Arms and Armour of the
Crusading Era, 1050-1350
By David Nicolle
14 Massacre of the Innocents', carved capital from Abbey of St Georges de Boscherville, Normandy, late 12th century
(Musée des Antiquities, Rouen, France)
The warriors on this very damaged capital wear conical helmets, one of which is clearly fluted (B), over mail hauberks with coifs and short sleeves. One figure may have an unlaced ventail lying across his chest (B). The swords are straight and non-tapering, with pointed (A) or round (B) pommels.
15 'Martyrdom of Sts Fuscien, Victoric and Gentien', carved relief, County of Vermandois, late 12th/early 13th centuries
(in situ church, Sains-en-Amiennois, France)
The late 12th century saw the adoption of a remarkably uniform style of arms, armour and military costume throughout a large part of north-western Europe. This figure is in that style, which consisted of a long-sleeved mail hauberk with integral mittens and a mail coif, plus mail chausses on his legs, all worn beneath a simple sleeveless surcoat.
16A-C St Etienne Bible, French, 1109
(Bib. Nat., Dijon, France)
The standard equipment of the early 12th century French, German or Anglo-Norman warrior is illustrated here. It consisted of a long-sleeved mail hauberk, a conical helmet sometimes with a forward-angled crown (A), a broad tapering sword and a long kite-shaped shield held by enarmes (B). The long-hafted 'Danish' war-axe was still in use, mostly in England, Germany and Scandinavia. Its inclusion here could indicate that this manuscript was made in eastern France or in the Kingdom of Arles.
17 Winchester Psalter, 'Massacre of the Innocents', northern French or southern English, c. 1115-60
(British Library, Ms. Cotton Nero C.IV.356, London, England)
Most of the military figures in the Winchester Psalter are in standard arms and armour but some include unusual characteristics. This man has an interesting type of forward-angled conical helmet in which the nasal curves down from the lower rim of the helmet. His sword is hung on his right hip, but this is probably artistic licence. The hauberk is, however, a late example of a style which, slit at the sides instead of fore-and-aft, was more characteristic of the 1l th century and may originally have been intended for infantry use.
18A-B Manuscript drawing, northern France, late 12th century
(Bib. Munic, Ms. 12/11 f.62v, St Omer, France)
Exceptions to the general trend towards uniformity can be found, though usually under special circumstances. The infantry combat shown here is almost certainly an example of trial by battle using specialised non-lethal weapons. Both figures wield mace-like objects and defend themselves with unusual egg-shaped shields. The terminology of 12th-century military equipment shows that a variety of as yet unidentified shields were intended for combat on foot.
19A-E 'Story of Tristan', painted wooden marriage chest, Duchy of Brittany,
(Cathedral Treasury, Vannes, France)
The painted chest from Vannes portrays normal as well as unusual arms and armour. The former are seen where two horsemen (A and B) attack a third (C), who is caught while in the act of mounting his horse. A fourth figure hands the startled knight his shield. The helmets are conical, two with nasals and one without. One has a straight front profile, another a forward-angled crown. Mail hauberks still lack mittens but include the usual coifs. It is interesting to see how far forward the horsemen thrust their shields. The combat between Tristan (D) and Morhaut (E) portrays much the same sorts of helmet and sword, but it is the shields which demand attention. These are very large and must be designed for infantry combat. They might betermed mantlets or pavises, or could be talevas shields specifically designed to protect foot-soldiers from arrows.