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Arms & Armor in Medieval & Renaissance Europe

"The Culture of Arms: Art, Arms, and Armor in Medieval and Renaissance Europe."

Ancient Greeks and Romans had refined the art of making armor and arms long before the Medieval era. Throughout Western history armor was associated with gods, heroes, historical events, and noble characteristics such as bravery, loyalty, self-sacrifice and solidarity. Armor, being a matter of life and death, had to be made with great skill, but it was also made with great art. Status, authority, wealth, and taste were expressed through a knight's armor and its embellishment was as important as elegance in courtly dress. These standards were important for centuries but from 1450 to 1650 European armor reached its high point in sophistication of manufacture and design and in decorative beauty.

Armor and arms were always regarded as valuable booty in war and were often displayed as victors' trophies. Panoplies of armor were collected and displayed by British monarchs, and systematic collecting of arms and armor was undertaken by the great rulers of the sixteenth century.

A common ideal suggested by armor is the chivalrous knight of the Middle Ages. Chivalry, as the name implies, was associated with horsemanship and decorative trappings for valuable war-horses could be even more elaborate than those of knights. Some aspects of decoration symbolized of position, e. g., gilt spurs could only be worn knights and other riders had to limit themselves to iron.

The principal weapon of the knight was the sword and its parts had symbolic value. The cruciform shape symbolized Christ's death, the pommel symbolized the world (and the king for whom the knight fought), the two edges and point stood for the three types of service--protecting the Church, fighting for the king, and protecting the common people.

Until 1350 mail was the common form of armor. Interlinked rings of steel formed garments offering great flexibility and considerable prot...

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