Basel, 14th century
Iron and brass rings, welded and riveted
L 68 cm
Hauberks made from a web of welded, riveted or punched wire rings were widely used as protective armour even in Antiquity. Also known as chain mail, they were worn on top of leather armour, while a chain-mail hood, called a coif, protected the wearer’s head and neck. Horses, too, often wore protective chain mail. In the course of the 15th century, coats of mail were gradually replaced by plate armour, although foot soldiers continued to use chain mail for many more decades to come. Of the more than 160 hauberks listed in the inventory of Basel Armoury, only five have survived. The others were cut up and used as “chain-mail rags” to clean cooking pots or to line money boxes and toll boxes. This particular coat of mail is adorned with the Basel coat of arms, a bishop’s staff, created by raising some of the brass rings on the left breast above the iron rings underneath.