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C.L. Miller




PostPosted: Tue 20 Mar, 2007 1:33 pm    Post subject: Period depictions of Carolingians arms, armor and dress         Reply with quote

I've long had a keen interest in the Carolingian period, and greatly enjoy puzzling over the fascinating (and often beautiful) artwork produced during this period. As many of you know, there remains considerable controversy regarding many of the items depicted in these illustrations. The emulation of classical art (as well as the heavy influence of contemporary Byzantine artwork) instituted under Charlemagne as part of what has become known as "The Carolingian Renaissance" has resulted in a great deal of confusion regarding the origins of the human figures, their dress and their weapons. It is unknown whether the illustrations are simply reinterpretations of items which appear in classical artwork or items which the Carolingian artists witnessed in the world around them. There is evidence to support both arguments. There are a great number of illustrations which can be demonstrated to be direct copies of late Roman artwork, and there are also a great number of illustrations which feature weapons (specifically swords and spears) of a style unknown during the Roman period, but abundantly documented during the age of Charlemagne.
The most controversial items to be depicted withing the artwork of this period are surely circular convex shields, scale armor and the morion-like helmets. There is no surviving evidence for the existence of any of these items during the Carolingian period (although some shield bosses are angled in such a way to suggest that they may have been anchored to sloping shields) and all are widespread in the artwork of the period.
Since at this point in time artwork is virtually our only evidence for the military and civilian dress of the period, and given that such artwork is currently difficult to come by online (or even in many libraries) I thought I would share some of what I have collected over the years and invite others to share their own thoughts, images and discoveries. The first series of illustrations I am posting are all drawn from the Stuttgart Psalter, which is thought to have originated around 825 CE, possibly in Northern Italy. I have scrapped together a few color reproductions of this extraordinary work, but the only full facsimile which I have been able to acquire is in black and white.

The first image shows a wingless spear and a "Frankish" helm with an odd plume-like extension at its peak. The "plume" is colored the same grey as the rest of the helm, and so would appear to be iron. The figure's armor would appear to be scale, though it may also be a stylized depiction of mail. The open-toed footwear is worthy of note and is most likely borrowed from classical or Byzantine sources.

The image below shows us the sort of short bow in use at the time, as well as a helmet of the same type as that shown above. The footwear here appears to be full boots with closed toes rising to mid-calf, and the figure's haubergeon terminates well above the lower edge of his tunic.

Below is a detail of two helmets, both featuring what appears to be a small ball at the peak. The one on the right features a series of dots, possibly rivets on either side of what appears to be a seam, giving a clue as to its construction.

Another helmet variant, looking to be constructed of one piece, again with a small ball at its peak. The is again shorter than the figure's tunic and looks very likely to be scale.

Below is a very curious illustration of armor, with two types of protections clearly being worn by the same figure. It appears to be mail or possibly even lamellar (unlikely since it extends onto the arms) above the waist with a scale skirt below a wide belt or binding. Hints as to the shield's construction are also shown.

Mounted combat, featuring a variety of arms.

Foot combat depicting some unusual leggings and an overhand spear technique.

The image below shows a detail of the scabbard suspension in use at the time.

Another apparently scale haubergeon, this time apparently with armored leggings. Possibly evidence in favor of the "stylized mail" argument.

A dramatic stance with spear and shield:


Last edited by C.L. Miller on Tue 20 Mar, 2007 8:39 pm; edited 2 times in total
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C.L. Miller




PostPosted: Tue 20 Mar, 2007 1:34 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

More protective skirts, this time with no apparent armor above the waist:

David and Goliath, with fine detail of an apparently one-piece helmet with metal "plume," winged spear, rimmed shield scabbard suspension and haubergeon.

A second image of David and Goliath's confrontation:

Unusual belting and odd, possibly protective footwear:

Yet another unusual helmet variant:
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Hugh Fuller




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PostPosted: Tue 20 Mar, 2007 1:48 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I suspect that what you are calling "scale" below the waist in certain illustrations is, in reality, depicting pteruges, the flexible skirting made of strips of leather or glued layers of fabric. Please see Roman and Greek armors for more details on this.
Hugh
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Please see 1 John 1:5
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C.L. Miller




PostPosted: Tue 20 Mar, 2007 2:27 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hugh Fuller wrote:
I suspect that what you are calling "scale" below the waist in certain illustrations is, in reality, depicting pteruges, the flexible skirting made of strips of leather or glued layers of fabric. Please see Roman and Greek armors for more details on this.

This is a good thought and quite possible. There are certainly other illustrations of roughly the same period which are explicitly copied from Roman and Byzantine sources depicting of pteruges (I'll try and post a few shortly). However, I have not seen pteruges elsewhere illustrated in the same fashion in which other armor (mail? scale?) within the same manuscript is also depicted. While it may be an error in interpretation on the part of the artist, I believe that the illustrations indicate that the artist believes the armor below the waist to be of the same construction as the haubergeons depicted elsewhere in the psalter. A possible exception to this is the illustration which I captioned "a very curious illustration of armor" (fifth from the top) which certainly comes the closest to other illustrations of pteruges of which I am aware. Some "tongue" pteruges come close (as shown below...) but if this is the case, what is to be made of the other armor covering the torso and arms which is illustrated utilizing the same technique?
I'd very much welcome any images you have which might shed some light on the matter, especially any images of pteruges which are similar to the Stuttgart Psalter images.
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Jean Thibodeau




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PostPosted: Tue 20 Mar, 2007 3:03 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Just a possibility that the knob at the top of many of the pictured helms might be a ring ?

Didn't some Roman helmets have a ring at the top ? ( Not sure from where I remember seeing a ring on some Roman helmets ).

The three " somethings " ? Could be metal leaves, rings or maybe small feathers ? Maybe some symbolic meaning ? A bit like the laurels leafs seen on the heads of victorious Roman generals ? ( Just some wild speculations here as I haven't gone back to some reference books to refresh my memory or " faulty memories " ).

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C.L. Miller




PostPosted: Tue 20 Mar, 2007 3:06 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I'd also just like to be very clear, in posting these images it is not my intention to say what is or is not being depicted in these illustrations, I am only commenting upon the images to indicate what it appears is being depicted to me. I'm very interested in hearing any and all thoughts about what the items in question might be, and whether they have their origin in reality or in artistic convention.
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C.L. Miller




PostPosted: Tue 20 Mar, 2007 7:08 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Here are just a few illustrations and details from the Stuttgart Psalter in color:




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C.L. Miller




PostPosted: Tue 20 Mar, 2007 8:03 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Here are a number of images which clearly draw directly upon classical examples, and do appear as though they might depict pteruges, as Hugh suggested above. It is not generally thought that illustrations such as these depict armor as worn during the Carolingian period, but instead depict warriors drawn from classical illustrations, possibly in an attempt to tie the rulers depicted to the recognized power, authority and tradition of the Roman and/or Byzantine empires.
The first three are all from the Vivian Bible, also known as the First Bible of Charles the Bald, presented to Charles in 846 CE.



This next dates from around 850 CE, and depicts the Emperor Lothair I.

This final image, of a relief in Aachen, I do not have a date for, though I believe it to be contemporary with the others.
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Jeroen Zuiderwijk
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PostPosted: Wed 21 Mar, 2007 1:20 am    Post subject: Re: Period depictions of Carolingians arms, armor and dress         Reply with quote

Very interesting pictures, thanks! As usual with these things, they raise more questions then they answer though Happy But at least the swords seem contemporary, and they show nice images of the scabbards and baldrics. The helmets are indeed a mystery, as are the shields. With some of the shields, it looks like they are made from several segments riveted together, indicating a metal facing (or entirely metal), which AFAIK does match any finds. Regarding the lamellar armour, I've seen an example of preserved iron lamellar armour in the museum in Krefeld Germany. It's found at Gelleper, and dates to the mid-sixth century. That's a few centuries earlier perhaps. However, it's not the "feather" like lamellar armour shown in most images. Here are photos of the original armour:





The description compared the armour to a depiction from Syria, 1st century:


With a little bit of imagination, the image below could depict something similar:



The other lamellar armour could represent leather armour perhaps?
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Hisham Gaballa





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PostPosted: Wed 21 Mar, 2007 2:30 am    Post subject: Re: Period depictions of Carolingians arms, armor and dress         Reply with quote

Is there any evidence that Charlemagne and his senior officers tried to have armour made that was similar to Roman armour? I know that "Roman" style parade armours were used during the Renaissance, and I'm wondering something similar was done during the Carolingian period and this is what we are are seeing on these depictions.

http://www.myArmoury.com/feature_16c_armour.html (scroll down to the bottom)


Jeroen Zuiderwijk wrote:
Very interesting pictures, thanks! As usual with these things, they raise more questions then they answer though Happy But at least the swords seem contemporary, and they show nice images of the scabbards and baldrics. The helmets are indeed a mystery, as are the shields. With some of the shields, it looks like they are made from several segments riveted together, indicating a metal facing (or entirely metal), which AFAIK does match any finds. Regarding the lamellar armour, I've seen an example of preserved iron lamellar armour in the museum in Krefeld Germany. It's found at Gelleper, and dates to the mid-sixth century. That's a few centuries earlier perhaps. However, it's not the "feather" like lamellar armour shown in most images. Here are photos of the original armour:

The description compared the armour to a depiction from Syria, 1st century:

With a little bit of imagination, the image below could depict something similar:

The other lamellar armour could represent leather armour perhaps?


That piece of armour is fascinating. Happy

You wouldn't happen to know more about it, like has anyone tried to reconstruct what the armour looked like? i.e. is it just a cuirass or a complete armour? Is that leather on the top and bottom of the bands?

Thanks for sharing those pictures. Happy
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Elling Polden




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PostPosted: Wed 21 Mar, 2007 3:45 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

that last picture, at least, is quite similar to (later)byzantine armour:


more dashing byzantines at:
http://www.geocities.com/egfroth1/ByzArmour2.html

"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."
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Jeroen Zuiderwijk
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PostPosted: Wed 21 Mar, 2007 5:24 am    Post subject: Re: Period depictions of Carolingians arms, armor and dress         Reply with quote

Hisham Gaballa wrote:
That piece of armour is fascinating. Happy

You wouldn't happen to know more about it, like has anyone tried to reconstruct what the armour looked like?


Here is a possible reconstruction, although it's mentioned that it can't be accurately reconstructed from the remains:
http://1501bc.com/page/krefeld/04290125d.JPG

Quote:
i.e. is it just a cuirass or a complete armour?


According to the description, there's more then a thousand iron plates found (although far less are on display). So I guess it's more then just a cuirass.

Quote:
Is that leather on the top and bottom of the bands?


Yep.
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C.L. Miller




PostPosted: Wed 21 Mar, 2007 6:37 am    Post subject: Re: Period depictions of Carolingians arms, armor and dress         Reply with quote

Hisham Gaballa wrote:
Is there any evidence that Charlemagne and his senior officers tried to have armour made that was similar to Roman armour? I know that "Roman" style parade armours were used during the Renaissance, and I'm wondering something similar was done during the Carolingian period and this is what we are are seeing on these depictions.


I don't know of any evidence that this occurred, but I would think that it is quite possible. I think another possibility is that the Carolingians really were wearing Byzantine armor, or Byzantine inspired armor, and that ties between the East and the West were far more extensive during this period than is commonly thought.
Thanks for the link and the images!
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C.L. Miller




PostPosted: Wed 21 Mar, 2007 6:42 am    Post subject: Re: Period depictions of Carolingians arms, armor and dress         Reply with quote

Jeroen Zuiderwijk wrote:
The description compared the armour to a depiction from Syria, 1st century:


With a little bit of imagination, the image below could depict something similar:



It could indeed! Which of course puts the focus on the question, is this a representation of something the artist saw in life, or in art? I believe this is the only figure in the psalter to be depicted in this way, which makes it all the more interesting.

Jeroen Zuiderwijk wrote:
The other lamellar armour could represent leather armour perhaps?

It could, but in every example I've had the opportunity to see in color, the armor is the same grey/blue as the helmets, swords and spears. Still, who knows?
Thanks for the great images of the Lamellar armor in Germany!
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Hugh Fuller




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PostPosted: Wed 21 Mar, 2007 6:43 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

My specific reference was to the picture of the fellow in lamellar armor when I was suggesting pteruges. It is my belief that a horseman would almost require pteruges or some sort of lamellar leg armor in order to have protection for the upper legs and still be able to sit atop a horse and saddle. Now, I have seen lamellar armor illustrated for the upper legs as well as the upper arms, so that I would guess that it is possible, but I suspect that pteruges would be more common.
Hugh
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Please see 1 John 1:5
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C.L. Miller




PostPosted: Wed 21 Mar, 2007 9:03 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hugh Fuller wrote:
It is my belief that a horseman would almost require pteruges or some sort of lamellar leg armor in order to have protection for the upper legs and still be able to sit atop a horse and saddle. Now, I have seen lamellar armor illustrated for the upper legs as well as the upper arms, so that I would guess that it is possible, but I suspect that pteruges would be more common.

That's a good point, and it's interesting that none of the armor appears to have a slit, either between the legs or on the sides, as is found on later mail hauberks and haubergeons to allow for riding on horseback. The mounted figures wearing armor in the image above don't appear to have any protection at all below the waist... I'll look through the the psalter's other images when I get home and see what I can find.
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PostPosted: Wed 21 Mar, 2007 9:31 am    Post subject: Re: Period depictions of Carolingians arms, armor and dress         Reply with quote

Jeroen Zuiderwijk wrote:
The description compared the armour to a depiction from Syria, 1st century:


Interestingly, this one might be depicting mail on the upper torso.
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Hugh Fuller




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PostPosted: Wed 21 Mar, 2007 11:47 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Jeroen, I don't mean to be argumentative, but it surely appears to me that those Palmyran reliefs show lamellar armor rather than mail. They were from Roman times and we do know from other stone carvings that the Romans and their contemporaries knew how to depict mail when they wanted to do so.
Hugh
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Please see 1 John 1:5
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C.L. Miller




PostPosted: Wed 21 Mar, 2007 10:51 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Here are a collection of images from the Utrecht Psalter, dating from the early 9th Century. It is a personal favorite of mine. These seemingly simple illustrations (in the so-called "outline style") are so dynamic, and so expressive... I love them dearly. This particular psalter also seems to have been a huge influence upon later medieval art, with manuscript illustrations at least up through the 12th century being influenced or even directly copied from its pages. Some brief but informative information concerning this work can be found here. I would point those looking for more information towards the wonderful book The Utrecht Psalter in Medieval Art.

Note the wonderful images of sword manufacture in the image below:


Below towards the left a figure wields a sword with a cross/lower guard which seems remarkably long for the period. Indeed, to conventional wisdom, this particular sword looks like it belongs two or three centuries later.

[/img]
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C.L. Miller




PostPosted: Wed 21 Mar, 2007 10:55 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

More Utrecht Psalter images:




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