European Armour

(A= Byzantine Calvaryman 10-11 Cent. B=West European Knight mid-13 Cent. C=German Knight mid-14 Cent.)

(Image taken from Nicolle, xvii)

Contrary to the commonly held assumption of crusading knights riding into battle in full plate armour, the majority of crusaders wore chain mail. It was not until the 14th and 15th centuries that full suits of armour developed.



The crusaders used coifs as well as the Muslims. Some of their headgear consisted of Chapel-de-fer war-hats, a type of wide brimmed hat. It was more suited to the climate than the conical shaped helmets with nose guards that were common throughout much of the crusades. However, the helmets were useful for battle; the conical shape was the most practical defense for the head since it would leave a glancing surface for the downward stroke of an attack. Other headgear included close fitting round helmets, "kettle hats" or broad brimmed flat iron hats, and arming caps which could be worn under the helmet or separately. By the late-13th century the Great Helm had been developed. This helm included a face guard and neck guard which gave it a cylindrical form with a flat top (Reid, 43; Nicolle, 328 and 807).


The mail hauberk was the typical protection for the crusader's body. This was simply a mail shirt that reached to the knees, with either long or elbow length sleeves. Under the Hauberk was worn a padded or quilted shirt, called a gambeson or aketon, to protect the knight's body from the metal. For foot soldiers, this was often their only defense. Over the top of the hauberk would be worn a surcoat, a type of overcoat or cloth covering that served many purposes. It protected the mail from getting wet as well as displaying the coat of arms in order to tell friend from foe. Hauberks were very protective, but extremely heavy and may have slightly restricted one's movements in battle (Oakeshott, 266-273; Bradford, 100).

Mail was made by drawing the metal out into wire. It was then wrapped around a rod of the required diameter and cut into open-ended circlets. The open ends were flattened and riveted together as the links were interwoven (Bradford, 98; Ffoulkes, 44-47).

Arms and Legs

Mail leggings, called chausses, were often used to protect the leg. Poleyns, a kind of protective knee-cap laced on from behind, also served this purpose. Some mail made for the legs was not in the form of leggings, but rather laced up from behind to protect the front of the legs. Mounted warriors (generally, the knights) wore spurs as well. Unlike their Islamic counterparts, crusaders also developed mail mittens to protect the hands. This would have been acceptable for fighting with swords or lances; however, the adaptation would have been restrictive to the Muslim warriors who were masters of mounted archery (Nicolle, 600; Bradford, 97; Oakeshott, 267).


The shields of the crusaders were generally triangular in shape. The kite-shaped shield was in use for much of the Crusades, though some people preferred a flat top. The guige strap was a long strap used to carry the shield on one's back. It was riveted on the upper right-hand corner and lower on the left with a buckle which would allow for adjusting the length. The enarmes were straps used to hold the shield in the left hand while in use. The left forearm was thrust through two straps, and the hand gripped the third smaller strap for more control (Oakeshott, 275).

Horse Armour

Horse armour gradually developed by the 14th century. During the times of the crusades, horses wore only a caparison, a coat of cloth similar to a knight's surcoat. It would bear the coat of arms of the knight and may have been padded or quilted to give the horse extra protection. By the mid-13th century, mail was regularly worn by the horse under the caparison (Oakeshott, 279-281).