INFANTRYMEN, 12th CENTURY

An extract from Armies of Feudal Europe 1066-1300
by Ian Heath

[Based on the Capitals in The Benedictine Abbey Church of Sainte-Marie-Madeleine at Vezelay in Burgundy] [Based on the Bury Bible] [Based on the Bury Bible] [Based on the Bohemian Archers in the army of Henry VI in Liber ad honorem Augusti by Pietro da Eboli, c.1197]
22, 23, 24 & 25.      INFANTRYMEN, 12th CENTURY

Of these 4 figures, chosen as a representative selection of the foot-soldiers to be found in late-11th and 12th century sources, 22 is a Frenchman from an early-12th century sculpture at Vezelay, 23 and 24 are Englishmen from the 'Bury Bible' of c.1121, and 25 is a German from Pietro da Eboli's 'Carmen de Rebus Siculis' of c.1197.

Figure 22 wears leather or quilted body-armour and carries a round, convex shield. Round shields became steadily less common throughout most of Western Europe as the 12th century progressed but remained popular in Spain well into the 13th century and are still to be seen elsewhere on occasion even thereafter. He is armed with a short sword (possibly a coutel or cultellus, for which see note 67); the scabbard protrudes through a slit in his body-armour at the left hip. Figure 23 is more heavily armoured, in a helmet and mail hauberk, and he is armed with a long-handled, broad-bladed axe, a very popular weapon during this era with both infantry and dismounted knights. The popularity of such axes doubtless spread to the Continent from England and Scandinavia, and they are usually referred to in contemporary sources as haches de Dannemark, hackets Denesh or haches Danesches, ie, 'Danish axes'. Even King Stephen wielded one at the Battle of Lincoln in 1141, and King Richard I used one at the relief of Jaffa in 1192. Armed with a spear and a knife or sword, and protected by no more than a shield and helmet, his companion (figure 24) is representative of the bulk of late-11th and 12th century infantrymen.

Unlike crossbowmen, archers remained generally unarmoured throughout the period covered by this book. In the 12th century their arrows were still normally carried in a quiver at the right hip, suspended either from the waistbelt or from a strap across the left shoulder. By the 13th century, however, they were usually carried stuffed point downwards through the belt, this being the normal way for carrying longbow arrows throughout the Middle Ages (see figures 29, 45 and 47). Archers were occasionally mounted to keep up with the cavalry, as at Bourg Théroulde in 1124, and mounted archers are mentioned several times in sources covering the Anglo-Norman invasion of Ireland. However, in Western Europe they did not shoot their bows from horseback, horse-archery in the 12th-13th centuries being found only in Central Asia, parts of Eastern Europe, the Middle East and the Orient.



26, 27, 28, 29 & 30. INFANTRYMEN, 13th CENTURY