Saturday, 12 April 2014

Klappvisier – Medieval Weaponry and Other Accoutrements

Welcome to the first in my new monthly series – medieval weaponry and other accoutrements for the historically-minded!

As part of today’s A to Z Challenge post I am featuring the ‘klappvisier'. 

To understand the klappvisier, we must first understand the bascinet - an open-faced military helmet, which extended downwards at the rear and sides to protect the neck. It might attach a mail curtain (camail or aventail) to the lower edge of the helmet to afford greater protection to the throat, neck and shoulders. This aventail might be riveted to the bascinet, or otherwise might be removable.  Eventually the camail was replaced by a gorget made of plate metal, giving rise to the greater bascinet.

Of course, you should immediately spot the problem with the bascinet. For all the protection it afforded the head, neck, throat and shoulders – it was open-faced!

To solve this problem, they designed and attached visors, which existed in many iterations throughout the use of the bascinet. The klappvisier was but one version. Featuring either a pointed or rounded snout to deflect arrows, and a raised area around the eyes, it was used from 1330 – 1340 and onwards. One of the key distinguishing features of the klappvisier was its single hinge in the centre of the brow. 

The klappvisier was used widely in Germany, but also appeared in northern Italy, as it features in a Crucifixion painted in Santa Maria Novella in Florence.

Gravett, Christopher (2008) Knight: Noble Warrior of England 1200-1600. Osprey Publishing.

Lucchini, Francesco (2011) Face, Counterface, Counterfeit. The Lost Silver Visage of the Reliquary of St. Anthony’s Jawbone. Published in Meaning in Motion. Semantics of Movement in Medieval Art and Architecture, edited by N. Zchomelidse and G. Freni. Princeton.

Viollet-le-Duc, Eugène Emmanuel (1874). "Bascinet". Encyclopaedia Dictionnaire raisonné du mobilier français 5. Paris: V. A. Morel. p. 157.

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A.M. Guynes/Annikka Woods said...

Now this is interesting. I've seen these in art but never knew what they were called. I can see the problem with the open face, but those look like they'd be a problem for vision and breathing.

Ciara Ballintyne said...

I am positive the inside of any suit of armour wasn't a very nice place to be!

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