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MEDIEVAL ARMS AND ARMOR

AT THE METROPOLITAN MUSEUM OF ART

BY JULIA CARCICH


The arms and armor on display at the Metropolitan Museum of Art on 82nd and 5th in New York City are a beautiful collection of tools used for survival from the end of the Roman Empire to the present (Nickel 8). As tools of survival, the arms and armor shown were used by people to hunt for food and to protect the land (Nickel 5). Arms and armor quickly became valuable to collect because they were symbols of heroes of the past as well as works of art. Artists such as Leonardo da Vinci designed beautiful suits of armor (Nickel 6). Among the great collectors of arms and armor was King Charles VIII of France. His collection is said to have included the sword of Lancelot and that of Joan of Arc (Nickel 6-7).

The collection of arms and armor of the Middle Ages exhibited at the Metropolitan Museum of Art had evolved from a more primitive state. Because the crossbow had been improved upon, the knight of the Middle Ages could no longer wear the armor made of interlocking rings called mail. The improved crossbow could now easily penetrate the mail armor. So, the knight from 1350 on wore steel plated armor. Because the steel plated armor could protect the knight from projectiles, the shield was no longer needed. However, because the knight was used to leading with his shield, which was held on his left side, and therefore used to being hit on his left side, the new steel plated armor had to be constructed with that in mind. On the new design the left plate of the armor overlapped the right (Nickel 14-15).

Armor was not easily made in the past. It took many skilled men to create a knight's soul form of protection. Each man working on the construction of one suit of armor had a special task (Nickel 16). Not only did a suit of armor have to be created for a knight, but also for the knight's horse (Nickel 19).

These skilled craftsmen, who created suits of armor for the knight and his horse to use in battle also had to create arms and armor for the knight to wear during a tournament. An example of this special type of tournament armor was a helmet which could be attached to the front and the back of a knight's suit of armor to prevent whiplash (Nickel 20).

All the different types of arms and armor described are on display permanently at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (Nickel).

Work Cited

Nickel, Helmut. Arms and Armor. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1991.

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