Questions regarding Ventails and Coifs
Hi all, I've been fascinated with medieval history ever since I can remember, but this is the first time I've really become involved with a community to discuss these types of things with :)

Anyways, I have become more and more fascinated with Vikings and Normans, and I was wondering if anyone has any info about when and where ventails began to appear on the scene? I realize the Bayeux tapestry strongly suggests that they were used by the Normans in 1066, so I was wondering if there is any evidence of the Vikings using them as well?

My other question is related to coifs. I assumed that both Normans and vikings had coifs attached to their hauberks, however I have heard some sources say that Vikings didn't wear coifs at all, and I have seen pictures of both Normans and vikings wearing coifs separate from their armor :confused: Does anyone have any good info on what is actually the best historic guess? When did separate coifs become used?

Thanks in advance!

Well Sebastion, that is a somewhat controvercial topic. Some will say that the Bayeaux shows ventails hanging open, others will say that those are the bottoms of seperate coifs. I too would be interested to hear what people will have to say about this. As to "Vikings", armor is usually kept to a minimum, so even if seperate coifs, integral coifs or ventails were known in Scandinavia during the Viking Age, they would by no means be typical equipment for shipborne raiders for most of the period. If they were used at all, it would likely be by later "official" armies like that of Harald Hardrada.
Yeah, I figured there would probably be no definite answer :P... I guess we have to hope for some more finds in the future to shine some more light on the issue and hopefully give us a definite answer.

In regards to Hardrada's "official" army, would you have have any info on what the average soldier is expected to have worn? Is there evidence of them having superior equipment to the average raider (I realize raider is a very broad term, and would have most likely contained a huge variety of equipment level)?

Thanks for your thoughts :)
The histories (written at least a century later iirc) say that they left all their mail on board their ships. This suggests that A they had mail and B they did not expect much resistence. In general, the object of a raid was quick and easy financial gain (though religious warfare was a factor too) with minimal risk. Mobility was paramount, and stiff resistence or God forbid an actual battle was to be avoided at all costs. In contrast, a Scandinavian army sent by an official government and bent on all-out conquest would expect and even require a pitch battle in which they could eliminate as much of the existing power structure as possible. This would be reflected in the equipment chosen. The Lindisfarne raiders for example would have carried axes, swords and spears, but no helmets, byrnies or shields ( at least this is how they are portrayed on the Lindisfarne stone.) By contrast, the "Great Heathen Army" or Harald Hardrada's forces would have been decked out in the full panoply. This might not include helmets and mail for everyone, but everyone would have a shield and they would armor as many as was financially feasible. As to the coifs and ventails, I didn't remember earlier, but there are byrnies with integral coifs depicted in the Beatus-Apokalypse (975) and Codex Aureus Epternalensis (11th c.) These are the only evidence for mail above the neck prior to 1100 that I know of.
Interesting! That makes a lot of sense. Thanks a ton for the names of the manuscripts, I found the Beatus especially fascinating. I find it interesting that the warriors are depicted with full mail (feet and legs included) and one of them is even wearing a phrygian nasal helm (the helms also look like they are one piece, not the typical spangenhelm style)... seems kind of untypical for the time period, I thought that form of armour only appeared much later. The round shields also piqued my interest.[/img]

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Interesting armour from Apokalypse
Hi Sebastian, are you sure that the image that you attached in your last post dates to 975 AD? It's just that I've seen this image before in another thread around here, where it was referred to as taken from a 12th century illuminated manuscript from Spain. The shields also interest me alot, at first you might be tempted to think that they were a hold over from the round shields from the viking period, but as there are no central bosses on any of them, they must have been held by enarms like those found on a kite or heater type shield. As for coifs and ventails, as far as I know, they start being seen in the late 10th, early 11th century. The idea of wearing a coif, which isn't integral to a hauberk seems to only come in, in the late 13th century, and it use prior to this is probably just a modern re-enactorism.
Here is the site where I got the picture from (sorry it's in German) The picture is under the "Kette am Kopf" (Chain on the head) section, and also mentions the oddities in it. However, 12th century spain would fit the armour style much better in my opinion... I'll do some research and see if I can find some more info on the picture (a better source than a reenactment site would be nice ;) )
If I recall correctly, the above illustration comes from an early 13th century Spanish manuscript depicting Nebuchednezzar's army in 'oriental' style. According to David Nicolle, these horsemen with their round tasseled shields may have been based on the heavy cavalrymen of al-Andalus.
Thanks for the info, that makes a lot more sense in my eyes. If anyone has more info or a link to the said spanish manuscript, I would much appreciate it :)
While on an unrelated search I found a site with another opinion in regards to coifs and ventails at Hastings, quite an interesting read. The article suggests that separate coifs were a quite viable option.
Seperate coifs became common in the late 13c, but there is definate evidence of them existing before then. Unfortunately I can't remember the source but I do remember seeing a some 12c evidence.

Not sure about ventails though. i've always thought the squares on the chest on the bayaux tapestry were open ventails - but no way of really knowing, and most 12c artwork usually isn't detailed enough to clarify it there either.

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