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