BoAr: Gallery: Surcoat
edit 23 Jul 2009.
Text, page and Winchester picture ©R.J.PENHEY 2007. Other
pictures by courtesy of Wikipedia.
Hauberks and Surcoats
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. 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
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.)
The 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
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.
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.