out Loud

To get back on Topic: I agree with Jason that elbows and joints are very sensitive to permanent damage and are also mostly not protected by muscle, fat or thick skin so they would benefit from some rigid protection either metal or also the use of boiled leather over maille on elbows and knees.

Oh, the chin bone is also a very sensitive body part to blunt impact and for a knight on horseback the legs are hard to protect actively so leg armour seems to have been among the earlier body parts receiving plate for passive protection.

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