Insights from Historical Artwork

There are several interesting things in this illumination from the mid 13th century Maciejowski Bible. The center rider wields a unique weapon.  It is a large, two-handed, hilt-less, straight-backed, falchion-like blade to shear through the mail armor and waist of another rider, spilling his entrails. The blade has a long "ricasso" and deep fuller.  Behind them a knight cuts through the helmet and head of an opponent, cleaving down deep into the head. Below a dead warrior shows large wounds through his mail to the shoulder and wrist. A severed head (with mail coif) lies nearby. On the far left, a footman armed with a dagger (?) holds out a curved heater shield from what must be a center grip. The various warriors wear mail skirts, with and without leggings, as well as leather jerkins. Head armor consists of five differnet types from simple coifs to both open and closed helms. One rider carries a small heater shield and lance.  In considering the legitimacy of historical artwork on combat, always consider the context of the artwork, who produced it, who it was for, and what it was supposed to actually be illustrating.  Keep in mind that as this illustration depicts "heroic" Biblical events of "antiquity" the wounds may be questionable. Yet, on the other it does show the equipment and figures realistically and in considerable detail. While axes are known to be capable of doing this kind of damage to 13th century helms and mail, the reliability of the wounds shown with the swords blows is debatable. Also note that with weapons penetrating mail, the mail links are being split, cracked, and torn open rather than actually being "cut". Mail armor also varied considerably in its quality and style.

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