A Medieval Knight in Full Armor

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by Orielensis, May 26, 2022.

  1. Orielensis

    Orielensis Supporter! Supporter

    As many of you know, my favorite collecting area is medieval bracteates. The coin below is my first 2022 bracteate purchase, and I am quite happy with it:

    Bildschirmfoto 2022-05-26 um 14.21.51.png
    Margraviate of Brandenburg, under Otto II. “the Generous,” 1184–1205 AD, AR bracteate, Stendal mint (?). Obv: OTO MARI; margrave standing facing, wearing a mail hauberk with coif, greaves, and a conical helmet with nasal bar, holding sword and banner; at feet r., heater shield. Rev: incuse design (bracteate). 24mm, 0.85g. Ref: Bahrfeldt 70; Slg. Bonhoff 802; Berger 1676; Slg. Löbbecke 442; Leschhorn 3508.

    My new coin was minted for Otto II “the Generous” (1148–1205 AD), the third margrave of Brandenburg. Brandenburg was a principality at the eastern border of the Holy Roman Empire that had emerged in the mid-12th century, when Otto’s grandfather Albert “the Bear,” margrave of the Northern March, had defeated and exiled the Slavic prince Jaxa of Köpenick from the region west of what today is Berlin. The blue areas on this map show the expanse of the principality in the 12th and early 13th centuries:


    Brandenburg’s location at the frontier to the Slavic territories made it strategically important to the empire and shaped both the cultural and political ties of the principality. Otto II, for example, was a member of the German House of Ascania on his father’s side, while his maternal grandfather was the Polish Duke Bolesław III. Much of Otto’s reign (1184–1205 AD) was shaped by border conflicts with the Slavs to the east and King Canute of Denmark to the north, as well as the struggle between the House of Hohenstaufen and the House of Welf for the German throne. Otto II sided with the Hohenstaufen king Philip of Swabia. He died, apparently of natural causes, in 1205, bequeathing the margraviate to his half-brother Albrecht II.

    My main reason for buying this coin was its detailed depiction of a high medieval knight in full armor. It shows the margrave wearing a knee-length, long-sleeved hauberk equipped with a hood (coif). Worn over a padded jacket (gambeson), this type of mail shirt constituted the central piece of high-quality medieval armor until it was gradually enhanced with and afterwards replaced by plate armor starting in the mid-13th century.

    On his head, Otto wears a conical helmet with a bar protecting his nose. In reference mostly to its depictions on the Bayeux Tapestry, this type of helmet is often referred to as the “Norman helmet,” though its use was not limited to the Normans. Typically, it was worn over a mail coif that protected the wearer’s neck and cheeks. Note that on my coin, the helmet is worn without the coif underneath, possibly to give the engraver the opportunity to show more of the margrave’s face.

    Otto’s armor is completed by greaves protecting his legs and knees as well as a triangular heater shield placed at his feet. This type of shield evolved from the earlier kite shield in the mid-12th century. Due to its comparatively small size, it could be used both mounted and on foot. It is noteworthy that on my coin, Otto’s shield has a boss and different metal fittings but does not show the heraldic Brandenburg eagle. It is depicted as a defensive weapon, not as a sign of personal identity.

    The sword and flag that Otto holds are both part of his knightly equipment and symbols of his position in the feudal hierarchy. They indicate that he received the margraviate as a banner-fief (Fahnlehen), and thus holds executive and judicial power (Gerichtsbann) in his territories, being subject only to the king.

    Please post your comments and coins showing ancient or medieval armor!
    Tejas, FitzNigel, Amit Vyas and 21 others like this.
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  3. seth77

    seth77 Well-Known Member

    I'm going to post the most cliche reply, with the helmeted crusader denier of Antioch. This one is a bit different with the single annulet mark in the reverse legend rather than the three arranged in a trefoil. Somewhere between Class F and G, possibly late in the rule Bohemond III. It's also a rather handsome specimen.


    +VGO.DVCKS Well-Known Member

    That's a fantastic bracteate, @Orielensis, with historical context to match. I have only one Old School, 12th-century, Full Module bracteate (of the Bishopric of Magdeburg; posted before), and I love it dearly. ...But the sad irony is that, even though it features St. Moritz /Maurice, a decidedly martial saint, he's not wearing armor!
    So more along the lines of @seth77's Bohemond III (replete with your unfailingly erudite explication of the numismatic details), here's an old favorite, a small pfennig of Bernhard, mid-13th century duke of Carinthia. I like the minimalism both of the engraving, and the implied propoganda. (...'Wanna start somthin'?') Also, the fess on the shield corresponds to the Carinthian coat of arms.
  5. FitzNigel

    FitzNigel Medievalist

    Fantastic coin @Orielensis! Nice depiction of a knights equipment. As I’m still traveling, I can’t easily share anything easily, but will attempt to remember to do so once I’m back in the states.
    Orielensis likes this.
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