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Levente M.




Location: Hungary
Joined: 19 Aug 2009

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PostPosted: Sun 30 Mar, 2014 2:23 am    Post subject: When did knights start wearing surcoats?         Reply with quote

I always imagined a 12th century knight with a surcoat over mail. Probably because of Hollywood. However looking at images from the 12th century on manuscriptminiatures.com, most knights had nothing over their mail hauberk. The earliest I could find, where they wore surcoats, was about 1190, and became more common around 1220.
So my question is, when did they start wearing surcoats? Is turn of the 12-13th century a good guess?
Also, I imagined templars and hospitallers wearing surcoats. Is it true, that they wore robes until the mid 13th century?
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Luka Borscak




Location: Croatia
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PostPosted: Sun 30 Mar, 2014 4:27 am    Post subject: Re: When did knights start wearing surcoats?         Reply with quote

Levente M. wrote:
I always imagined a 12th century knight with a surcoat over mail. Probably because of Hollywood. However looking at images from the 12th century on manuscriptminiatures.com, most knights had nothing over their mail hauberk. The earliest I could find, where they wore surcoats, was about 1190, and became more common around 1220.
So my question is, when did they start wearing surcoats? Is turn of the 12-13th century a good guess?
Also, I imagined templars and hospitallers wearing surcoats. Is it true, that they wore robes until the mid 13th century?


Templars and Hospitallers, it seems so, had to wear their monk robes with long sleeves over their armours. I know Templars had to wear that until 1240 and in 1240 got permission to wear a robe that is probably a surcoat for practicality. I'm not sure about the Hospitallers...
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Mart Shearer




Location: Jackson, MS, USA
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PostPosted: Sun 30 Mar, 2014 6:04 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

One of the earliest cited examples is in the Winchester Bible. Manuscript Miniatures has this folio (69r) mistakenly attributed to the Morgan leaf: It is still in Winchester Cathedral MS 17. I suspect this particular miniature dates to the 1180 end of the date range. The Bile is believed to have been commissioned by the Bishop of Winchester, Henry of Blois in 1160, with a single scribe unusually copying the whole text over 4-5 years. Various artists then added miniatures over drawings for a period of about 15 years, though the Bible's illustrations were never completed. Note the near ankle-length of these early surcoats (ciglatons).
http://manuscriptminiatures.com/4670/14885/

You are correct in your assessment that surcoats were not common before the first decade of the 13th century.

The wearing of the monastic robe over armor has been much debated. Sander Marechal has contended that the Hospitallers wore their hooded cloak as the uniform over armor (which would also hinder violent action). The papal dispensation to wear a surcoat in war zones was not granted until 1248.

ferrum ferro acuitur et homo exacuit faciem amici sui
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Levente M.




Location: Hungary
Joined: 19 Aug 2009

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PostPosted: Mon 31 Mar, 2014 1:31 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Thank you. It's weird I always imagined knights from the 11-14th centuries wearing surcoats. I guess watching movies and playing games can create some illusions.
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Jeroen T




Location: Holland
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PostPosted: Mon 31 Mar, 2014 1:58 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

To my understanding the surcoat was needed during the Crusades because of the sun and heat in the dessert.
And later on it became a fashion in Europe.
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Levente M.




Location: Hungary
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PostPosted: Mon 31 Mar, 2014 3:23 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Considering when the crusades started, it's weird how long it took them to "discover" cloth over metal protects from the sun. Happy
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Eric Allen




Location: Texas
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PostPosted: Mon 31 Mar, 2014 2:51 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Considering the dates up-thread would put the proliferation of surcoats as after even the 3rd Crusade, and a whole century after the 1st Crusade, I think we could probably make the argument that protection from the sun in the Levant was a minor or secondary concern, or perhaps not the original or intended function of the surcoat at all.

Although, the widespread use of surcoats also coincides with the codification and wide-spread proliferation of heraldry in Western Europe.

I always find it interesting how the truthiness of certain facts are never called in to question, until someone bothers to look and notices the cracks in the facade. We're never immune to it. How many of the General Populace outside of our little community here still think swords are incredibly heavy and a knight in armor couldn't stand back up if he fell over?
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Roger Hooper




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PostPosted: Mon 31 Mar, 2014 5:01 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

So when did they stop wearing surcoats?
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Mart Shearer




Location: Jackson, MS, USA
Joined: 18 Aug 2012

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PostPosted: Mon 31 Mar, 2014 5:32 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

There are the lines from The Avowynge of King Arthur, Stanza 39 noted in Charles ffoulkes, The Armourer and His Craft indicating the surcoat protected the mail from rain, "hidden from the wet".

Quote:
With scharpe weppun and scherie,
Gay gownus of grene,
To hold thayre armur clene,

And were hitte fro the wete.


I think the loose surcoat (Fr. ciglaton, Eng. coat armour) of 1180-1330 morphs into the shorter cyclas during the 1340-1360 period. It is replaced by the tight-fitting Jupon/Gypon, and the padded pourpoints by 1375. You still see heraldic garments used in a tournament context long after they disappear from the field of battle.

ferrum ferro acuitur et homo exacuit faciem amici sui
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Ryan S.





Joined: 04 May 2012

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PostPosted: Tue 01 Apr, 2014 10:34 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I have read that the Templars were mandated to wear mantles in 1129. A knight's mantle is a simple garment and still part of the regalia of orders of knighthood. I think it just comes from the standard mantles or cloaks that people would just wear to protect themselves from all sorts of weather in Europe and the middle east.

As far as dating the adoption of a practice from the time permission is given, I think that just gives us a rough estimate (still being better than most the data we have for this time period) The knights in the Holy Land were pretty far from Rome and had to make a lot of practical decisions themselves. Due to the lack of long range communication at the time, subordinates tended to write letters more along the lines of this is what we did, rather than what shall we do? Existing practices were then codified.
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Mart Shearer




Location: Jackson, MS, USA
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PostPosted: Wed 02 Apr, 2014 4:31 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Eric Allen wrote:
Although, the widespread use of surcoats also coincides with the codification and wide-spread proliferation of heraldry in Western Europe.


Eric,

That's well stated. The coincidence doesn't seem causative though. The surcoat certainly provided a good place to display heraldry, but even into the 14th century it isn't hard to find examples which aren't even the same color as the arms' field or charge, e.g. Wolfram von Eschenbach's arms of silver axes on red being paired with a blue surcoat in the Manesse Codex.
http://diglit.ub.uni-heidelberg.de/diglitData...4/149v.jpg

I think that idea of the heraldic surcoat being universal is another one of those things which everyone knows, even though it ranks up there with horned helmets on Vikings, comb morions on Conquistadors, and surcoats in the 1st Crusade.

ferrum ferro acuitur et homo exacuit faciem amici sui
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Ryan S.





Joined: 04 May 2012

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PostPosted: Wed 02 Apr, 2014 7:47 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Mart Shearer wrote:

I think that idea of the heraldic surcoat being universal is another one of those things which everyone knows, even though it ranks up there with horned helmets on Vikings, comb morions on Conquistadors, and surcoats in the 1st Crusade.


I think there is a major difference, in that there were a lot of heraldic surcoats, whereas with horned helmets, they are thought to be never worn by vikings.
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Ahmad Tabari





Joined: 15 Jun 2008

Posts: 148

PostPosted: Sun 20 Apr, 2014 4:13 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

If you check the effigies & brasses website you will see that surcoats were being worn over mail as early as the 1130s in France.

http://effigiesandbrasses.com/search/?year=11...;genders=M
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Mart Shearer




Location: Jackson, MS, USA
Joined: 18 Aug 2012

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PostPosted: Sun 20 Apr, 2014 5:14 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I must say the dates are highly suspect on many of those effigies. The dates listed on Effigies and Brasses are largely taken from the sources which hold the images. More recent scholarship has often changed those dates.

http://effigiesandbrasses.com/2896/6137/
Chasing the link on Hugo Malveysin with a listed date of 1140, brings this note from the source (bolding mine).
Quote:
Description: 'Effigy of Hugo Malveysin of Ridware, 1140.' Showing an effigy from above, of a knight in chain armour and a surcoat with a shield and a sword. The legs are not crossed. (The date, 1140, is suggested but the Malveysin is likely to be Sir Robert, 100 years later). Artist: S. Shaw.


Likewise the effigy of William Clito, dated 1170.
http://effigiesandbrasses.com/3471/2919/

I gave reason for disputing this date on another thread, from which I will quote.
http://www.myArmoury.com/talk/viewtopic.php?t=29717
Quote:
An earlier drawing from 1641 of the monument, now lost, is also known.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Clito4.jpg


An interesting aspect of this earlier depiction of a less damaged effigy is the inscription for the date of death, showing "OBIT ANN DNI M.CC.XXVIII", i.e. Died the Year of Our Lord 1228. It is widely accepted that this monument was placed decades after the Count's death in 1128. Some have suggested as early as 1160. Since we don't have the actual monument to compare, we can reason that this is a "ready made" effigy, waiting for a name and date to be carved in the border. The Count of Flanders arms are not on his shield. All that would be required is to add the information around the border, but the M.CC. may have come standard if the effigy dates to the 13th century.


http://effigiesandbrasses.com/3333/6598/
The effigy of Nicolas des Armoises, dated 1137 is similarly incorrect. Even in the small image, it is seen that Nicolas is wearing ailettes at the shoulders; an item which is unknown before 1260 at the earliest and is more common in the 1275-1350 period.
(EDIT) The following site with slightly larger image gives a more believable obit as 1303.
http://www.lecerclemedieval.be/histoire/tournoyeurs.html

http://effigiesandbrasses.com/1536/1541/
The effigy of Barthélemi de l'Isle-Bouchard, dated 1170, shows plate greaves and sabatons making it a likely early-14th century monument.

http://effigiesandbrasses.com/774/1337/
The effigy of Earl Geoffrey of Mandeville, dated 1185, is in question not only for the date, but for the identification of the effigy as being Mandeville at all!
http://books.google.com/books?id=7Avq2Hg7TekC...mp;f=false

ferrum ferro acuitur et homo exacuit faciem amici sui
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Dan Howard




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PostPosted: Mon 21 Apr, 2014 1:22 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Yep. A lot of the dates attributed to various effigies are wrong. Sometimes by a century or more.
Author: Bronze Age Military Equipment, Pen and Sword Books
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Mart Shearer




Location: Jackson, MS, USA
Joined: 18 Aug 2012

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PostPosted: Tue 05 Aug, 2014 10:23 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Another point for the surcoat being to protect against wet weather is this piece from Ramon Llull's Book of the Order of Chivalry giving the symbology of each piece of knightly equipment:
http://www.rgle.org.uk/Llull_B_C.htm
Quote:
A coat is given to a Knight to symbolize the great ordeals that he must suffer in order to honor chivalry. For just as the coat is worn above the other garments of iron, and faces the rain, and receives blows before they reach the hauberk or other armor, so a Knight is chosen to sustain larger burdens than another man.

ferrum ferro acuitur et homo exacuit faciem amici sui
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