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Matthew Amt




Location: Laurel, MD, USA
Joined: 17 Sep 2003

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PostPosted: Fri 30 Nov, 2018 5:36 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Michael Long wrote:
Henry O. wrote:
Matthew Amt wrote:
[
Um, to keep from getting cut? It's *armor*, right? Not sure I understand the question...

Matthew


I guess I mean if there was any reason to wear one instead of an iron skullcap of some sort.


A skullcup covers the top half of the head. A coif protects the lower half of the head, plus the neck, chin and throat. If you see someone wearing a coif in battle, you can usually assume that there is a skullcap underneath.


An *iron* skullcap? I don't think that's a safe assumption. A padded cap, sure, but I think mail coifs were around for a long time before we see any evidence of iron caps *under* them. Most often the coif is worn under a helmet of some sort.

Matthew
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Henry O.





Joined: 18 Jun 2016

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PostPosted: Fri 30 Nov, 2018 7:24 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I know there are some later sources such as Pietro Monte which recommend wearing a smaller secret helmet underneath the regular helmet. It could be that what we see in the Maciejowski Bible is that some soldiers would wear an arming cap, then a skull cap, then a mail coif, then a great helm. Just in case they got hit in the head really hard.
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Michael Long





Joined: 10 Apr 2018

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PostPosted: Fri 30 Nov, 2018 9:42 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Matthew Amt wrote:
Michael Long wrote:
Henry O. wrote:
Matthew Amt wrote:
[
Um, to keep from getting cut? It's *armor*, right? Not sure I understand the question...

Matthew


I guess I mean if there was any reason to wear one instead of an iron skullcap of some sort.


A skullcup covers the top half of the head. A coif protects the lower half of the head, plus the neck, chin and throat. If you see someone wearing a coif in battle, you can usually assume that there is a skullcap underneath.


An *iron* skullcap? I don't think that's a safe assumption. A padded cap, sure, but I think mail coifs were around for a long time before we see any evidence of iron caps *under* them. Most often the coif is worn under a helmet of some sort.

Matthew


Right, so if someone is depicted fighting a battle in just a mail coif, they probably either lost their helmet or are wearing a skullcap.
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Arne G.





Joined: 31 Jul 2014

Posts: 63

PostPosted: Fri 30 Nov, 2018 3:37 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Henry O. wrote:
I know there are some later sources such as Pietro Monte which recommend wearing a smaller secret helmet underneath the regular helmet. It could be that what we see in the Maciejowski Bible is that some soldiers would wear an arming cap, then a skull cap, then a mail coif, then a great helm. Just in case they got hit in the head really hard.


Michael Long wrote:


Right, so if someone is depicted fighting a battle in just a mail coif, they probably either lost their helmet or are wearing a skullcap.


This is probably not correct. Setting aside the discussion about skullcaps (with one niggle: Pietro Monte's writings are *much* later than the period being discussed here, being formulated in the 1480's and thus not terribly relevant to the 13th century...), it is my theory that one wore coif under a great helm because the latter was intended to be removable and would be taken off in close quarters fighting, to enhance visibility and ventilation.

For limited proof, consider that some German effigies clearly show chains being attached to great helms (along with swords, etc.) to prevent loss in battle. Now, if the helm were intended to be strapped on firmly and not removed, why then the chain attachment, given that only the most freakish hit would ever dislodge it? Look also at the helm illustrated by Matthew Paris in the mid-1200's (see attached image) - note the straps dangling down, which appear to have small knobs rather than a buckle. If this interpretation is correct, it is worth noting that while a buckle would be difficult to undo with one hand, a simple knot could be untied one handed to allow easy removal of the helm. So I don't think a lost helm is being depicted in period art - merely that the helms have been set aside and they are fighting without them because they are in close melee and need the visibility and ventilation to avoid heat exhaustion.

As for warding off "really hard" blows, I would point out that even mail, alone, is proof against most human powered attacks, let alone a helm. Layers of metal armor don't make a lot of sense thereby. If, however, the helm is intended to protect the knight in the early phase of the battle from missiles (arrows, stones, quarrels, etc.) and couched lances, then the situation makes more sense. Once they are in close combat, where missiles and lances are not the main threat, the helm is more of an impediment and can be discarded in favor of the coif (or, later, small bascinet with aventail) underneath. It's also worth noting that as great helms go into decline, the helmets that replace them frequently have visors and either an aventail or, later, gorget, but otherwise do not have a skullcap or mail coif underneath. The simple visor obviates the need for a second "helmet" (whether skullcap or mail coif) underneath the primary helmet - raising the visor provides visibility and ventilation, rather than removing an entire separate helm.

This is only a theory, and I may be quite wrong, but I think its worth discussing.



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Henry O.





Joined: 18 Jun 2016

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PostPosted: Fri 30 Nov, 2018 5:36 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

It's not consistent, but the Maciejowski Bible does have examples of soldiers wearing their coif draped behind their backs while still wearing a small iron skullcap. So it presumably was done at least some of the time.

http://manuscriptminiatures.com/4673/7956/

I think the iron skullcap option is definitely a very appealing one since even a relatively thin layer of solid metal would likely be much better at absorbing blunt force trauma and require much less padding than mail alone. Unless your coif is made out of extremely fine mail or worn over some pretty thick padding, a strong sword cut would be likely to crack your skull long before it manages to actually or pierce your mail anywhere.

As far as overall protection goes, likely the most efficient design would be a single very thick and strong helmet with very thick mail attached directly to the edges of the helmet so that it only protects places where that extra mobility is necessary. But what if it's a very hot day or you have a headache and you don't want to wear such a heavy piece of headgear at all times? Maybe it would be better to instead have two lighter helmets so that you can instead wear just one for everyday marching and patrolling then put the second one over the top of it whenever you need the extra protection for pitched battles, or maybe it was more comfortable to let the mail coif hang down much of the time with only a light skullcap on your head until you decide you need that second layer of protection?
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Michael Long





Joined: 10 Apr 2018

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PostPosted: Sat 01 Dec, 2018 8:26 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

[quote="Arne G."]
Henry O. wrote:

As for warding off "really hard" blows, I would point out that even mail, alone, is proof against most human powered attacks, let alone a helm. Layers of metal armor don't make a lot of sense thereby.


Sure mail is proof against most attacks, but weapons like maces and axes can easily break bones through mail, so a coif alone is very dubious protection for the skull, especially in an era plate defenses are becoming standard.

You don't want to end up like that militiaman from Visby with two arrows sticking in his skull through the coif.
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Philip Dyer





Joined: 25 Jul 2013

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PostPosted: Thu 06 Dec, 2018 9:08 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Len Parker wrote:
The translation for the description of the gambeson in Chretien is correct. Mole et tanvre does mean soft and frail/delicate. So it looks like a thinner garment being worn under the mail. The King's Mirror c.1250 gives three different descriptions for gambesons/pannzara: a heavy gambeson for fighting on foot, a soft (blautan) gambeson worn under mail, and a sleeveless (godan) gambeson over top. I'm not sure of the word godan. I think it might mean good.
the first one is interesting becuase it is doesn't describe how the gambeson is worn or what it is worn with. The soft gambeson is probably thin and the good gambeson is probably like a proto padded jack, but is the heavy gambeson heavy compare to the soft gambeson or the sleeveless gambeson and what is it worn with?
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Len Parker





Joined: 15 Apr 2011

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PostPosted: Thu 06 Dec, 2018 5:53 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

For fighting on foot he writes: "Always bring heavy armor to the exercise, either chain-mail or a thick gambeson." Here it's one or the other. He's not actually describing battle here, but training. I don't know if there's a difference.

For fighting on horse it's a soft, long sleeved pansar, then mail, then a good sleeveless pansar.
What if there isn't any kind of thick gambison here. What if the good sleeveless pansar is a surcoat?

Leonard
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Len Parker





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PostPosted: Fri 07 Dec, 2018 10:30 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

This has got too confusing. Here's why I thought the sleeveless good panzara might be a surcoat. The volsunga saga was written down about the same time as the kings mirror. Sigurd wears mail and a vapenrock with a dragon on it. This sounds like a surcoat.

But there's this from the saga of King Sverrer (late 12th century):
"Sverrer himself was dressed in a good byrnie, above it a strong gambeson and over all a red surcoat."

Leonard
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