Arms and Armour of the
Crusading Era, 1050-1350
By David Nicolle
49A-AT Maciejowski Bible, Paris, c.1250
(Pierpont Morgan Library, New York, United States)
A - 'Amalekites' (f.24v); В - 'Philistines' (f.29v); С - 'Arnalekites' (f.9v); D - 'Philistines defeat Saul' (f.34v); E - 'Defeat of Moabites' (f.12r); F -'Death of Goliath' (f.28v); G- 'Army of Hai' (f.l0r);H-'Death of Cain' (f.2r); I - 'Death of Goliath' (f.28v); J - 'Philistines' (f.l4v); К - 'Jacob's covenant with Laban' (f.4v); L-O - 'Defeat of Philistines' (f.29v); P- 'Pharaoh's army' (f.9r); Q,-'Jacob's covenant with Laban' (f.4v); S - 'Goliath and Philistines' (f.27r); T- 'Death of Absalom' (f.45v); U - 'Esau's offering' (f.4r); V - 'Capture of Lot' (f.3r);W-X- 'Philistines' (f.l4v); Y- 'King Sisera' (f.l2v); Z- 'Saul destroys Nahash' (f.23v); AA-AC - 'Israelites repulsed from Hai' (f.lOf); AD-AE - 'Saul's body hung from the walls of Beth Shan' (f.35v);AF-'Philistines' (f.l5r); AG- 'Capture of Hai' (f.l2v); AH - 'Israelites repulsed from Hai' (f.l0f); AI - 'Abner slays Joab' (f.36v); AJ - 'Death of Absalom' (f.45v); AK - 'Joab pursues Shebato Abel' (f.46v); AL - 'Capture of Hai' (f.l2v); AM - 'Israelites repulsed from Hai' (f.l0f); AN - 'Rescue of Lot' (f.3v); АО -'Israelites repulsed from Hai' (f.l0f); AP-AQ- 'Story of the Levite's wife' (f.l6r); AR- 'Jonathan' (f.31v); AS- 'Israelites attack Rabbah' (f.42r); AT - 'Absalom's groom' (f.42v). The so-called Maciejowski Bible is not only one of the finest European manuscripts of the 13th century but is also an unsurpassed mine of information on arms, armour, military costume and military equipment in general. Basically both 'good' and 'wicked' are equipped in the same manner, the only unusual features of the Philistines and other such groups being decorated or fluted helmets (B, D and J) and their conventional round shields (A, C, D, G and S). Sometimes, though rarely, the 'wicked' are also illustrated using horse-archery (D). Helmets include fully developed great helms (M and P), brimmed chapel-de-fer war-hats of various round (G, I, L, S, AB and AL) and squared forms (G, V, AC and AN), a wide-brimmed hat which was probably not a helmet (AS) and close-fitting cervellières without nasals. These could be worn over (B and G) or under a mail coif (АО). Such a cervellière is seen once hanging from a groom's arm (AT). Older forms of helmet such as tall, conical or rounded helmets with nasals, of segmented or one-piece construction are mostly worn by the 'wicked' but are also seen on Israelites (A, C, D, G and AD). Mail coifs are all apparently integral parts of a hauberk and are worn over padded cloth coifs which are also seen worn without mail coifs (G, V, AB, AK, AN, AR and AZ). Most mail hauberks have long sleeves and mittens (A-C, E-G, S, V, Y, AH, AL, AN, АО and AR) but a few have three-quarter length sleeves (D, AF and AL). Mail chausses are generally worn by horsemen, some of whom are dismounted (D, E, G, S, АО and AR). Padded cuisses appear (S and AN), but the only greaves are those worn by Goliath. Though shown in a realistic and practical manner, they might not reflect current usage, as the Biblical text specified that Goliath wore such pieces of armour. It is worth noting that Goliath is illustrated with a shield on his back, the relevant verse stating that he should have a 'target of brass between his shoulders' (I Sam. 17.6). There is no evidence for rigid or stiffened armours worn beneath the mostly sleeveless surcoats, but many quilted gambesons are shown which have raised collars buttoned at the side and reach almost to the knees. Some are sleeveless (AL), some short-sleeved (G, V, AH and AN), and some have long sleeves with mittens (AB and AN). They can be worn over (AL) or under (AH and AR) a mail hauberk, or be worn on their own (G, V, AB and AN). Apart from the probably conventional round shields of the 'wicked' and the isolated round targe or buckler of an Israelite slinger (AS), shields are kite shaped, either broad and square-edged for the presumed cavalry elite (S) or larger with rounded tops for sappers and infantry (AI and AL). Weapons include a remarkable variety of basic types. Swords arebroad with slightly tapering blunted tips, straight bar-like quillons and generally round pommels (A-C, F, G, O, S, АО and AR). A new feature is the decorated daggers with triangular blades, curved quillons and fanciful pommels (N and AA). Unfortunately such daggers are not shown in a sheath or belt and so the way of carrying them is unknown. Another type of long-bladed hand weapon is frequently illustrated in the Maciejowski Bible. It seems to be an early form of falchion and, being seen in the hands of the 'good' more often than the 'evil', may be assumed to represent a real weapon in current use. It can have a simple angled or fancifully decorated back to the blade (A, V, J and AN). A sharply-curved grip is presumably designed to counteract the centrifugal force of swinging such a massive weapon (J). Another example has a lengthened two-handed grip (AN). Comparable weapons with straight backs and curved cutting edges have short hafts (AG, AB and AJ). A smaller single-edged blade may also once be seen on a long spear haft (K). A very long and slender pike-like blade appears on one spear (AB) and once an even thinner, almost needle-like point seems to be thrust into the end of a spear (X). Ordinary spears have diamond or leaf-shaped blades, only that of Goliath having a crossbar, wings or flanges (S). Substantial war-axes are of the old symmetrical 'Danish' type (G, V, AB and AQ, though one has a newer type of socket in which the haft does not protrude beyond the sleeve (A). Maces appear in greater variety. A true spiked mace is put into the hands of an Amalekite (A) and a rather feeble looking version into the hands of a Philistine (AF). Heavier and generally longer-hafted clubs with serried ranks of nail-like lumps are more common and are used by Philistines (W) and Israelites (AB and AP) alike. While crossbows with loading stirrups are shown a number of times (G and AM), bows are only used by Philistines (D) in presumed imitation of Muslim Turks. Naturally Esau the huntsman (U) and the blind man who slew Cain (H) also have bows. The general impression is that the bow, as distinct from the crossbow, was not considered a European weapon of war in mid-13th century northern France. Primitive man-powered mangonels are shown twice (Z and AK), each having three ropes which would have been pulled by the operating team. Another device (AD and AE) is shown elevating the headless corpse of Saul. It seems unlikely that such a machine, here so realistically portrayed, would have been invented by an artist just for this purpose. The detailed locking device and the counterweights on the opposite end of the beam, plus the fact that it is mounted on top of the wall or tower of Beth Shan suggest that it might be the raising mechanism for a drawbridge. Ropes could have led from the crossbar on which Saul's corpse hangs down to a drawbridge below, or it might have been a device for dropping things on the enemy, as mentioned in various written sources.
50AC 'Goliath', psalter, France, c.1250-75
(Fitzwilliam Museum, Ms. 35-1950, f.7, Cambridge, England)
Despite its date this French psalter gives Goliath archaic equipment. His mail hauberk is worn without a surcoat and he appears not to wear mail chausses, while his helmet is segmented and perhaps slightly conical. His kite-shaped shield is surprisingly long and his sword, though having a strongly tapering blade, also has a trefoil pommel.
51A-B History of Outremer, Paris, 1295-6
(Bib. de la Ville, Palais des Arts, Ms. 29, f.7v, Lyon, France)
An illustration of a battle outside Antioch shows Crusaders in the round-topped great helms that had become standard by the late 13th century (A). The Muslims wield falchions (B) but the placing of this unlikely weapon in the hands of 'infidels' was probably an artist's way of interpreting the curved swords that he knew the Turks commonly used.
52A-B Manuscript, northern France or England, late 13th century
(British Library, Ms. Harl. 782, London, England)
The manuscript is in a simple style which is often associated with England. The horsemen have later forms of conical great helms which not only protect the wearer against a horizontal thrust but also provide a glancing surface against a downward blow. Body protection still consists of a mail hauberk and chausses plus a triangular shield which has now shrunk in size. One figure (B) has a tapering sword with a distinct point and slightly decorated quillons, while another (A) rides a horse with a full mail bard.
53A-B Le Chevalier du Cygne, France, early 13th century
(Bib. Nat., Paris, France)
This is an illustration of a siege, including a man with a standard mail coif, hauberk and chausses plus a sleeveless surcoat. It also illustrates a simple man-powered mangonel in action. The representation of the mangonel is garbled beyond recognition but certain features of the operating team demand comment. A pair of hands holds down the sling, perhaps to give a certain spring to the shot, while the team pulling the ropes wear full mail and carry large oval mantlets. The only unarmoured man is at the rear of the squad, shielded by those in front.
54 History of Outremer, northern France, c.1279
(Burgerbibliothek, Ms. 112 f.110r, Bern, Switzerland)
A substantial war-axe having a very slightly upwards-swept cutting edge and a haft of half a man's height.
55 Roman de la Poire, northern France, с.1250-75
(Bib. Nat., Ms. Fr. 2186, f.34v, Paris, France)
In the scene of the 'Siege of the Tower of Love' a flat-topped great helm is shown with a concave rear profile. This feature is common enough so that it cannot merely be dismissed as an artistic error. Although almost certainly exaggerated in this and other pictures, it probably reflected some peculiarity of constructional technique.
56 History of Outremer, Paris, с. 1250—75
(Bib. Nat., Ms. Fr. 779, f.l34r, Paris, France)
Here a knight takes part in the siege of Shayzar in Syria. His great helm seems to have additional triple ventilation holes above the eye-slit and in the rear panels.
57 History of Outremer, Paris, c. 1290-5
(Bib. Royale, Ms. 9492-3, f.417r, Brussels, Belgium)
An early portrayal of rigid couters to protect the elbows which, with poleyns for the knees, were the first pieces of true plate armour apart from helmets to be re-adopted in medieval Western Europe.
58 History of Outremer, Paris, 1295-1300
(Bib. Munic, Ms. 45 f.22v, Epinal, France)
Knee-protecting poleyns, presumably of hardened leather or metal, become increasingly common in manuscripts towards the end of the 13th century. This example might be fastened to thigh-covering cuisses worn over mail chausses.
59 History of Outremer, Paris, 1295-1300
(Walters Art Gallery, Ms. W.137, Baltimore, United States)
Another illustration of a late 13th-century poleyn knee-defence seems to show the disc worn directly over, and perhaps attached to, the mail chausses.
60 'Pentecost', psalter, France, mid-13th century
(British Library, Ms. Add. 17868, f.29, London, England)
A typical example of the most commonly portrayed sword of the period. It has a regularly tapering blade coming to a not very acute point, plus straight quillons and a round pommel of modest size.
61A-C History of Outremer, Paris, с. 1250-75
(Bib. Nat., Ms. Fr. 2630, Paris, France)
A - 'Crusaders besiege Iznik (Nicea)' (f.22v); B-C - 'Crusaders besiege Tyre' (f. 111v). In this relatively simple manuscript a crude form of mangonel is illustrated tossing enemy heads into the enemy's city (A). Such a device was almost certainly powered by men pulling on ropes, although no ropes are shown here. Or perhaps the thickenedends of the double arms are supposed to act as counterweights. At the siege of Tyre the Crusaders wear early forms of great helms (B) with single eye-slits and no central reinforcing bars, while the city's Muslim garrison are provided with curved sabres (C).
62 Apocalypse of St John, probably Paris, c.1300
(ex-Oakeshott, The Archaeology of Weapons)
The style of this drawing is very close to that of English Apocalypse manuscripts dated с 1275-1300. The arms and armour are, however, very interesting. The warrior wields a true falchion of exaggerated size. His sword hand is protected by a gauntlet with a splinted wrist defence and on his head he wears a brimmed chapel-de-fer apparently forged from a single piece of iron. Gauntlets would not be widely seen until the early 14th century.