Men in armour are a frequent sight in medieval art, including stained glass, and provide an invaluable source of information to those studying arms and armour. Since it is made of steel that rusts or can be recycled or reused, relatively little of the original plate armour remains, and even rarer are the leather straps and pins that held the pieces together. Images of armour found in stained glass, paintings, tombs and brasses, give vital insight into the the details of the armour and the way in which it was worn.
There are three main images of armed men in the Burrell Collection Boppard windows, appearing in the Agony in the Garden, Christ before Pilate and Resurrection panels, as shown below.
At the time the Boppard windows were painted (early 15th century), the two most important areas of fine armour production were Germany and Italy (mainly Milan). It is also an important period in armour design, with the transition into full body armour and plate armour.
The detail from Agony in the Garden shows a man wearing a sallet (a war helmet) and a kind of bevor or aventail. The bevor worn with a sallet, protected the throat and neck and was made of solid plate or lames (overlapping strips of steel held together with leather straps to which they were riveted). Interestingly, in this case it would appear that the chin area is in solid plate, but the throat and neck protection are in mail. This would require the bevor to be held in position by attachment to the sallet with straps. In battle, he would pull the sallet down to protect his face, looking through the two slits in the helmet. A selection of German sallets is shown in the image below by Eugène Viollet-le-Duc, a 19th century French architect and theorist.
St. Quirinus, carved on a German oak stall end from the Lower Rhine late 15th-early 16th century, shown below and on display in the Burrell, is wearing a very similar sallet. This stall end was possibly made by the woodcarver Heinrich Bernts of Kalkar (d.1509).
The man in the detail below from Christ before Pilate is wearing a great bassinet, where the helmet, visor, chin and neck protection are all made of plate steel (replacing the mail aventail).
The rounded visor became popular in Germany, as shown in the detail below from a German painting of 1435, by Konrad Witz.
The small circular metal shield (or Besague) worn by our Boppard knight detailed below, just beneath his left shoulder, differs from the leaf shaped protection on the right side as he would have carried a lance under his right arm.
The soldier on the right in the Resurrection panel detailed below, wears a Kastenburst breastplate, with flat surfaces and a sharp angular design. German armour had a more angular design than the more rounded Italian armour, as can be seen in the fabulous Avant Armour in Glasgow’s collection, made in Milan about 1445.
All our soldiers wear a mail skirt to protect the lower body. The armour of the soldier on the right is richly decorated with gilding.