Equipping the Knight

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Good weapons and armor were vitally important to the medieval knight. Apart from being necessities of battle, costly armor and weapons of quality and artistic craftsmanship were important aspects of a knightís aristocratic status and signified his position and worth in the culture of knighthood.

Weapons of the Medieval Knight

Knights primarily fought with swords and lances. Lances, long, heavy poles with metal heads, were used in cavalry charges and were designed so that a knight could hold the blunt end close to his body to maximize the impact and damage when an enemy was hit. This was possible because saddles were designed with raised fronts and backs to keep the knight from flying from his horse upon collision.

After enemies had been dispersed by the charge, knights would draw their swords and begin finishing their opponents. Knights also used other weapons from time to time. Some favored the mace, especially clerics who were not allowed to draw blood, while others preferred the cruel blade of the battle ax.

Armor of the Medieval Knight

The creation of quality armor was an art form, but the primary function of armor was to protect the wearer from grievous injury in battle. Chain mail was the original mainstay of knighthood, but although it generally served well, it could not protect the knight from arrows or the powerful force of the lance. For this reason, knights began experimenting by placing plates of metal over their chain mail and a gambeson (a shirt of padded leather). Gradually armor transformed from the simple chain coat to the full suit of plate that characterizes most of our ideas of knighthood. There was, indeed, a time when armor was so heavy that if a knight fell from his horse he would lay defenseless and unable to raise himself. However, this period, the mid 1300ís, was just a brief part of the transition from chain to plate, a time when knights wore both a full chain coat and plate suit together.

Plate suits by themselves weighed about as much as chain mail suits (roughly 50 lbs). However, they were much more comfortable than chain suits because they distributed the weight evenly across the body, whereas the chain suits simply hung from the shoulders.