From Chainmail to Plate Armor: A Journey Through the Evolution of Medieval Armor.

The medieval period was a time of constant warfare, and armor played a crucial role in protecting knights and soldiers from enemy weapons.

Norman Knight Kite Shield
Norman Knight Holding a Kite Shield

“The development of medieval armor was a reflection of the changing nature of warfare and the need for better protection. From the early days of chainmail to the full plate armor of the Late Middle Ages, armor evolved to meet the challenges of combat.”

Kelly DeVries, historian of medieval warfare.

Over the centuries, armor evolved from simple leather and mail garments to full plate suits of armor, becoming more sophisticated and effective in the process.

Collection Knights Helmet Armor

In this article, we will explore the evolution of medieval armor and its role in shaping the history of warfare.

Early Medieval Armor

At the beginning of the medieval period, armor was simple and often made of leather or cloth. The most common type of armor was chainmail, which consisted of thousands of interlocking rings that could be sewn together to form a protective garment.

Chainmail was effective against slashing and cutting weapons, but provided little protection against thrusting weapons like spears and arrows.

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High Medieval Armor

As the medieval period progressed, armor became more sophisticated and specialized. Knights began to wear plate armor, which consisted of large metal plates that were riveted or strapped together to form a complete suit of armor.

“The evolution of armor was not just about protection, but also about identity. Knights and nobles used their armor to display their wealth and status, and to project an image of power and authority.”

Tobias Capwell, curator of arms and armor at the Wallace Collection.


Plate armor provided better protection than chainmail, especially against thrusting weapons, but was heavier and more expensive to produce.

Knights falchion sword plate armour helmets

Late Medieval Armor

By the late medieval period, armor had reached its peak in terms of sophistication and effectiveness. Full suits of plate armor, including helmets, gauntlets, and greaves, became standard for knights and nobles. These suits of armor were often decorated with intricate designs and heraldic symbols, reflecting the status and wealth of their owners.

“Medieval armor was not just a passive piece of equipment, but an active part of the knight’s body. It required skill and training to wear and move in, and was integral to the martial art of chivalry.”

David Crouch, historian of medieval chivalry.
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“The evolution of armor was also driven by the development of new weapons, such as the longbow and the crossbow, which required better protection against ranged attacks.”

Ian Peirce, author of The Knight and the Blast Furnace.

The Decline of Armor

Despite its effectiveness, armor began to decline in the late medieval period, as new weapons and tactics made it less useful. Firearms, for example, could penetrate even the thickest plate armor, while pikes and other long weapons made it difficult for heavily armored soldiers to maneuver on the battlefield.

“The rise of gunpowder weapons in the early modern period marked the end of the era of medieval armor, as it became less effective against firearms. However, the legacy of medieval armor lived on in the symbolic and cultural associations of knighthood and chivalry.”

Robert Jones, historian of medieval culture.
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Pikemen winning Battle


The use of full plate armor became commonplace in Europe during the 14th and 15th centuries, particularly during the Late Middle Ages. The development of full plate armor was a gradual process that took centuries, and it evolved from simpler forms of armor like chainmail and plate-and-mail armor.

By the end of the Middle Ages, full plate armor had become the standard for knights and nobles, and it remained in use until the advent of firearms made it less effective in battle.

Knights Armor Parts
Image that details different parts of a knights armor