The Hauberk

The maille hauberk is a defensive garment that even today still continues to attract everybody's attention. It can be considered a piece of clothing made out of iron. Thousands of little iron rings are linked together in a certain pattern. This provides a very flexibel iron shirt.

Hauberk

hauberk

Maille hauberks existed in a number of different configurations. Long or short sleeves, with or without mittens, with or without attached hood, reaching to the middle, to the thigh or to the knees,.... People always tried to name those different garments and sort them according to the period in time in which they would have been used the most. But that makes no practical sense. Only a few hundred of medieval European hauberks have survived in museums, mostly dating from the 15th and 16th century (which is not even the Middle Ages anymore). The few maille garments (often not more than fragments) saved from the 14th century and earlier are very scarce.


hauberk

Also miniatures and other paintings, sculptures and even accounts and testaments can be used as a source. But here too we are too limited to justify such a division. Terminology and artistic interpretations are often regionally restricted and do not allow clear differentiation. It is possible to make a very rough division, but it is impossible to determine a hauberk just from its looks alone.

Same goes for the dimension and general shape of the rings. Round or flattened, big or small diameter, type of rivet,.... all can only be coupled to a certain period with very limited certainty. What are certainties then? The more rings, the more expensive. The larger, the more expensive. The smaller the rings, the more expensive. The more quality, the more expensive. All self-evident facts. Just like now there were goods available of high and not so high quality.


The hauberk on this page is a typical one for a knight. It reaches the knees and has long sleeves with integrated mittens. An expensive hauberk for 1302. At the same time however, a sergeant of a town militia could have worn a hauberk that only reached below the buttocks, had short sleeves and with rings of a larger diameter. Much cheaper.

hauberk


hauberk


What's the weight of such a thing then? For such a long, knightly hauberk, made out of authentic rivetted rings (each ring was closed by a seperate rivet), a weight of about eight to nine kilograms is normal. The hauberk shown here is made out of modern butted rings, which are heavier. It weighs 15 kilograms, but it isn't completely authentic.

Construction of the mittens

hauberk

hauberk

hauberk

hauberk

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Copyright on text, images and photos by Joris de Sutter, unless noted otherwise.
This information is provided by De Liebaart and was last updated on November 6th 2001.