The Holy Roman Empire was a vast and diverse Empire that existed in central Europe from the 10th century until the 19th century. Through most of its period of existence, authority of the Emperor was limited and power was mostly decentralised through the many constituent territories of the Empire. As a result, the notion of a single standing army for the Empire never took off.
Rather, an army was brought together whenever the Empire faced a threat and the might of this army usually depended on the extent to which the nobles in the Empire were loyal to the reigning Emperor. Due to the diverse nature of the troops constituting the Empire’s army, the weapons and armour used by them also varied significantly. However, given the prowess of central European territories in producing quality plate armour, most of the troops were armed with high-quality armour.
Armour production became a major industry in the German-speaking territories of the Empire, especially from 14th century onwards.
Armour Production in the Empire
Armour production became a major industry in the German-speaking territories of the Empire, especially from 14th century onwards. By 15th century, a number of German cities were producing armour not only for the Empire’s troops and the Imperial Army but also exporting it to other nations.
A number of famous workshops became established in different parts of the Empire during this period. Notable among these was the imperial workshop established at Innsbruck that directly supplied armour to the Emperor and his court. Armour production in the Empire during this period was often a familial business, running in the family as a special expertise over subsequent generations. The most notable type of armour produced in the Holy Empire and used by the Empire’s troops on the battlefield was plate armour.
Gothic Plate Armour
Gothic plate armour is a general name given to the special plate armour that was produced in the Holy Roman Empire from 14th to 16th centuries. Sub-types of this armour were called white armour and Maximilian armour. In the 15th century, the white armour was produced by the German armourers in the Empire.
This type of armour was high-quality metal armour made with movable joints and highly effective on the battlefield. In the 16th century, the Empire’s armourers produced the Maximilian armour which was more elaborate.
Maximilian armour was a type of Gothic plate armour that became widespread in the Holy Roman Empire during the early 16th century. The standout features of this type of armour are its enhanced strength and its decorative outlook. The Maximilian armour was produced with squared sabatons, slim-waisted cuirasses and a helmet with bellow visor.
The armour was further made with a number of flutings which furnished the decorative element and were also very useful in deflecting weapons from the armour’s surface. The armour was so named because it was first made for the Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian I which led to its popularity in the early part of the century. The Maximilian armour was the Empire’s hallmark armour of an era when plate armour was beginning to be used not just for battlefield use but also as a veritable piece of art and dressing.