Middle Ages Armor- Knights and Armor in the Middle Ages

Middle Ages armor was used to protect the knights who wore them. During the Middle Ages (about 476 to 1453), armor that fit the wearers well was preferred because it spread weight evenly over the whole body. This meant that the knight could move more comfortably while fighting instead of trying to compensate for armor that was too heavy in one place. Gambesons (pads) helped to ease the weight.

Unlike some of the conquistadors who came later on, the knights were not likely to go without armor. Some conquistadors would fight without full armor because that allowed them to move more freely. That was important for soldiers who were fighting against citizens of foreign lands on foot. They could not rely on horses to quickly move them out of the path of their enemies.

Knights of the middle ages tended to look the same, to an extent. They were usually mounted on horseback and could wear tassets (plates) to protect their thighs, mail skirts to guard their lower bodies and a helmet (sallet) to guard their face. They fought using lances (spears), swords, battle axes and maces.

Middle Ages Armor

Middle Ages Armor

Knights protected their joints and limbs by wearing gear such as gauntlet cuffs and couters to guard their elbows against the blows of a weapon. Middle ages armor did not change much. Minor innovations were made every few decades or so when the weapons improved. The basic armor was always a full chain mail shirt (hauberk). This hauberk sometimes extended to the knees. Like most tight, fitted garments, the haurberk was built with splits at the sides so that the knight could move more freely and ride comfortably.

Less money was spent on Spanish conquistador armor and weapons for the average soldier. The Spanish conquistadors were hated as much for the brutality with which they took possession of the lands that were owned by others, as the fact that they stole land for the governments of Spain and Portugal. This disdain can still be seen at places like the burial site of Pedro de Alvarado. The section of the cathedral that houses his remains is currently in ruins.

Spanish conquistadors such as Herman Cortes and Pedro de Alvarado in the 1500s had different types of armor. The weapons they used depended mostly on their wealth and connections. Unlike the knights dressed in Middle Ages armor, conquistadors did not generally look the same. Only those with high rank and lots of money could afford to wear full plate armor. Some conquistadors also adjusted their armor to suit the climate of foreign lands.


1. “Knights Arms and Armor”, http://preachan.tripod.com/knights1.html

2. “Burial Site of Pedro de Alvarado”, http://jtrader.hubpages.com/hub/Burial-Site-of-Pedro-de-Alvarado-in-Antigua-Guatemala