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Western and Central European

armours of the 14th century


Beginners kit guide

Andrej Woltschanskiy

Western and Central European armours of the 14th century Beginners guide(V02/16)

Andrej Woltschanskiy

Table of Contents
I. Introduction

II. Equipment

1. Body armour

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1.1. Coats of plates

1.2. Early brigandines

1.3. Cuirasses

2.1. Great helm

2.2. Sugerloaf helm with visor

2.3. Bascinet with klappvisor

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2.4. Bascinet with temple hinged visor

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2.5. Hounskull bascinet

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2.6. Bascinet with peak

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2.7. Bascinet with wolfs ribs

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2.8. Bascinet with bretache/nasal

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2.9. Early grand bascinets

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2.10. Kettle hat

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2. Helmets 8

3. Arm protection

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3.1. Arms

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3.2. Shoulders

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3.3. Gauntlets

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4. Leg protection

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4.1. Legs

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4.2. Feet

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5. Weapons

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6. Shields

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7. Clothing

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III. Conclusion

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Western and Central European armours of the 14th century Beginners guide(V02/16)

Andrej Woltschanskiy

Important 1: This guide was written in order to give beginners an overview over the current state of
research of Western and Central European armour in the late 14 century. Above all it is aimed at
sportsmen and deals especially with aspects of full contact armour fights. It is not a scientific treatise,
th

Modern full contact fighting and a scientifically sound and historically accurate as currently possible
living history portrayal is a very difficult task. And be it solely because nobody wears maille
underneath the plate armour. Of course I recommend everybody who wants to deal with this topic to
do ones own research. This guide is aimed mainly at giving people without previous knowledge
access to the topic. Just so you can at least tell the smith the name of the armour part you mean
when you place an order.

I. Introduction
European armours from the second half of the 14th century are currently undisputed favorites
among the fighters of the modern armored full contact fighting. This is of due course the "Knight"
myth surrounding them but also due to their relatively simple and inexpensive manufacture. In
addition, this field of medieval history is very well researched and offers a huge selection. Despite an
exceptional artifact and source base, there are, not only among beginners, a lot of kits that cannot
withstand even a superficial historical examination. This guide is meant to be an attempt to give
beginners the ability to avoid mistakes before buying a suit of armor.
Important 2: I use the term European solely to distinguish the armours from those of other regions
The armours of the Rus principalities are without question also geographically European. In the full
contact fighting scene the term European Russian and Mongolian have already established
themselves and are being understood by most fighters. Thus I will call the armours in this guide
European for simplicitys sake.
The shown parts of armour and weapons are classified chronologically and regionally. I am not going
to give all detailed sources though, mostly because it is not a scientific treatise. But anyone who
plans to do serious research will have more than enough source material. I will also mostly forgo
mentioning the sources of the modern reconstructions, because in most cases I simply dont know
the source anymore and because this is a noncommercial project. Should anyone recognize his work,
feel free to notify me. The manufacturer will then of course be mentioned.

Western and Central European armours of the 14th century Beginners guide(V02/16)

Andrej Woltschanskiy

II. Equipment
1. Body Armour
1.1. Coat of plates
The coat of plates is probably the most popular and most widespread torso armor among the
fighters who prefer this period of history. Thanks to the groundbreaking discoveries of the mass
graves in Visby on Gotland and some later finds (as Castle Kssnacht) we have a very precise idea of
how coats of plate were built. They are constructed by mounting metal plates and / or strips on a
leather or fabric base by rivets. In most cases the plates were on the inside, so you could only see the
rivets on the fabric. However, there are few cases in which the plates were mounted externally on
the fabric.

Left: Some of the coat of plates finds at Visby. Many different models were in use
simultaneously, as can be seen. One can see clearly that some were fastened on the back and
some on the sides. Right: The coat of plates from Kssnacht.
Left: Coat of plates
fastening on the back,
England, Romance of
Alexander, 1340ies.
Right: Coat of plates,
France, 1370ies.

Western and Central European armours of the 14th century Beginners guide(V02/16)

Andrej Woltschanskiy

Medieval depiction of warriors in


coats of plates made in the style of
the Kssnacht find. Ca. 1370.

Modern reconstruction of the Kssnacht coat of plates.

Inside view of a coat of plates. The


plates riveted to the inside of the
fabric cab be clearly seen . Because
of this construction the plates retain
a high movability.

Advantages: Cheap, light, mobile, easy to repair, can be easily self-made.


Disadvantages: The carrier-rivets construction is prone to wear and tear, smaller plates
dont distribute the impact force well.
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Western and Central European armours of the 14th century Beginners guide(V02/16)

Andrej Woltschanskiy

1.2. Early brigandines


The development of the rather barrel-shaped coat of plates was an early form of brigandine, the
main difference between a brigandine and a COP being the smaller size of the plates. Also known in
German as Lentner or (among modern days fighters) Corrazina. Because it is better fitted and
sits tighter on the hips, the weight distribution is much better. In addition the plates over the chest
and back became bigger in later versions and the force of the blows is better distributed. The
transition to fabric covered cuirasses is fluent.

Modern reconstruction of a
lentner

Western and Central European armours of the 14th century Beginners guide(V02/16)

Andrej Woltschanskiy

Medieval depiction,
Wenzel Bible, 1389.

A special case are the brigandines of the Bamberg type. These are characterized by a large metal
plate was on the outside of the fabric carrier over the chest, while all the other plates were inside.
Thus they form a transition between coast of plates and a cuirasses.

Advantages: better fitting, better weight distribution, better mobility.


Disadvantages: heavier and more expensive than coats of plates.
1.3. Cuirasses
The best protection you could get in the 14th century. Large, stable plates covering the chest and
back, with optional fabric coating or bright metal and metal hoops or scales to protect the abdomen
and the hips.

Western and Central European armours of the 14th century Beginners guide(V02/16)

Andrej Woltschanskiy

From left to right:


Italian silver altar,
1370ies, english
effigy, 1402, fabric
covered cuirass,
Munich, Germany
1380-1400.

Western and Central European armours of the 14th century Beginners guide(V02/16)

Andrej Woltschanskiy

Modern Reconstructions

Advantages: Best protection, really shiny, relatively light


Disadvantages: restricted mobility, needs to fit really well (never buy cheap!), needs maintenance
(rust)

2. Helmets
2.1. Great Helm
This helmet was already in use in the 13th century. Actually it was initially worn over a coif and later
over a cervelliere or even a bascinet, but for our sport that's just unnecessary weight. Its expansive
form can accommodate a great lot of padding.

Left: Great helm from Nuremberg,


Germany.
Right: Great helm from Bolzano

Western and Central European armours of the 14th century Beginners guide(V02/16)

Andrej Woltschanskiy

In addition you can decorate the helm with stylish helm covers:

Italy, 1370. Although the helm


gradually became a pure tournament
part of equipment towards the end of
the 14th century , it was used up until
the 1370s in battles.
.

Advantages: Simple, thus cheap, lots of padding, can be decorated, your head is in a bunker.
Disadvantages: not openable, heavy, bad field of view, your head is in a bunker.

2.2. Sugarloaf helm with visor


An evolution of the pot helm. The top is rounded and it has a hinged visor.

From left to right: 1340 Italy, 1325 France, 1370 Italy (Great helm and sugarloaf helm
next to each other)

Western and Central European armours of the 14th century Beginners guide(V02/16)

Andrej Woltschanskiy

Left: Modern
reconstruction.
Right: England,
ca 1340.

Advantages: All of the advantages of a great helm plus movable visor.


Disadvantages: All of the disadvantages of the great helm plus higher cost.
2.3. Bascinet with klappvisor
Bascinets in all their many variants were one of the most popular helmet forms of the 14th century.
The term Klappvisor refers to a design of the helmet, when the visor is moved via a single hinge
above the forehead. This form was very popular especially in the Holy Roman Empire and in Italy.

Bascinets with klappvisors, ca. 1370.

Modern reconstruction of the bascinet from Sitten (left and


middle), and from Nuremberg (right).
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Western and Central European armours of the 14th century Beginners guide(V02/16)

Andrej Woltschanskiy

Advantages: very good compromise between protection, weight and sight, openable, very classy
Disadvantages: the forehead hinge is a weak spot if the visor is only hooked in, as was historically
done, and not firmly riveted; the visor strap is unhistorical and another weak spot.
Pro tip: Pay attention that the visor has a sufficient curvature and enough distance to the nose.
2.4. Bascinet with temple hinged visor
These bascinets had a visor that was attached to the temples with two hinges. There were visor
variants made of one piece and also held by pins (and thus removable).

Examples from
England and
France, ca
1350.

Modern
reconstrucions.

Advantages: Like the klappvisor, in addition a better hold for the visor.
Disadvantages: almost none, maybe the additional weight of the aventail.

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Western and Central European armours of the 14th century Beginners guide(V02/16)

Andrej Woltschanskiy

2.5. Hounskull bascinet


The hounskull is Bascinet with a pointed visor which could be attached both by a front hinge and by
temple hinges.

1390

1370

Left: Modern
reconstruction.
Right: Hounskull
from Leeds.

Advantages: The pointed visor is very good at deflecting hits, lots of air.
Disadvantages: restricted view downwards, a little bit frontloaded. A blow to the visor point levers on
the neck.

2.6. Bascinet with peak


This currently very popular helmet is completely unhistorical and pure cheating in todays use
(chainmail to the eyes covering a metal grill). All sources indicate it as purely an infantry helmet with
an open face. People who continue to use these helmets are either unaware of this or not interested
in a historically accurate depiction or value advantage maximization much higher than anything else.
These helmets might anyway soon be forbidden, so save your money and buy helmets that can
withstand a historical examination.

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Western and Central European armours of the 14th century Beginners guide(V02/16)

Andrej Woltschanskiy

l.: modern version, m.: Grill, r.: Italy, second


half of the 14th century.
Advantages: Very good view and air circulation.
Disadvantages: Completely unhistorical, big eye slits pose a danger.
2.7. Bascinet with wolfs ribs
Another helmet, which is very popular due to its advantages, the source material is however very
questionable.

Right: The only known depiction from the 14th century (Bohmia), left:
modern version.
Advantages: Very good view and air circulation, light.
Disadvantages: very questionable source material, gaps in the visor a danger to the face.
2.8. Bascinets with bretache/nasal
While the two last "cheater helmets" are very controversial, there is ample evidence of usage of
bascinets with a nasal guard called bretache. They have the same advantages and are completely
historical

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Western and Central European armours of the 14th century Beginners guide(V02/16)

Andrej Woltschanskiy

Depictions from Germany and Switzerland, 1370-1390

Moderne
versions, left one
without aventail
to show the
hidden grill for
face protection

Advantages: Very good view and air circulation, historical.


Disadvantages: You have to be careful so that the eye openings wont be too big.
Important 3: It is a common misconception that the bascinet always had an aventail. It is true that in
most cases an aventail was worn. In fact almost all depictions show on. But only almost. There is
definitely evidence that only a padded aventail was worn or that the mail was covered with fabric.

A depiction from Italy, 1370. Bascinets with mail aventails but also without can be seen.

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Western and Central European armours of the 14th century Beginners guide(V02/16)

Andrej Woltschanskiy

2.9. Early grand bascinets


A further development of the bascinet. A rigid metal plate at the bottom of the face cutout protects
chin and throat. Initially, the platform was relatively small, but it evolved towards the end of the 14th
century to a full neck and shoulder protection.

France, end of
the 14th, start
of the 15th
century.

Modern reconstruction.

Advantages: additional protection.


Disadvantages: Heavier and more movement restriction than a normal bascinet.

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Western and Central European armours of the 14th century Beginners guide(V02/16)

Andrej Woltschanskiy

2.10. Kettle hat


There is some evidence that kettle hats were used in combination with an aventail to the eyes. A
protective metal grill beneath the chainmail is mandatory in any case

France, ca. 1390

Italy, 1326

Advantages: Good view and air circulation.


Disadvantages: Very few sources, unknightly helmet.
3. Arm protection
3.1. Arms
For arm protection we have two basic variants. The arms were either protected with metal plates
(from the second half of the 14th century on) or metal strips (splints)that were riveted to a fabric or
leather carrier.
Splints

Left: Guenther
von
Schwarzberg,
1349, Germany.
Right: modern
reconstruction.
Advantage: Cheap, easy maintenance, adjustable.
Disadvantages: Not the most optimal protection.

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Western and Central European armours of the 14th century Beginners guide(V02/16)

Andrej Woltschanskiy

Plate
Left: France 1380. Middle: Modern
reconstruction. Left: Modern
reconstruction, Elbow connected
with upper and lower arm.

Advantages: light (when done correctly), optimal protection


Disadvantages: Expensive, must be protected from rust, must fit well, because not really adjustable.

3.1. Shoulders
Simple shoulder plates

Left: Find from the mass grave of


Visby, 1361.
Right: Modern reconstruction.

Protect the shoulder from above, the cheapest option, the shoulder remains vulnerable to blows
from the side.

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Western and Central European armours of the 14th century Beginners guide(V02/16)

Andrej Woltschanskiy

Simple spaulders

Left and middle:


France 1350.
Right: Modern
reconstruction.

Better protection, but some gaps may remain.


Spaulders with lames

Left: Sir Andrew Lutrell, 1390. Middle: Sie Henry English 1393. right: Modern
reconstruction.
Very good protection for shoulder and upper arm albeit with higher weight and higher price.
3.2. Gauntlets
Mail mittens
Padded mittens with chain mail. It is strongly recommended to use hidden metal plates under the
chainmail. Very archaic and actually represented only up to the 1330s. But if one goes with the rest
of the equipment maximally up to the 1380s, it is acceptable because of the 50 years time frame of
the rules (albeit grudgingly).
Left: Codex Manesse,
first third of the 14th
century. Right: Modern
version, reinforced with
hidden metal plates.

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Western and Central European armours of the 14th century Beginners guide(V02/16)

Andrej Woltschanskiy

Brigandine gauntlets
The hand is protected by metal plates that are mounted on a leather carrier. This type of gloves has
been displaced from the second half of the 14th century on by hourglass gauntlets. The leather
carrier is prone to damage.

Left: France ca
1330 -1350 Right:
France 1357
Below: modern
reconstruction.

Hourglass gauntlets
The archetypical gauntlets for the second half of the 14th century. Light, comfortable, chic. There are
also variants with an overhang on the fingers for extra protection, but at expense of mobility. There
is also evidence of mittens in the form of hourglasses with even more protection, but even less
mobility (for example, at the fountain of Nuremberg).

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Western and Central European armours of the 14th century Beginners guide(V02/16)

Andrej Woltschanskiy

Left: France 1362 Middle: Germany 1360 Right: Italy 1380

Modern reconstructions.
With all these gloves (with the exception of the hourglass mittens) you should protect the fingers
with additional finger shields. Although these are without historical evidence, they are accepted
within the scene since fingers are rather sensitive and break easily.
4. Leg Protection
4.1. Legs
For the legs, we have basically the same options as in the arms: Either metal strips on a fabric or
leather carrier or metal plates. While the older variant has the advantage that it is adjustable, the
protection compared to large metal plates is lower, because of the smaller plate size. For the full
plate version the shins can both be protected by fully enclosed greaves or by simpler demi greaves
which protect only the front.

Left: Sir Miley Stapleton 1364 Middlee: Sir Thomas


20 Cheyne 1368 Right: France 1390
Below: Leg armour of Charles IV.

Western and Central European armours of the 14th century Beginners guide(V02/16)

Andrej Woltschanskiy

Modern
reconstructions
4.2. Feet
The feet can be protected by sabatons. These are available both as a simple version that only covers
the top of the foot as well as a complete metal shoe.

Left: France 1376 Right: Modern reconstruction

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Western and Central European armours of the 14th century Beginners guide(V02/16)

Andrej Woltschanskiy

5. Weapons
For the 14th century we have an overwhelming abundance of great finds and weapons in almost
every conceivable variation. Therefore only a few examples are mentioned here. One should of
course not only have the effectiveness and personal preferences in mind, but also pay attention to
the rules and the allowed weapons section.
One handed weapons

Italy and France


1350ies.

Important: The popular baidana falchions with hook and spike are not suitable as a weapon for
beginners. There are no sources for them.
Two handed weapons

Left: France1380.
Right: Italy 1360.
Below: Italy 1380.

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Western and Central European armours of the 14th century Beginners guide(V02/16)

Andrej Woltschanskiy

6. Shields
For the shields there are also tons of sources. Just a selection of examples shall be shown here.
Above: Heater and oval
shields, 1360 Italy. Middle:
Metal buckler, 1380 Italy.
Below: Round, square and
teardrop shields, Italy
1365. (All of these forms
were in use in many
European regions, the
heater type being the
most popular during our
period.)

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Western and Central European armours of the 14th century Beginners guide(V02/16)

Andrej Woltschanskiy

7. Clothing (aka soft kit)


Meanwhile there is a huge amount of literature on 14th century dress. Many patterns for many
garments were also reconstructed and can be easily found. The rapid change of fashion in the 14th
century also means that the huge amount of known garments simply cannot be shown in this short
guide. Therefore just a simple starter set shall be shown.

Left: Austria 1340. Middle: Germany 1360. Right: Italy 1390.


The simple combination of knee-length wool cotte, breeches and undershirt made of linen and
woolen hose combined with a pair of simple shoes allows a fast and cost-effective introduction into
living history and was worn that way during the whole 14th century in Europe.
With such a set you can buy an inexpensive and simple soft kit. Sure, you wont represent a rich
noble, but anyone with such high demands should also be able to research ones own sources.
III. Conclusion
This introduction is in no way intended as a complete collection of knowledge, but should stimulate
you to conduct your own research. For a completely authentic historical portrayal these couple of
pages with nice pictures are simply not enough. Neither do I claim to know everything on this topic. I
am open to discussion and suggestions. If you are interested in Medieval European armour and
weapons you should at any rate contact more experienced fighters and (hobby) researchers after
reading this guide.

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