Saturday, April 18, 2020

Fashionable, Functional Protection --- Day 9/7

Walk: Hood
Distance: 3 Miles, Yoga Stretch

Medieval Knight and Horse in Battle Armor, Deering Family Galleries, Art Institute of Chicago
Medieval Knight and Horse in Sport Dress, Deering Family Galleries, Art Institute of Chicago

Perhaps being in shelter in place mode has Ciwt thinking about some of the ways people have protected themselves over the years.  And about her trip last Fall to the The Art Institute of Chicago where two armored figures on horseback dominate and energize the Deering Family Galleries of Medieval and Renaissance Art, Arms, and Armor.  

Standing near these armored men, all those movies with knights on horseback fade and a more real sense of the power and terror medieval warfare comes to the fore.  Also, as Ciwt looked more closely at the armor on display, she became more aware of the workmanship, brute and artistic, that went into each plated piece.

Armor for Nobleman in court of Queen Elizabeth I, forged steel and gilt, Royal Workshop, Greenwich, England

Only a high ranking English nobleman would have been granted a royal warrant for the privilege of ordering a suit of armor like all of those above.  And only such a man would have in a postion to pay for such armor; custom suits were the work of many craftsmen and expensive in the extreme.

Nor could this Knight have been in a hurry to receive his armor.  The process from being hand measured for the soft pattern of his suit  to the finished suit would take many months, at least six. Steel ingots used to make the plates needed to be imported from Ore Mountain in Austria, then at the mining site workers would smelt the iron ore with charcoal, next steel workers would fire the steel to red heat and begin shaping each individual piece.  Artists would craft the intricate, artistic designs, again in red hot conditions.

When the suit reached the Knight it would radiate status; the higher the quality of the workmanship, the more important was the Knight.  It would weigh approximately 50 pounds but also, by necessity, allow for quick movement. Any deviation from the custom pattern was extremely dangerous as it would interfere with the Knight's ability to fight and protect himself from two-handed swords, bows and arrows, crossbows, battl axes, mace, daggers, lances or whatever new weapons of war might be developed.  All in all, each commissioned suit of protective armor was a complex, near miracle of laborous, exacting, hand-tailored production.

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