What Are Some Facts About Medieval Armor?


Quick Answer

The popular image of medieval knights wearing heavy suits of full plate was not true for the majority of the Middle Ages, because plate mail was difficult and costly to make. Also, plate armor when properly made was relatively light and well-balanced, more suited for warriors in combat than the walking tanks depicted in popular media. Because each warrior was expected to equip himself, many of them resorted to simple coats of mail with half-plate.

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Full Answer

Early medieval armor was mail or a shirt/skirt combination of chain links designed to absorb the impact of swords and spears. As firearms and crossbows entered the battlefield, plate armor was developed so that those wearing it would have a measure of protection; crossbow bolts could achieve more powerful shots more consistently than could longbows. However, as firearms began to dominate, armor lessened in importance.

Medieval armor was not often ornate; the popular image of a Norse warrior with horned helmet is not true because horns and other protrusions would provide an enemy a point to grab and control the helmet. Simpler variants like the bucket helm were common. Japanese armor, on the other hand, was often ornate because of its psychological effect.

As medieval armor became heavier, the weapons used against it changed. Swords would not penetrate plate; they would be used against the gaps in the armor after the wearer was thrown to the ground. Maces, warhammers, axes and other blunt-force weapons were preferred for use against plate.

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