The developement of Backplates around 1400

Lately I though a lot about the developement of the backplate in the late 14th century and the early 15th century.
It is quite difficult to find something out about the developement of this part of armour compared to breastplates!
Most of the figures shown in medieval art are shown from the front and nearly all wear covering over the armour.

nontheless I found some original specimens and some sources in art which show different solutions for the armament of the back around the year 1400.

An example for an early style of back defence is the Churburg S 13 harness: [ Linked Image ]
Churburg S13 is usually dated around 1390
(also see : )

The earliest original full backplate I found was from the Churburg S 18 harness (attachment)
I don't know too much about the conventional dating of this harness. I read somewhere that it might be a composite harness, but if it isn't, I would put it in around 1410-1420, based on the gauntlets which turn up around 1410 and the armet which is shown in the Pisani-Dossi MS of Fiore dei Liberis "flos duellatorum" also dating around 1410 afaik.

There is evidence of the real backplate in manuscript illuminations from France and the german Countries around 1400.
( I will refrain from posting the pictures from manuscript miniatures directly here, the sides I linked contain all the information about the source of the illumination and it's dating and also it leaves this post free of too many images)


and after 1410:

but also of backplates opening at the center of the back:


or even something like that:

or what seems to be very late coats of plate:

left one


and of course, lot's of breastplates without backplates:

effegies are sadly and widely without use if one wants to research backplates :-(

sculpture from the second half of the 14th century show, AFAIK, the very same developement as the miniatures above.

Some show breastplates without backplates, like the St. George from the Basler Münster (ca 1380):

or the Pistoia Altarpiece (1376):
[ Linked Image ]

and the St. George from Prague (1371) shows the brigantine back construction:

I also read Bengt Thordemans book about the armour from Visby. If I remember correctly, he presumes that the real backplate developed together with the breastplate already in the 1380ies

Do you have any more ideas or sources?
I really wonder about whether there is any more (or newer) academical research on that matter, and what kind of backarmour construction really developed when?

Also I wonder about the popularity of the single breastplate without backplate and mostly without fauld

I understand that it is a sensible choice for a mounted man. The cantle of the saddle covers the lower abdomen and the back is ssufficientlyprotected by mail if the main danger is a frontal lance thrust. But if a man thus armoured dismounts, he is much more vulnerable than a man with faulds or scaleskirt and backplate. I believe that this fashion was more common in Germany then in France, Flandres or England around 1400.

Best regards,



I also found this very informative webblog... unfortunately after I found out most of these things on my own :D
Still a very usefull blog!

 Attachment: 33.82 KB
s 18.jpg
S 18 harness from Churburg
My group and I had studies this topic a lot. We all tried to document back plates in 1390, but had no such luck. You see them all the time during the early 15th century (1410 and onward )

I know the Churburg S 13 harness' globose breastplate has the plates that wrap around the sides and back. Not complete protection but its very good for what it was.

Its difficult to document the use of back plates in 1380, cuz a lot of the manuscripts show them with their Jupon over their armour :/ Unlike 1410, you see a lot of men and arms and knights exposing their armour

Have to consider the cost back then to get you outfitted with a harness. Full plate armour was still a relatively new technology and was very expensive. Priorities would have been put towards covering what was more likely to get the back (im my opinion) wasn't a popular target compared to the head and chest.

Also you have to think, back then they tried to capture knights and ransom the objective was not to kill them a lot of the times. You could be set for life for capturing the right guy ;)

Hope your search goes well :)
Also the possibility of using composite solid breastplates with pair of plate style back plate. There are a few carvings and drawings that possibly show this, sadly the angles often are hard to see the front in their entirety.

If you look the effigies of the Black Prince or Thomas Beauchamp, you'll notice that the back has a strong globose shape like the front.
I've seen this explained away as cloth "poofing", but I find this unlikely.
This looks like it might be a couple of large backplates, possibly a corrazina? (bottom left) The text says St. George bas-relief in Merseburge c. 1376
The two-part backplate is also shown on some of the pictures from manuscript miniatures I linked in my original post. I think it is a evolutional step between pair of plate style/CoP style back and full backplate. Also an interesting date at 1376. It fits in well with Bengt Thordemanns theory that breast and backplate developed simultaniously.

But are the two piece backs yet covered by fabric or leather or are they white armour? The lack of rivets would suggest the latter.

Also, this illumination in the "book of the queen" shows this peace of armour in metal colour:

[ Linked Image ]

Also how works the back opening fauld??

And also, when exactly does the full backplate immerge, is there any date before 1400?

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