"What is medieval armor?" is an interesting question! This armor was a type of armor used in the Middle Ages. Unlike other types of armor, it covered not only the body but most of the limbs and head. A fully-covered suit, often called "full plate," consisted of a breastplate, backplate or corset, shoulder defense, and gauntlets all fastened together at the arms by rings. Many suits also included leg defenses for the knees and shins called greaves (one or both) as well as sabatons.

These suits were constructed from steel, leather, or iron with some made to be lighter in weight by using less metal than others. Although most suits of armor could be used by a warrior on foot, some suits were made for use on horseback. In this case, a man called a "bascinet" would be used to protect the face and neck from battle wounds such as cuts.

With the development of the handgun, lighter body armor was developed to combat it. The new armor was commonly known as brigandine or jack-of-plate. It consisted of pieces of metal put together and worn over cloth padding. The plate was worn over layers of wool or linen that protected against smaller weapons such as cool knives and arrows.

Types of Medieval Armor

What was medieval armor made of and how did it change over time? This armor is one of the most essential pieces of a knight's equipment. It provided protection from weapons and from the weather, allowing medieval knights to fight in any season. 

This armor largely consisted of metal plates sewn together with leather straps, though some armor also featured mail or scale armors — either metal scales or iron rings attached to a heavy wooden chest piece. The materials for each piece changed slightly over time, according to what was available and what worked best in battle. Here are different types of this armor:

  • Chain Mail

While chain mail was not the most effective armor against sharp metal weapons, it was useful in medieval battle because it often stopped arrows. Chain armor consisted of metal rings attached to a cloth or leather vest. Chain mail vests were usually worn beneath other pieces of armor and only covered the torso.

The rings of chain mail could be linked together by riveting or by being soldered shut and then flattened into tabs with a hammer so that they could be sewn onto a cloth vest.  It did not take long to manufacture chain armor — only about two hours — so it was very affordable to both soldiers and knights. Chain mail was often used in combination with other armor, such as helmet (or "helmet" in this case) and plate armor.

  • Plate Armor

Forged from iron and finished with a layer of metal, a quality suit of plate armor would take weeks to make if not months. It was usually made from several pieces of iron that could be riveted together or soldered shut. 

These plates were also hammered flat with a hammer so that they could be attached to a cloth vest or piece of chainmail. Chain mail could be fitted over plate leg armor, but it would reduce the knight's defense capabilities against sharp weapons because it made him more vulnerable to stabs. 

  • Mail Armor

Mail was a metal fabric to be sewn or riveted to leather. Mail and chain armor were both used in wars, but mail was usually worn under plate armor or chain mail. The mail would be made from iron rings that were riveted together, stamped flat, and then attached to a cloth vest with wooden buttons. 

A hefty amount of time and effort went into making the iron in the rings, shaping them so they would fit together, and linking them together with metal laces. Some mail armors consisted of chain mail built into like an overcoat. The mail could be worn beneath or over other arm armor, depending on the wearer's protection needs. Mail wore out easily and was often replaced or repaired during a campaign.

A "saice" is a light form of chain mail that was usually worn with plates covering the upper legs and torso. Saices may have been worn to protect chain mail from wear and tear under a knight's gorget armor or to increase their defense against arrows when they were not wearing plate armor. 

  • Helmets

Nasal helmets, "Sallets," and heaumes (or "kettle hats") were three types of helmets used in medieval times that began appearing in the late 14th century.

  1. Nasal helmets were also known as Mankerhelms, named after the German city of Mettingen. The earliest ones were made with a nasal piece, or a large piece of metal at the front, that covered the nose and allowed the wearer to breathe easily. These helmets eventually gave way to more extravagant nasal helms, which were large pieces of metal attached to the head by hinges. 
  2. Sallets (also called "kettle hats") were used with nasal helmets or without them. They could be made from either iron or brass and featured a distinctive shape, such as a pot with a lid on top or an open bell-shaped helmet.
  3. Heaumes (or "calvaria") are a type of early medieval helmet that featured a fastening mechanism, which made for easier adjustment. Heaumes may have been the first type of armored helmet designed in the late 1350s in Nuremberg. The triangular headpieces of heaumes were attached to a helmet by hinges and could be adjusted up and down.

The combination of maille-clad chain-mailed limbs with metal plate armor had become the most common form of Medieval armor by the middle of the 15th century. However, it fell out of favor for many years as steel weapons became common. However, the development of firearms and improved warships meant that total war required new organizational forms and specialized equipment. 

The advent of gunpowder and guns led to a change in tactics, as light cavalry could no longer be relied upon to rout pikemen in open order. Inevitably, a hybrid of heavy plate armor for cavalry (or heavily-protected foot soldiers) with lighter armor for the musketeers became standard practice. It was not until the nineteenth century that this convention began being questioned, as steel and iron replaced maille.

Effectiveness of Medieval Armor

Medieval armor was designed to protect the body and then some. Its many uses included being a symbol of prestige, especially for royalty, or maybe even as an additional hand-hold when scaling castle walls. This armor often varied in shape, depending on the era and use, but all of them functioned as protective outerwear with varying degrees of safety. This article will explore what medieval armor is used for today.

The vast number of uses has led to an array of designs that have since been adapted into modern military and civilian gear. Nowadays many people are interested in the different aesthetics this armor offers but need to figure out where to pick up some goodies from (the Internet has more options than you could possibly imagine). But, if you're looking to keep it as authentic as possible, you should also be aware that many of the replica cuirasses available online are inspired by other armor types. 

For example, medieval weapons like arbalests and poleaxes weren't introduced until the 14th century. While there were certainly some trends that spread among European knights during this era (most notably plate armor), there was still variance in terms of their gear. In fact, the only given is that these men were all equipped with medieval shields and real swords.

Another important note to remember is that the actual function of the armor varied from soldier to soldier. Spanish heavy knights had a higher defensive value while English longbowmen preferred arrows over metal broadheads. So even if you're looking at a replica of a specific medieval armor type, keep in mind that it was originally designed for use by more than one person (which means its main purpose might not have been fighting). This can be applied to just about any replica available today.