Friday, January 22, 2010

Lion Armour Legs

This is the oddest armour I have ever seen, at least insofar as feet and legs are concerned. There are no Sabotons at all, just toe caps for his shoes. I don't think the unknown owner would have even worn boots...if he did, they would have been boots which were really tight to the leg. Actually, most people wore shoes rather than boots, contrary to common modern renaissance fair practice....and for that matter, stage and screen both then and now.

There was an photo of a painting showing this armour being worn, the man in the painting was wearing a sort of chain mail boot over top his shoe, under his leg armour, and under the toe cap. It seemed to be a footed hose made of chain mail. Not unexampled in paintings and brass effigies though I don't remember such an item of clothing so late in the history of armour.

If you click on the above image, you will see a beautiful articulated knee cop, in which the cop itself is sculpted into a lion face. Great work on so many levels.

.click on these images to enlarge. above you can see the lovely flow of the calf, the feet look sort of big and clunky by comparison. Many armour makers have told me that they reserve all judgement of another armour maker until they have seen how they curve the calf. The medieval people liked that curve, and one wonders if they were really skinny in the legs, or if it was just the way the armour sits on its stand.

Above,you can see the nice articulation work the armour make did over the ankles. The usual complaint when inheriting or winning an armour apparently was that it rarely fit properly in the ankles. They liked them as close and tight to the ankles as they could get it. I think it was a fashion thing.

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Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Friday, January 15, 2010

Random Roman Ruins in Cyprus

Three quarters the way up the great eastern peninsula the Romans built watch towers, and dug limestone out of the mountains and hauled it all over the Mediterranian. A good harbour every mile or so, and a great one every 5 or six miles meant that it was worth the trouble to build a nice road all the way up the Karpaz peninsula, and the nice breezes meant for lovely views and a nice place to have a villa. The above villa was adapted to become a church. A latin church, though the apse below seems to make that a lie.

This, a former atrium, is cobbled with some of the most original inlay I have ever seen. I have NEVER seen that swirling pattern in any villa or church floor before. Its gorgeous.

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Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Lion Armour part two

click to see these details in their larger magnificence.....
This again, is the famous Lion Armour at the Tower of London collection, which of course, has been moved to Leeds where it is housed in a state of the art museum instead of a draghty old castle.
The above picture is tellling....the traditional "Knight in Shining Armour", An image beloved by little girls everywhere, and truth be known, by boys as well. The crash helmet "close helm" is made for jousting and as you can see, it rests neatly on the shoulders. You can't really see it in the above picture, but there is an interferance fit under the helm which means you have to lift the visor, swing the cheek pieces up and out of the way to unhook the helm from the gorget underneath. The gorget in turn sits under the breastplate. So the helm acts like a roll cage...this fellow could fall off the back of his horse, and land on his head with perfect safety. This is a rather specialized armour, useless IMHO for fighting, but perfect for the sport of equestrian jousting.
How do we know it is a jousting armour? Well, lets look at some details

Above is a closeup of the front of the Lion Armour. The first thing we notice (I mean, after being blinded by the bling of the repousse work and gold leaf) is the fact that the anonymous owner of this suit had an extra breastplate built for his safety which fits neatly over top the fancier parade armour underneath. (wow, the mind boggles at the magnificence of the under armour)

The above glimpse of the underarm of this suit shows an inch wide line of the under armour. Obviously I was not allowed to actually measure or gauge the armour, but if I had to guess (based on, oh, 17 years experience or so) I would suggest that the over breastplate would be a full fourteen gauge AWG, (possibly even heavier in some places) and the under breastplate is parade weight, no more than 18 gauge. But considering the general overall quality of this armour, some would be prepared to suggest that this armour would have been heat treated to stiffen it further. I don't believe that. If anybody went to the trouble of selecting expensive (more expensive pound for pound than silver at the time!) high grade steel for armour instead of using such hard to come by material for swords, the high carbon content would would cause it to crack under the repousee hammer, and by the time the armourer "browned" the steel and fire guilded the surface, any hardness would have been soaked out of it. I would allow my mind to change if anybody showed me an assay of the steel...unlikely at this juncture. Armour does not NEED to be heat treated to be effective.
Oh, while we are looking at that cool right hand pauldron, allow me to draw attention to joust damage....the corner up top where a lance snagged the pauldron, and again, the arm which has been caved in and the gold wiped away, possibly by the bell of the lance. Cool eh?

I will however bend my stiff neck to acknowledge that perhaps the under armour would be heat treated...there are cracks around the holes in the above picture which suggest something slammed into the armour.
A good picture, that one. The light is coming from the side, showing off some details which should be pointed out. First, the texture of the surface of the outer breastplate. The shiny robot like finish so beloved of fantasy artists is clearly not de-rigeur here. What you see is the rough surface of a finishing stake. This is the way armour comes from the "factory", before three or four centuries of garrison polishing with bricks.
Secondly, the armour has actually been used in a jouste, there is evidence of impact. (Imagine using a piece of artwork in a rough and tumble thing like a real jouste! I LIKE this guy!) Note the slight depression around the hook and eye fastener. More to the point, check out the much larger depression around the large hole created by the slamming inward of the lance rest base. The lance rest was clearly fastened to the under armour, but there would have been a large flange to soak up the impact of a lance. You can see the impact signature of that large flange. Note how the light pics out the gold at the bottom of the big rectangular hole, showing that it has been pushed in slightly? The impact signature even took a chunk out of the tip of the hook , and if you look at the lower picture, you can see impact damage to the right pauldron. The repair was inexpertly done, but perhaps the owner wanted to show a little damage, that he didn't want to be seen as a stay at home jouster. Certainly, the question of why that damage would be there right up in front for everybody to see and not repaired is a valid question considering the overall quality of the rest of the armour. Anybody care to contribute to this conundrum?

The above picture shows the fasteners of the over breastplate to the under breastplate. The hooks and eyes are common methods, but the turning key in the middle is actually more common. Note that the eyes have been "Browned" as well.
Browning is a method of controlled works best with low carbon steels. The browning provides a reasonably rust resistant surface. I have heard it said that the "Brown Bess" musket got its name from the surface treatment....(seems reasonable I suppose).
The repousse on the upper edge of the armour is actually quite stunning. But if you look closely, all the decoration is on the under-breastplate. The over-breastplate ends just above the turn key in the centre. The two plates match up really perfectly...and clearly the armourer intended it to look as though they were one. But if you look really closely, (click on the imgage) just under the wing of the left pauldron, you can see the slightest gap.
Like so much of this armour, I have to say... "Nicely done!"

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Saturday, January 9, 2010

Kollossi Castle, Cyprus

Kolossi Castle is a stronghold a few kilometers outside the city of Limassol on the island of Cyprus. It held great strategic importance and contained production of sugar, one of Cyprus' main exports in the Middle Ages. The original castle was possibly built in 1210 by Frankish military when the land of Kolossi was given by King Hugh III to the Knights of the Order of St John of Jerusalem (Hospitallers) (see also Commandaria), and the present castle was built in 1454 by the Hospitallers. Dwellers in the castle include Richard I of England,the Templars and the already mentioned Hospitallers. (from Wikipedia)

The keep that you see in the above picture is very picturesque, albeit rather stark. All the guidebooks claim that this particular keep was built by the Knights of St. John, yet I could not find any "Maltese" crosses, only "Templar" crosses.
As Wiki says, this is really two castles, one inside the other. The outside one was clearly built by the Templars (Richard Lionheart sold the entire Island of Cyprus to the Templars in exchange for cash and services rendered. How King Dick got it is a rattlin' good story in its own right, I will likely post that story along with some pics of Limassol castle in a few weeks. (Stay tuned...)

The original castle was bigger, and the Lusignans kept the outer walls, wrecked as they were after what three centuries of keeping pirates on the outside, and just built a keep inside the original walls. Above you can see the original entrance to the 11th century castle. And HAS been extensively restored, albeit that restoration was by the French around the time of Columbus. Arches maintain their integrity really well, sometimes all that remains of a castle feature are the arches... The East gate above is a drawbridge, a footbridge actually, tall enough to take a man leading a horse, one at a time. The railings are about as high as you would expect them to be, they are about waist high on me. (helps with scale when nobody is in the picture...) Features which are original include the hole underneath the bridge which is now only a couple of feet deep, but was originally MUCH deeper. The wall is an extension of the guardhouse, and if you go in through the above arched opening, you will be facing fire from above and from two sides. This little killing ground is are in it before you realize it. There would have been a gatehouse above the arch with murder holes in the floor for sure. The barred window in the picture below communicated into the gatehouse, but was impassable to people.

To the right was another guardhouse, a stubby tower which overlooked the drawbridge entrance to the first ward....that tower is now gone, probably to provide stone for the big keep in back, and now only a a great cyprus tree grows there.

Below....This is a view of the same wall, but the camera just moved to the south corner. You can see the thick original wall, the barred window, and the cyprus tree. To the lower right is the main cistern to the property...water was brought in by an arched aqueduct from way up in the hills. This water was only for the operations (which involved pressing olives and grapes) which helped this heap pay for itself, and no doubt provided something fresher than the muddy gunk sitting at the bottom of the well inside.

If for some reason, you were persistant enough to fight your way through the first ward, you now had to make your way down past the side of the keep, down those stairs and through a small doorway (just off camera to the left) defended from above on both sides. That would put you into the second ward, right smack in the middle of which is a very exposed stairway which leads all the way up to, you guessed it...the second drawbridge, seen below at the upper left. There is a postern gate at ground level which looks like it can be blocked up pretty quickly...but you need a postern gate to deliver supplies.

The second ward is a bit of a maze...old works, combined with new works. No doubt craftsmen and pig sellers and such were happy to make this second ward into a real mess of blind alleys and tripping hazards. Beats keeping a moat any day! Below is a pic of some of the stuff...a lot of which is actually just uncovered.

One stairway. Looks like either all the Lusignans were left handed, or maybe the idea of a spiral stairway being built to favor defenders is just that...a myth. I consider myself a bit of a swordsman, and I would have had a heck of a time fighting either up or down.

This is a pepper tree. I don't know what kind of peppers it creates. I wonder if it is Mediterranian black pepper, the King of Spices? I know...unlikely. Just as unlikely is that it is a new world plant a "pink peppercorn" tree. The leaves seem to be about the same as I remember. This one is very old, its limbs being propped up by posts.

On the east wall there are Lusignan coats of arms. Anybody care to research them for me?

The top floor has windows that close against the elements. They are pretty plain, the windows all have benches in them however so that you can enjoy the breeze, and discuss momentous thing. The little room to the right is only on the top story, there is one on each side, and I believe they exist as communication the east is Limassol castle (on the horizon) and to the west is a guard tower on the cliffs overlooking the south shore.
Above is a random picture taken on the road leading up to the castle which was the headquarters of the Knights of St. John of Jerusalem during the closing days of the 12th century.

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Wednesday, January 6, 2010

The lion armour at Leeds..backplate

A closeup of the join between the breast plate and backplate, shewing the gap between the two plates, and the buckles. The wearer has a gorget underneath there as well, so any sword crashing down on this shoulder will have to go through the strap and buckle, the backplate tab and the gorget. The unknown owner must have felt very secure, if a bit constricted. A strap comes out from the gorget to hold the pauldron in place,so there is a one inch wide gap between the breast and back plate. This oft neglected detail is very plain in the top picture, above.

The world famous "Lion" armour in the Tower of London Museum in Leeds is worth looking at through a different glass. In the future, I may discuss the wonderful repousse work, or the browning and mercury guilding, but they are topics for another day. My focus here is on the armour itself. I believe that an unknown armourer made a beautiful armour, and handed it off to be decorated by somebody who would normally decorate dinner plates or loving cups. The stunning decoration has obscured the fact that this is a very nice armour in its own right, and I shall attempt to peer under the fancy frou-frou and see why this was an above average armour in its own right. This is such a complex task that I shall only do it a bit at a time. The part I always like to start with is the part that most people never see in pictures...the back.
The above picture shows some interesting features. The backplate is gently rounded to match a man of average size, slim, but not an athlete. He likely would not have worn much in the way of a gambeson under it since it is really well fitted, the inside being as well finished as the outside. The backplate consists of three parts, the backplate itself, and two "splints" in the small of the back. The splints overlap upwards...something that was never done on the continent. (This points to an English armour maker. Moreover, there is an interesting articulation just at the wonders just exactly "why" these pivot rivets are there. A closeup reveals the can just see the ends of the slots that the rivets slide in under each plate.

Okay, now we come to a couple of very large brass rivets dead centre in the small of the back. They didn't put them in there on a lark,there was a very good reason. It might have been the mounts for a leather skeleton, but somehow I doubt it. They are most likely sliding rivets as well. But why two of them side by side? I can only speculate.

There is no faulds or lames back there, the armour simply flares out over the wearer's buttocks, the flare being neatly made over the edge of the anvil. And the very devil of a roped roll across the bottom edge is there just to show off the skill of that armourer. Just look at how crisp that rope is! Oh my! One very tricky part is the angle formed between the flare and the bottom lame (bottom splint) of the placquart. It is perfectly fitting to the one above it. This would NOT have been easy to do. The big brass rivets all around the bottom edge would have been there to hold leather picadills in place

The top part of the lion armour backplate comes up in a very high edge, so high in fact that the neck hole ends up being nearly perfectly level. It isn't of course, it must be cut out like all backplates, but the left and right tabs extend very far, in fact, far enough to nearly underlap the breastplate. It won't, of course...there is a leather strap coming up from the gorget which will act as a stopper there. (I bet that strap was replaced pretty regularly!
The backplate rolls at the neck and underarm are very simple and plain, likely wire filled. But still, very very crisp indeed.

Now,go and admire the fabulous green man embossed on the top of the backplate.....

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Sunday, January 3, 2010

St. Hilarion Castle second ward

The castle is known fondly as "Heart of Love". Its an intentional mangling of the words which mean "twin peaks".

The half round towers seem to be pretty effective.

The official line....

I love how it blends into the mist.
The chapel is more than a is a full blown Cyprus Orthodox Catholic church. Well, it was, once. The Venetians (those papists!) wrecked it when they didn't want it any more. What a bunch of spoiled brats!

Looking over the east wall. If you look closely at the sign beside the arched doorway, you will see that it says "Medieval Privies". True enough...the privies hang out over the east wall. Even better reason not to try to attack from the east. (and they still stink! I suspect that some modern tourists just saw "privies" and simple had a dump there.)

The merlons are more for show than for use.

Looking down at the first ward and barbican. In the distance, you can see the flat spot which was cleared specially for jousting. A road runs through it now.

The entrance way into the second ward. (second encentiente) as seen from the overlooking guard tower. Only a few of the arches still survive...that arch shape is awfully stable.

This was part of the castelan's administration offices, and the main route to the royal apartments, great hall, and kitchen. The holes in the top edge were for the purpose of inserting the ends of heavy wooden beams. The small arch in the base is to hold a candle, or oil lamp.

The second ward consists of a church, the royal apartments, the castellan's administration office, the great hall, kitchen (for the whole place) pantry, buttery, cisterns, and of course, the privies, of which there were several (and they still reek!) This section was protected by a drawbridge, but i could see no evidence of said draw bridge. Restoration and installation of hand rails and properly paved paths seem to have erased the evidence. There is a 10th century Byzantine church there, unfortunately quite the worse for wear which is remarkable for its excellent architecture.

The third bastion is a ways up... and the half hour or so of climbing up stairs will leave you breathless. The view would be worth it, I hear,however I only had an hour, and didnt bother with checking out the ruined Royal apartments, and the famous Prince John Tower window where PJ tossed his loyal Bulgarian bodyguard out one by one in response to a manipulative Eleanor.

There is a garden way up there to reward your efforts, a kitchen, the Royal Apartments, Prince John's rooms, and a view of the sea from 732 meters up.

The castle was emptied and left vacant in 1489 when the Venetians took the Island, so a lot of damage has been done. So much damage was done by plain ordinary neglect that sometimes it is hard to see the original walls and hallways which must have been there, but have since tumbled down. The picture here, for instance shows the massive difference between the well maintained castle in Karenia and the neglected grand old lady up on the hill in behind....but it still has presence...grin!

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