A knight of the middle ages was a powerful force on the battlefield, and one reason for this was his suit of armour. These suits evolved greatly over the years, until eventually a knight could claim head-to-toe protection. A knight's armour was nothing simple--each knight needed his own custom-made suit. A knight's suit could protect him from many weapons of medieval times, including swords, maces and arrows.
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A knight's suit of armour had several pieces designed to protect his head from the blows of enemy weapons. Knights wore an iron helmet called a bascinet. The helmet featured a removable piece of armour called a visor that protected a knight's eyes and face. The suit provided neck protection through the inclusion of chain mail, a type of armour made from small interlocked iron rings. A sheet of this, called an avantail, lay over the knight's neck.
A suit of armour protected a knight's body with large sheets of iron plating. He had a front plate protecting his chest called a breastplate, and another large piece of metal covering his back called a backplate. To protect his lower torso, a knight employed pieces of armour called faulds. Faulds were rings of metal armour which attached to the breastplate. Knights also carried a shield decorated with his family crest into battle.
Arm and Hand Protection
Knights needed their arms and hands to fight the enemy with their own weapons, so good protection of the hands and arms was critical. Suits of armour protected a knight's hands with iron gloves called gauntlets. Gauntlets provided finger mobility by protecting the fingers with overlapping rings of metal. A knight's upper arm bore a piece of armour called a rerebrace, while another piece called a vambrace protected his lower arm. To protect his armpits, a knight's suit featured small round pieces of armour called besagues, which were hooked to the chain mail under a knight's iron plating.
A knight wore iron plates over his boots to protect his feet. These plates, called sabatons, were the first part of the armour that a knight had to put on when he dressed. Iron plates protected the rest of a knight's lower body. His lower legs bore iron plates called greaves, and pieces called poleyns protected his kneecaps. Lastly, a knight's armour protected his thighs with iron plates called cuisses.
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