Medieval Shield Design

A medieval shield was one of the most important components of medieval defensive armory and thus special attention was paid to it. During the middle and late medieval times, various innovative kinds of shields were made and new designs of the medieval shields were introduced.

This coincided with the rise of the feudal system and knighthood in Europe which further impacted the designs of medieval shields.

Feudalism The Feudal Pyramid Image

Feudalism in Europe image showing the Hierarchy of the Feudal system

Medieval Shield Design History

During early medieval times, there was not much variety in the design of the medieval shield. Actual innovations began to emerge during the middle medieval times and continued with increasing frequency during the late medieval times.

Knights Heater Shield

Knight Holding a Heater Shield

Various medieval shield designs that developed during this era included the mantlet shield which was a rather large shield and thus placed on the ground, the kite shield, heater shield, and others.

Mantlet Shield

Mantlet Shield *Similar to Pavise to make a defensive wall

Early Medieval Shield Design

The most common design of medieval shields during the early medieval times was a simple rounded shield design. This was a very simple kind of shield that did not have any coat of arms or any other identification. It was mainly made with light and non-splitting wood such as fir or poplar.

Early Wooden Medieval Knights Shield

Early Wooden Shield

After that, in the 10th century, the kite shield was introduced by the Normans which had a rounded top and tapered bottom.

Norman Shields Infantry with Kite Shields

A key advantage of a kite shield was that it was long enough to cover the lower body of the knight as well, securing his body from shoulders to the calf from potential injuries.

Middle Medieval Shield Design

After the Norman conquest of England in 1066, various medieval shield designs were introduced. It was during this time that the design of the kite shield was changed and the top of the shield was flattened. It was also during this time that painting a coat of arms onto the shields became increasingly common.

Medieval Shield Designs

Collection of different medieval shield designs

Late Medieval shield Design

By the time of the late medieval times, a variety of medieval shield designs were prevalent. Designs of medieval shields came to be associated with certain qualities. For instance, the helmet represented wise defense and the heart stood for chivalry and sincerity. Shields common to jousting knights were called heater shields which were smaller and used with full suits of armor.

Medieval Shields and Heraldry

Medieval Shields and Heraldry The Segar’s Roll

Best Knights shield Design

Knights during medieval times made use of a wide range of medieval shield designs. The most important component of the design of medieval shields used by knights was the coat of arms which served as identification. Kite-shaped shields remained the most popular medieval shield design but they varied with respect to their size and design.

Medieval Cavalry Shields of the KnightsTemplars

Kite shields became popular among European cavalry units from the 10th century onwards.

Best Medieval Infantry Shield Designs

The most common type of shield used by infantrymen during medieval times was called the Pavise Shield. It was a large rectangular-shaped shield design and had a central ridge that ran vertically down the middle of it.

Pavise Shield

A Pavise was a type of shield used by medieval crossbowmen

The large size of this shield served as protection for crossbowmen while loading. Among other designs of medieval shields for infantrymen was the buckler shield which was a small shield usually reserved for hand-to-hand combat.

Medieval Shield Design Summary

The use and designs of medieval shields can be traced back to ancient times when a shield called the hoplon was used by the Greeks.

During the early medieval times, the variety in the designs of medieval shields was very limited. The Kite shield design was introduced at this time and during the middle and late medieval times.

The kite shield with a variety of designs and sizes was introduced and painting of the coat of arms on a medieval shield became common for both knights and the nobility.

  • The heater shield was a shield that was designed for medieval knights jousting contests
  • Many new advanced shield designs were introduced after the Normans had conquered England
  • Medieval shield designs started to incorporate a coat of arms which identified the Knight and his family
Coat of Arms Gérard de Ridefort

Coat of Arms Gérard de Ridefort

  • Different Shield design symbols had different meanings a heart for example meant chivalry and sincerity
  • The Pavise shield was the most popular shield design with medieval infantry due to its large protective design
  • The buckler shield was popular with swordsmen as it was lightweight and easy to maneuver
  • The buckler shield was lightweight and could easily be used in one-on-one combat situations

Medieval Coat of Arms

We hope you enjoyed this article on medieval shield design, we would encourage you to look at all the medieval shield articles that are listed at the bottom of this medieval shield design page, learning more about the shield designs available in medieval times such as the Pavise, Heater and Buckler shield will give you a better all-round knowledge of medieval shields and medieval shield design.

  • Medieval shield design advanced as the medieval period progressed
  • The buckler shield design was designed to be used with one hand and was lightweight
  • Pavise shields were designed to be large so that they protected infantry such as archers
King RIchard I Coat of Arms

Richard The Lionheart Coat of arms

  • Archers could reload their weapons easily behind the large design of the pavise shield
  • Some medieval shields were designed for training purposes such as the small buckler shield