There was a transitional period of armour design that took place from the 15th century until the 16th century when armour design changed from the traditionally recognisable plain looking plate armour of the ‘stereotypical knight in shining armour to more detailed, elaborate and sophisticated designs of armour.
Maximilian armour was a style of plate armour which became popular during the 16th century just after the medieval period. At the time, a number of German cities were the major centres of plate armour manufacturing and it was from these centres of production that the Maximilian style of armour spread to other parts of Europe as well.
A notable aspect of the Maximilian armour was that it attempted to combine the aesthetic outlook of regular dress with the military efficiency of solid plate armour.
The Maximilian armour reportedly took its name from Emperor Maximilian I for whom the earliest body of such armour was made.
Alternatively, other historical sources suggest that this specific style of armour derived its name from Maximilian II who was the last notable person to have commissioned the construction of such armour.
In the 15th century, Italy and Germany emerged as the two major centres of plate-armour making. The German-style of armour-making focused more on the durability of armour while the Italian style incorporated different aesthetic embellishments.
By the beginning of the 16th century, armour styles incorporating both German and Italian elements had started coming into being full plate Maximilian armour.
This culminated around 1515 when the earliest Maximilian armour began to be produced. The age of the Maximilian armour was short-lived, with this style of armour going out of fashion by the 1530s.
The overall outlook of a Maximilian armour combined the aesthetic elements of contemporary dressing fashion with the military needs of solid plate armour. The result was a kind of plate armour which incorporated different stylistic elements in its outlook.
Maximilian armour was typically made from steel and a number of flutings were added along the edges of different armour pieces. On one hand, these flutings served to give the armour almost a dress-like outlook.
On the other hand, they may have aided in deflecting the attacks of an opponent’s weapon more effectively. Common features of the Maximilian armour included the use of armets, sharp-waisted cuirasses, sabatons, narrow and parallel designs of fluting and close helmets. Decorative etching was also a common feature of the Maximilian armour.
Maximilian armour became popular at a time when gothic armour was extensively used throughout Western Europe. Although the two styles of armour had many similarities, they were vitally different in many aspects.
One of the key differences between the two was the design of the breastplate. Maximilian armour used a single-piece breastplate while gothic armour used a two-piece breastplate.
The pauldrons in the gothic armour were smaller while in the Maximilian armour, they were designed to be larger.
Maximilian armour came to be used at a time when artillery weapons were becoming increasingly popular on European battlefields.
This specific style of armour, although formidable on the battlefield, also incorporated stylistic elements which were essentially useless in combat and served simply as for dressing aesthetics.
Due to the impractical aspects of the armour and the rapid changes in battlefield technologies, Maximilian armour is generally considered to have remained militarily significant only from 1515 to around 1530.
It then declined in use and was occasionally commissioned by rich noblemen as an antique piece of plate armour.