Medieval Armour

As the middle ages covered over 500 years, there were many changes in armour during this period, and many variations to the individual pieces of armour.

Here is a list of the main articles used.


Mail was formed of thousands of metal rings linked to each other then riveted or welded together. It was made as a tunic, shirt, gauntlet or leggings.

A mail shirt (Hauberk) was a full sleeved garment reaching to at least thigh length.

Mail were most effective against slashing weapons, as these were unable to penetrate the armour, but less effective against crossbows and mace.


This was a padded jacket worn under mail or plate armour. It could also be worn on its own. Gambeson were made of linen or wool, stuffed with horsehair or scraps of cloth to produce the padding.


This was an arming jacket (doublet) worn under plate armour. It had reinforced areas on it for lacing plate armour to.


This was a cloth garment made of canvas or leather with oblong steel plates riveted to the fabric. It was a form of body armour worn by soldiers, archers and knights. It was worn over a gambeson and mail shirt.

Plate Armour

This was used in the late Middle Ages to protect vulnerable areas of the body in battle. Metal plates were placed over existing armour on the arms, chest, thighs and legs for extra protection against weapons like spears and swords.

Eventually this became a complete suit of plate armour worn by knights. Plate armour was also made for a knight’s horse.


This was a glove with an extended cuff leading up the forearm made of leather, mail or plate armour.


There were many types of shields used, here I cover 3 of them.

Kite Shield

This was shaped like a reverse teardrop or almond shape. It was rounded at the top and then tapered in to a point at the bottom.

Kite shields were generally  1 – 1.5 metres (3 – 5 feet) in length, and made of wood, animal hide and iron. They had leather gripping straps (enarmes) connected to the back.

Heater Shield

These were smaller than a kite shield and used by mounted and foot soldiers. They were shapes like the base of an iron and made of thin wood overlaid with leather: also made of wood, steel and iron. A strap (guige) was attached to the shield so that it could be slung over the shoulder.


These were round, up to 45 cm (18 inch) in diameter and were made of metal or wood with metal attached. A round piece (boss) was fitted to the centre. This shield had a handle fitted on the back behind the boss so that it could be gripped with the fist.


There were many helmets used, here I cover 3 of them.

Nasal Helmet

This was a conical shape helmet with a piece of metal attached, extending down over the nose (nose guard). This was made of iron and worn over a mail cap (coif).

The shape of the helmet changed over time and became more pointed, however the nose guard always remained.


This was an open-faced military helmet made of steel or iron. It was pointed at the top, extended down at the back and sides to protect the neck. The helmet had mail (aventail) attached to it that extended down over the throat, neck and shoulders for further protection.

A face guard (visor) could also be attached to protect the face.

Great Helm

This was a flat-topped cylinder helmet used by knights. It was made of steel that completely covered the head and face with only small openings in it for the eyes and mouth.

Over time the flat-topped shaped changed and the helmet became more of a conical shape. This helped to deflect blows to the head. This was then known as the sugar loaf helmet

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked