The Development of the 14th C. Spaulder
Shoulder defenses in 14th Century Germany
As in many places on the continent, mercenary crossbowmen and infantry were important factors in warfare and this is believed to be the cause of greater usage of rigid defenses. However, Germany appeared to have very minimalistic defenses for the shoulder, appearing late in the comparative development even then. It will be noted that some examples of German armour are located in what is modern-day France. This is probably because parts of north eastern France were part of The Empire at the time.38
Epaulettes appear on effigies throughout the century39 and appear to have remained the primary shoulder defense throughout that time.40 Arm defenses up to 1350 appear to consist of epaulettes and the maille sleeve/gauntlet cuff. From 1350 forward frequent examples41 sporting arm defenses such as in Figures 46 and 47 appear alongside the epaulettes (though earlier examples are also not unknown). These are of the famed “splinted” variety, which feature iron splints affixed to a leather backing.42 The design is not exclusive to Germany (the legs on Figure 8 as an example), but usually associated with it due to the frequency of its appearance in German art. One of the noteworthy aspects of German armour of this time seems to be the prolonged usage of the surcoat and what is probably a closely related garment, the jerkin.43 Additionally, there are frequently short, scalloped sleeves which appear to be part of the coat-of-plates but do not appear to have any additional defensive qualities illustrated in most cases.44
Scandinavia, by all appearances, had very similar trends to their German counterparts with the evidence therein lending assistance to the assessment of German armour trends.45
Figure 41 is a statue of a member of the Gent family (Stonework Museum, Gent, Belgium) of about 1340. His shoulders are protected by what appear to be epaulettes. Whether he wears a coat-of-plates beneath his surcoat is unknown.
Figure 42 is a carved figure of “Guards at the Holy Sepulchre” (Musee Oeuvre Notre Dame, Strasbourg, France) from 1345. The figure is wearing what appears to be a front-lacing jerkin over a coat of plates (visible through the arm holes of the jerkin) and has epaulettes at the shoulder.
Figure 42 is that of Ulrich de Werd of 1345 (Church of St. William, Strasbourg, France). His only visible arm defense is really the cuff of his gauntlets, which vanish into the sleeve of his maille shirt. His surcoat, which has some degree of sleeves, is believed to cover a coat of plates.46 The bulge visible at his shoulder and covered by his surcoat is possibly a defense for the shoulder, and if present, is likely an epaulette.
Figure 43 features Rudolfs IV of 1348 (Furstenkapelle, Lichtental bie Baden-Baden). He appears to have sleeves of a coat-of-plates or surcoat peeking out of the jerkin he wears, which laces up the front. The shoulder defenses, if any, could be obscured by this. His arms are defended by what are probably rudimentary attempts at splinted armour, seen in a more developed form in Figures 46 and 47.
Figures 44 and 45 feature carvings from “Sleeping Guards at the Holy Sepulchre ” of the mid-14th C. (Franconia). Both figures wear what appears to be a coat of plates or surcoat, with an epaulette peeking out from beneath the aventail.
Figure 46 features the effigy of Gunther von Schwarzburg (Cathedral, Frankfurt-am-Main) of about 1350. No shoulder protection is visible, but the possibility of a coat-of-plates with epaulettes being hidden beneath a surcoat remains.
Figure 47 is an engraved funerary slab of Gilles de Hamal of Holland (church, Herren-Elderen, Netherlands) from 1354. As with many figures, he features a jerkin (this time very short) worn over a coat-of-plates which appears to have short, capped sleeves, into which his arm defenses vanish.
While the overriding trend was for epaulettes or even just the sleeve of the coat-of-plates, surcoat, or jerkin, there are other less prevalent examples. The statue of St. George in Prague47 has a defense that appears much like Figure 20 with what appears to be a multi-piece defense riveted together to form a single piece, though it is clearly still an epaulette in basic form. It is in fact contemporary to Figure 20, being from 1373.
There is also compelling evidence of the usage of a scale armour defense for the body, which also lends protection to the shoulders.48 This is supported by the find of lamellar armour in the Wisby graves,49 which is similar in its construction of many small plates. The existence of this example is not empirical, but is indicative of the varieties possible in this region, which in general reflected styles of armour in contemporary use which appear somewhat dated compared to other areas.
Acknowledgements, Bibliography and Figures
I have scanned many images from many books for this article, and none have been with permission. It is my hope that by giving credit where credit is due, and the fact that this article is provided free of charge on a site that is not-for-profit, that this trespass will be forgiven.
European Arms and Armour, Ashdown, Charles H.; Barnes & Noble Books, 1995 (originally published 1909)
European Armour c. 1066 to c. 1700, Blair, Claude; London: B.T. Batsford, Ltd., 1958 (reprints in 1972 and 1978)
An Historical Guide to Arms & Armour, Bull, Stephen; New York: Facts on File, 1991
Arms & Armour of The Medieval Knight, Edge, David and John Miles Paddock; New York: Crescent Books, 1988
Arms and Armour of the Crusading Era, 1050-1350: Western Europe and the Crusader States, Nicolle, David C.; Greenhill Books/Lionel Leventhal, 1999
Techniques of Medieval Armour Reproduction, Brian Price; Paladin Press, 2000-2002
Armour from the Battle of Wisby, Thordeman, Bengt; Chivalry Bookshelf, 2001 (originally published in 1939)
The Book of the Medieval Knight, Turnbull, Stephen; New York, Crown Publishers, 1995
Leather and the Warrior: an account of the importance of leather to the fighting man from the time of the ancient Greeks to World War II, Waterer, John W.; The Museum of Leathercraft, 1981
Figures from European Arms and Armour:
1- page 119; 2- page 141; 3- page 145; 4- page 152; 5- page 153; 14- page 159; 17- page 175; 18- page 181; 19- page 181; 22- page 177; 23- page 170; 24- page 191; 25- page 175; 26- page 178
Figures from European Armour c. 1066 to c. 1700:
20- page 57
Figures from An Historical Guide to Arms & Armour:
9- page 56; 10- page 57; 11- page 58; 12- page 59; 13- page 63; 21- page 64
Figures from Arms & Armour of The Medieval Knight:
8- page 75; 15- page 68; 38- page 75; 39- page 75; 40-page 75
Figures from Arms and Armour of the Crusading Era, 1050-1350: Western Europe and the Crusader States:
6- page 399; 7- page 399; 27- page 474; 28- page 479; 29- page 479; 31- page 502; 32- page 502; 33- page 502; 34-page 502; 35- page 474; 36- page 484; 37- page 502; 40- page 451; 41- page 450; 42- page 448; 43- page 448; 44- page 448; 45- page 449; 46- page 449; 47- page 448
Figures from The Book of the Medieval Knight:
16- page 43
Figures from Leather and the Warrior:
Figure 30- page 63
Nicolle, page 167
Thordeman; examples not pictured here include figures 102; 316-317 (about 1360-70); 318-323 (about 1350); 324-325 (1340); 326 (died 1280, effigy dated 1350-1360); 328 (died 1320, effigy dated 1350-60); 329 (1370); 333 (1373); and 336 (1386).
Blair, page 64
Thordeman; most clearly figures 316-317 (1360-70); 326 (1350-60); 327 (1359); 329 (1370).
There are no survivals of this type of armour to my knowledge. It is assumed that the splints are most frequently on the outside, at least in this region, as the lines on examples such as Thordeman’s figure 316 seem to make very clear. This type of construction is seen elsewhere in limb defenses, but with the plates attached to the inside of a fabric defense like a coat-of-plates, as on Figure 17.
Nicolle; this term appears to be used to denote a sleeveless garment worn over or instead of a surcoat. I am not sure in what circumstances Nicolle decides it is appropriate.
Thordeman, page 324; the rivet pattern of the coat-of-plates defense on figure 341 is replicated on his sleeve, indicating possible reinforcement in that case.
Thordeman; his comparative analyses of armour of other regions, particularly Germany, vs. the Wisby finds has been of great assistance in finding and establishing good examples to work from.
Nicolle, page 192; the attachment of chains to the chest supports the idea for a rigid backing and is consistent with other suspected examples.
Thordeman, page 319
Thordeman, page 303
Thordeman, Armour #25 (plates 133 through 145)