Medieval shields, as the term suggests, had a definite purpose in protecting or shielding warriors, such as knights, archers or foot soldiers from all sorts of attacking weapons used during the Middle Ages. However, these shields also turned out to be useful as bludgeoning weapons too. With improvements in body armor a number of shields were also developed to complement them as a result.
Buckler Shield were small and light-weight shields that were used mainly by swordsman. As the Buckler shields were small and light they gave the fighter more manoeuvrability and could be held in one hand. Read more about the Buckler Shield >>
The Heater Shield was an important medieval shield that was mainly used by medieval swordsmen & medieval knights. You can often see the Heater Shield being used by Knights in medieval tournaments. Read more about the Heater Shield >>
Kite shields were popular with medieval foot-soldiers and cleverly designed to protect the flank of medieval soldiers on horseback. The kite shield shape was the same as a kite. Read more about the Kite Shield >>
The Pavise Shield was a large defensive shield that was used by medieval infantrymen like archers. The Pavise Shield offered great protection to infantrymen such as archers as they reloaded, rested or regrouped. Read more about the Pavise Shield >>
The targe shield was round in shape and was used extensively by medieval footsoldiers. The targe shield was quite light in weight in comparison to other shields and was commonly used in one-on-one combat. Read more about the Targe Shield >>
In early medieval times, the most common shield used was the ‘Hoplon’ created by the Greeks that were circular in shape and made from wood and bronze. These type of shields were developed based on earlier models that were made completely made from bronze.
Some of the early medieval shields that developed as a result of the Hoplon was the kite shieldbecause it was shaped in such a manner. The Kite shield provided body cover since chain-mail was the only type of armor used in the Early Medieval Period.
Early Buckler Shield With Fancy Design
Medieval Shields | 11th to 13th Century
The shields in the Middle Period of middle times were thebucklerand heater shields. While the former was carried by infantry troops and much smaller in size, the latter was used by jousting knights.
Among a number of shields that continued to be developed were the Pavise, Targe and Mantlet shield, these were the most popular shields during this period.
The Pavise shield was typically larger and rectangular in shape while it was commonly used by crossbowmen and archers.
The Targe shield was developed in Spain and was concave, they were made from iron or iron plated wood. Finally, the Mantlet was a large shield that was used to stop arrows and would usually be mounted on a wooden carriage while being protected by soldiers.
Training to use a Medieval Shield
It was important for soldiers to train for hours together so as to hone their skills when it came to using both the sword and shield in warfare. This was done by using a training device known as the Pell which was really a wooden stake driven into the ground.
During practice, soldiers would use a wooden sword known as the medieval baton. However, when the shield developed into an attacking weapon, this also became an aspect of practice when at the Pell.
Types of Medieval Shield
There were a number of types of shields that were developed during the Middle Ages and that differed in shape, size, thickness and material used. Apart from this, these types of shields were designed so to suit the purpose of either foot soldiers or knights.
A number of them were circular in shape apart from rectangular, kite and heater shaped types that were developed during the Late Middle Ages.
Early Medieval Fighting Practice Using small Buckler Shields
Medieval Shield Materials
The most common type of medieval shields were made from linden wood along with leather which covered both sides of shield itself.
Apart from this, other types of material used to make shields included wood, bark, metal, animal skins as well as wicker or basket work.
As a whole, the art of making shields always depended on two factors: its weight vs its ease of use on the battlefield.
Blacksmith’s Made Medieval Shields
The blacksmiths were the ones responsible for making both weapons (shields included!) as well as body armor.
Quite interestingly, for the entire period of the Middle Ages, it turned out to be an arms race of sorts. Not only were stronger and lighter weapons created for war but some of them were designed to pierce chain-mail.
This, in turn, led to plate armor which further resulted in the creation of thinner and sharper swords that could pierce plate armor and get into small openings.
Soldiers Medieval Shields
Given that the feudal system had knights, foot soldiers and archers apart from royalty, all of them used different medieval weapons which included shields. Apart from this, depending on which part of Europe they hailed from, different shields were used be it the Parma, Targa or even the Pavise as they were made in these regions.
Also, knights and the royalty used color and symbols to mark their shields as to be distinguished from others.
Medieval Shield Parts
There were three common parts associated with medieval shields namely the Enarmes, Bouche and the Boss. The Enarmes was a leather strap attached to the back of the shield and that was used by soldiers to carry the shield.
The Bouche was a notch that was cut on top of the shield so as to place the lance when jousting found on the Heater shield.
Finally, the Boss was located in the center of shield and helped to reinforce it to deal with attacking blows. This Boss part was made of wood or thick metal and was usually mounted on round shields.
Medieval Crusade Metal Shield used in the Holy Land Crusades
Medieval Shields of Knights
The heater and kite shields were the most common shields used by knights. This was for the simple reason that they were suited for those warriors on horseback, complemented their body armor adequately as well as being much smaller in size.
At some point during the Middle Ages, knights went on to omit shields and focused on solely using their weapons during battle.
Best Medieval Shields for Battle
Among the types of medieval shields at their disposal, both the kite and heater shields were the most effective types of shields used in battle. Known not only to protect the knights from attack but they could be used for deadly counters as well.
Not only were they strong but light and which meant that they could be used for faster movements on the battlefield but were less strenuous to wield too.
End of the Medieval Shield
Without a doubt, the shield not only served as a defensive measure against attack but could also be used to counter too. It was, for all practical purposes, a warrior’s best defense and without which, could render them vulnerable.
Of course, their use was rendered obsolete with the increase in use of gunpowder weapons in late medieval periods.