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The Anatomy of Armor

Armor and helms have changed a great deal over the centuries, and various designs have appeared and disappeared (and reappeared), depending on available technology, use, and even fashion.

The list below provides a general glossary of terminology. For a more detailed study of armor, we suggest that you visit the Arador Armour Library.

Ailette -- A flat plate of leather or parchment which tied to the point of the shoulder. Worn between 1250-1350 to display the owner's coat of arms.
Aketon -- A padded and quilted garment, usually of linen, worn under or instead of plate or mail.
Armet -- Fifteenth century helmet of Italian origin consisting a skull, two hinged cheek pieces which lock at the front, and a visor.
Arming doublet -- Quilted garment worn under armour from the early fifteenth century, equipped with points to attach mail gussets and pieces of armour.
Arming points -- Ties (usually of flax or twine) by which armour was secured in place.
Aventail -- A curtain of mail attached by means of staples (vervelles) around the base of a helmet (especially the basinet), and covering the shoulders. Also called camail (a French term).
Back Plate
-- Plate armour protecting the back half of the torso.
Barbote -- A high bevor with a falling lame containing eyeslits; used in Spain.
Barbut -- Also called barbute, or barbuta. An open-faced shoulder-length Italian helmet, made in one piece, with a T-shaped face opening. Barbuta is the Italian term.
Bard -- A full horse armour, which could include a shaffron, crinet, peytral, crupper and flanchards.
Basinet -- Also called bascinet. An open-faced helmet with a globular or conical skull enclosing the sides of the face and neck. Usually worn with and aventail, and occasionally a visor.
Bellows Visor -- A modern term for a visor with horizontal ridges, such as on 'Maximilian' German fluted armours of the early sixteenth century.
Besagew -- Defensive circular plate suspended over the wearer's armpit.
Bevor -- Also called bavier or buffe. A chin-shaped defense for the lower face, incorporating a gorget plate. The buffe was an early sixteenth century variant, worn strapped to an open-faced helmet such as the burgonet.
Birnie -- Also called byrnie. A mail shirt. See also Hauberk.
Bishop's Mantle -- Modern term for the cape of mail worn (largely in Germany) in the early sixteenth century.
Blueing -- An oxidized blue surface on plate armour, produced through heat treatment, or in modern times with chemicals.
Bouche -- The notch cut in the top (dexter) corner of a shield, to rest the lance when jousting.
Bracer -- Early fourteenth century form of defence for the lower arm; also a term for an archer's arm guard to protect the forearm from the bowstring.
Brayette -- Armored codpiece.
Breast Plate -- Armour that protects the front of the torso.
Breaths -- Holes or slits in the visor of a helmet or the lames of a falling buff or bevor, for ventilation; also usually permitting a degree of extra vision.
Brigandine -- A flexible body defence consisting of a large number of metal plates riveted inside a cloth covering.
Buckler -- Small round shield carried by infantry.
Buffe -- see Bevor.
Burgonet -- A light, open-faced helmet popular in the sixteenth century as an alternative to the close-helmet for light cavalry. It was usually furnished with a peak over the brow, a combed skull, and hinged ear pieces. The face opening could be closed with the addition of a falling buffe.
Byrnie -- see Birnie.
Cabasset -- Also spelled "cabacete". A type of Spanish war hat (popular thoughout fifteenth century Europe) with a turned-down brim and an almond-shaped skull ending in a stalk. See also Morion.
Camail -- see Aventail
Cannon -- Individual plate armour defence, of tubular form, for the upper and lower arm. See also Vambrace and Rerebrace.
Case-hardening -- A method (described in the twelth century treatise 'De Diversis Atibus' by Theophilus the Monk) for surface hardening wrought iron (or low carbon steel) by packing it in charcoal or other organic material and heating it for hours above 900 degrees Celsius.
Casque, casquetal -- A light open helmet; usually late fifteeth to mid-sixteenth century helmets of 'antique' form, such as Italian parade 'casques' of the mid-sixteenth century, embossed with grotesques or fashioned in the classical style. These were often similiar in shape to the burgonet.
Celata -- Open-faced Italian sallet, common in the fifteenth century.
Cervelliere -- Steel skull cap, aslo called an arming cap.
Chanfron -- see Shaffron
Chapel de Fer -- Also called a kettle hat. A simple open-faced helmet with a wide brim.
Charnel -- The hinged staple or bolt that secured the fourteenth century helm or great basinet to the breast and backplate.
Chausses -- Mail protection for the legs, either in the form of mail hose or strips of mail laced round the front of the leg.
Close-helmet -- Helmet which, with a full visor and bevor, completely encloses the head and face. Modern use of the term tends to refer not to helmets with hinged cheek-pieces opening at the front (the armet,) but visored helmets pivoting open on bolts or rivets on each side of the skull.
Coat armour -- A quilted garment worn over armour in the fourteenth century. Also called a gambeson, aketon or arming coat.
Coat of fence -- Also called fence, jack, or brigandine. A doublet or tunic lined with small metal plates or, more rarely, just padded with stuffing of tow. See also Brigandine and Jack.
Coat of plates -- Also called a brigandine, a pair of plates, or simply plates. A cloth garment with a number of large plates riveted inside, worn in the fourteenth century.
Cod-piece -- Fabric covering for the groin, latterly padded. Its counter part in armour could be either mail or, more usually, plate.
Coif -- A hood, usually of mail. By the twelfth century it often incorporated a ventail.
Collar -- see Gorget
Comb -- The keel-shaped ridge, often very pronounced, that passes from front to back of a helmet over the skull, conferring extra strength and rigidity and contributing to its glancing surfaces. In the mid-sixteenth century, the combs of morion helmets were raised and enloarged to an excessive height for 'fashionable' reasons.
Corslet -- Also spelt "corselet". A light half-armour popular in the sixteenth century for general military use (town guards for example). It consisted of a gorget, breast, back and tassets, full arms and gauntlets. The term can also be applied to the cuirass only.
Couter -- Also spelt "cowter". Plate defence for the elbow.
Crinet -- Defence for a horse's neck.
Crupper -- Defence for a horse's rear.
Crest -- A heraldric recognitive device fixed to the top of the great helm, introduced in the second half of the thirteenth and in wide use by the fourteenth century.
Cuir Bouli -- Also called "cure belly" by the English. A thick leather, boiled in oil or wax, that hardens with a near-steel strength.
Cuirass -- Also called pair of curates. A backplate and breastplate designed to be worn together.
Cuisses -- Armor for the thigh.
Elbow Cop
-- Also "Couter." Armour covering the elbow.
Fan Plate -- Projection from an elbow or knee cop designed to prevent a blow from wrapping around and landing in the joint.
Fauld -- Articulated plates at the base of a breastplate, comprised of horizontal lames.
Flanchards -- Armor for the sides of a horse, below the saddle.
Garniture -- A set of armor with interchangeable parts for various combat or sporting uses.
Gorget -- Armour protecting the throat. May be a simple collar or a more elaborate design composed of several pieces.
Grandguard -- A plate of reinforcement sometimes worn with jousting armor to protect the lower face, left shoulder, and left chest.
Greave -- Also "jamb." Plate armor shaped to fit the lower leg and sometimes the ankle.
Hauberk -- A long shirt of mail.
Haute-piece -- A plate rim attached upright to a pauldron for protecting the neck.
Jamb -- See Greave.
Knee Cop -- Also "Poleyns." Armour covering the knee.
Lames -- Plates of steel, often articulated either by gliding rivets or a concealed strip of leather under the plates, to allow freedom of movement yet still providing protection. Used where a solid sheet of steel would be too constrictive.
Mail -- Metal rings linked together into sheets which drape over the body, or which can be suspended from plate armor. A very early form of metal armor.
Morion -- A 16th and 17th Century open-faced helm with a round skullcap and combed top ridge, and a curving brim with pointed ends.
Ocularium -- Holes or slits in the visor of a helmet for vision.
Pauldron -- Armour covering the shoulder. Usually large, covering the upper 1/3 of the torso.
Peytral -- Armor for a horse's breast.
Rerebrace -- Armour covering the upper arm from the elbow to the shoulder.
Repousse -- A decorative technique in which metal plates are embossed by hammering from the interior, then the design is further defined by hammering and punching the exterior.
Sabaton -- Armour covering the foot.
Sallet -- A helm characterized by a round skullcap and visor, with a fanning "tail" sloping over the neck.
Shaffron -- Head armor for a horse.
Spangenhelm -- method of helm construction using vertical bands for the framework, filled with triangular plates.
Spaulder -- Armour covering the shoulder joint. Not as large as a pauldron.
Tassets -- Plates, usually attached via straps and buckles to the bototm of a breast plate, that provide extra defence for the thighs.
Vambrace -- Armour covering the lower arm from the wrist to the elbow.
Vervelles -- Staples which attach a curtain of mail around the base of a helmet, especially the basinet.
Zischagge -- A cavalry helm popular all over Europe in the late 1600's, sometimes called a "lobstertail burgonet". Main features included a domed skullpiece (often fluted), a long adjustable nasal defence, and a neck guard consisting of several lames, or plates.


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