BoAr: Gallery: Surcoat            Latest edit 23 Jul 2009.   

Text, page and Winchester picture ©R.J.PENHEY 2007.              Other pictures by courtesy of Wikipedia.



 Hauberks and Surcoats (Thirteenth Century)

The large picture is of a low-relief carving which is believed to be from one of the minster churches, formerly on the site of the present Cathedral at Winchester. Statue de saint maurice, cathedral de Magdebour (Allemagne), Milieu du XIIIe siècle.At first sight, it has features which place it in the same period as the statue of St Maurice, in Magdeburg Cathedral. That dates from the mid-thirteenth century and seems to show a similar short-sleeved surcoat. Each represents a soldier in a mail hauberk, or an haubergeon in the Winchester case,  which shows only on his arms to his wrists. In the Magdeburg case, there are gauntlets beyond this. However, closer inspection shows that Maurice is wearing plate armour on his torso. This may also be true of the Winchester figure but the damage makes the breastplate hard to make out. The Gesta Herwardi, Chapter X (written in the twelfth century, of an incident in the mid-eleventh) refers to such a corselet (... atque insuper loricam nimiæ levitatis...) but this could have been of leather, the material from which a cuirass takes its name but the one shown to Hereward is compared with steel and iron, leaving an impression that it was made of metal. Haubergeon is often spelled ‘habergeon’ and corselet, ‘corslet’ (OED).


Below the haubergeon, the Winchester figure has a pair of breeches, probably of leather and over it, a chequered surcoat. It is possible that the chequered pattern is intended to represent scale armour but this explanation is less than convincing. (Contrast the representation of Dacian armour on Trajan’s Column but compare the pattern with that of the entertainer’s coat at the foot of folio 84 r. in the Luttrell Psalter. This appears also as a monochrome detail in Camille p.155.)


Image:Morgan Bible 28r detail.jpgThe means of removing a hauberk. This is an illustration of the story of the future King David’s rejection of armour when fighting Goliath. From the Morgan Bible.




Contre sceau de LouisVII le jeune(1137-1180) en 1141Counter seal of Louis VII of France (1137-80) dated 1141. Click on the picture to enlarge it. As here, the Bayeux Tapestry shows the most prominent men, like Duke William of Normandy, wearing mail armour also on their legs and feet.  



Go to Cleveland Museum of Art’s detail picture of ring mail.


A battle scene from the Cotton manuscripts, Claudius B. IV, fol. 24v, dated about 1030, shows several soldiers fighting, among them, four kings. Only one of the kings is clearly wearing armour. This is in the form of a scale hauberk (GrapeW p.26.). The others have surcoats, though they and nearly all the soldiers have marks on their forearms which may indicate mail.