Forensic Fashion
(c) 2006-present R. Macaraeg


>Costume Studies
>>1494 German Ritter
SubjectRitter knight as Kriegsherr 'gentleman of war'
Culture: Imperial German
Setting: Holy Roman Empire, central Europe late 15thc
Evolution: ... > 1155 German Kreuzritter > ... > 1403 German Raubritter > 1494 Gothic German Ritter 

Context (Event Photos, Primary Sources, Secondary Sources, Field Notes)

* Gravett/McBride 1985 p22
"As the fifteenth century wore on it became usual for Kriegsherren or gentlemen of war to hire troops.  The authorities engaged 'pensioners' (Aüssoldner) to offset the power of the nobility, and paid them a small sum of half wages in time of peace.  In Bavaria these men received between ten and 25 florins annually for each horse.  The old aristocracy continued to supply the bulk of cavalry contingents and remained in positions of command.  By the end of the century the Habsburg Maximilian of Austria (Emperor from 1493) was employing knights as line officers and captains of Landsknechts, allowing a spark of chivalry to remain in his professional armies."


* Woosnam-Savage 2017 p58-61
"German armour evolved differently from the smoothly-rounded Italian style. Between about 1430 and 1450, German breastplates were box-like in shape and known therefore as the [K]astenbrust.
    "However the breastplate became more rounded and was made up of a single plate, or a fixed upper and lower plate. The breastplate had a deep waist plate, reflected in the backplate, and so often did not require tassets, and the waist itself became extremely slender. The narrow outline of the whole armour, with its very long, finely pointed extremities and gracefully curved plates embossed with flutes and ribs, was as much a fashion statement as practical defence.
    "This style, popular during the late 15th century, became known as 'Gothic' armour in the 19th century -- presumably because it was thought reminiscent of medieval 'Gothic' architecture with its finely pointed and fretted lines.
    "The ridges actually echoed the pleating of civilian doublets, as well as strengthening the plate itself.  The most expensive armours also had borders of applied gilt lateen (a copper alloy).
    "Armour from Germany was more symmetrical than Italian armour, extensions on the couters replacing the need for a shield.  Even the gauntlets became more accentuated with the cuff becoming pointed and the fingers bearing pointed gadlings over the knuckles.  This style was also reflected in the feet that were protected by extravagantly long, laminated sabatons, terminating in a long point, making them suitable for riding only.
    "A popular form of helmet in Germany, and elsewhere in northern Europe, was the sallet, which was in use by the early 1430s.  The sallet could be made from one piece with the sight cut into the front face or with a broad open face, over which a visor could be fixed.  By the mid-15th century an extended tail protected the nape of the neck adn from the 1480s this was sometimes made up of laminated plates."

* Wilkinson 1971 p66
"The German style of armor was one of the most attractive ever produced.  It first began to develop around 1460 and continued to be popular until the end of the fifteenth century, although it underwent minor modifications.  This armor, known as Gothic, was produced in Nuremberg, Augsburg, and Innsbruck among others.  The style is characterized by an elongated, slender outline and a decoration of points and fluting.  The fluting served the double purpose of giving extra strength to the plates and helping to deflect weapon points from vital areas.  Many of the pieces were wedged with brass.  The helmet most often worn was the sallet, and a throat-guard, the bevor, was worn as well.
    "The breast-plate was like its Italian counterpart, usually of two plates, whereas the top of the shoulder was protected by a series of curved metal plates, spaulders, and the armpit by a besagew.  Some armorers tended to exaggerate the style, and some armors had grotesque couters with enormous spikes.  Gauntlets had long, pointed cuffs, bearing the typical, graceful fluting and scalloped edges."

* Metropolitan Museum of Art > Stone Gallery of Arms and Armor
"German Fluted Armor  From about 1490 to 1510, substantial changes occurred in the design of German armor.  The slender, elongated forms of late Gothic armor gave way to more burly, rounded shapes that reflected the influence of the Italian Renaissance on German fashion.
    "A new type of armor developed in Germany around 1505.  It was characterized by parallel or radiating ridges and channels, known as fluting, that covered most of its surface.  While essentially decorative, the light-catching ridges also strengthened the steel plates without adding extra weight.  Because fluted armor emerged during the reign of Emperor Maximilian I (1493-1519), it has been called 'Maximilian-style' armor since the nineteenth century.   Its popularity was greatest in southern Germany and Austria, where the fashion lasted until the early 1530s.  Nuremberg was the leading producer of fluted armor, followed by Augsburg, Landshut, and Innsbruck.
    "Fluted armor was usually polished bright; but, on elaborate examples, the smooth areas between the ridges were sometimes blackened or filled with etched ornament." 

* Vuksic/Grbasic 1993 p90
"Unlike Italian armour, which had smooth rounded plates, German armour was covered with fluting, which recalled the broken arches of gothic architecture and, besides being decorative, reinforced the plates.  One of the greatest advantages of 'gothic' armour was that it was adapted to the human anatomy, offering maximum protection with minimum weight and limitation of movement.
    "... A whole gothic suit of armour was never more than 25 kg/55 lb in weight, and its plates were fastened to the corresponding body parts from the inside by leather straps, so that the weight was more evenly distributed and the armour more comfortable to wear.  The insides of the shoulder and arm joints were not covered by plates so as to permit maximum mobility; they were protected by mail.  But this was also its greatest weakness, as it could be pierced at these points with swords or daggers.  Another drawback was that, for easier movement, the helmet was not fastened to the shoulders, as with later models.  Thus, hard blows with clubs, swords or other weapons which were not sufficient to pierce the helmet were still enough to put the warrior out of combat, as the force of these blows was absorbed not by the shoulders but by the head.  Because of these deficiencies, gothic armour was replaced in the sixteenth century by heavier and more compact styles."

* Royal Armouries Leeds souvenir guide 2022 p4
"Gothic armours, fashionable in Germany in the late 15th century, are usually regarded as the pinnacle of the medieval armourer's art.  Slender and elegant, with attractive fluted decoration and cusped and scalloped edges, they represent the armourer's version of contemporary Gothic architecture."




* Talhoffer tr.ed. Rector 1998 p15 (Mark Rector, "Introduction" p9-19)
"Long Sword  The long sword, war sword, hand-and-a-half sword, or bastard sword is the chief weapon of Talhoffer's arsenal ....  The long sword is between four and four-and-a-half feet in length with a sharply tapering double-edged blade of diamond profile, a simple cross hilt, a fig-shaped pommel, and a handle long enough to be gripped with one or both hands.  This weapon is surprisingly light, capable of making blindingly fast attacks, and is suitable for both cuts and thrusts.  ... [T]he entire sword is used, either by gripping the blade with the off-hand for strong half-sword attacks, or reversing it to strike with the pommel or to employ the hilt as a hammer to batter through the opponent's defences."

Impact Weapons

* Edge/Paddock 1988 p128
"The mace and war hammer remained extremely popular secondary weapons.  These were often slung from the saddle by a leather thong and weighed between 2 and 5 pounds (0.9 to 2.2kg).  By the early fifteenth century maces were made entirely of iron and steel and were equipped with a disc to protect the hand.  These maces were between 20 and 24 inches (50 and 60cm) long and were much lighter and more elegant than their fourteenth century counterparts.  In keeping with the Gothic feel of the period, they often had sharply pointed flanges pierced to look like Gothic tracery."

* Encyclopedia of European historical weapons 1993 p148-149
"At about the mid-15th century the socket grew longer to finally produce an all-iron hilt, either tubular or faceted; there also appeared heads with ten to twelve flanges.  Late Gothic maces of c. 1500 feature flanges profiled in a more complex way, spiked on the hitting side and often pierced on the flat surface.  Hafts are often profiled with ribs and the grip at the bottom is confined within two discs. ...  In the 15th century the mace became a symbol of commanding authority and maintained this character in the decades to follow."