Saturday, March 26, 2016

What Were the Purposes of Wearing Medieval Gloves?

When someone wants to initiate a challenge, he throws down the gauntlet. The person challenged can decide to leave the piece of armor on the ground or he can pick it up. Picking the glove up meant that a person accepted the challenge laid before him. This piece of clothing was considered an essential piece of protection for a soldier or a knight. In Medieval and earlier times, it was primarily used to protect the hand of a combatant. The glove could be made out of leather, chain mail or out of solid metal.

The simplest type of gauntlet was made out of leather. It’s still used today in falconry. It protects the hands of the falconer from the sharp talons of his birds. It also protected the hands of the fighter from sword, ax, and blows from other assorted ancient weapons. While it serves this purpose well for lighter weapons, it did not work as well when heavier weapons developed.

During the late Roman Empire, the first types of chain mail were developed. Chain mail replaced the bronze armor favored by earlier armies, although it was not fully adopted by the Roman legions while the western part of the Empire was in decline. Although chain mail is found in later Roman army camps, it does not become commonplace until the Dark Ages. The gauntlet retained its primary glove shape during this period.

The gauntlet kept pace with military advances, and it started to do more than just protect the wearer’s hands in hand-to-hand combat. By the late Middle Ages, many warriors used a gauntlet that could also double as a weapon if the wearer had run out of other options. Using the fist in the manner would probably injure someone using the medieval glove against another heavily armored opponent. 

The medieval glove could serve as armor and as a weapon in extreme circumstances, but it fell out of favor when the firearm displaced melee weapons on the battlefield. Neither leather nor plate armor provided much protection against high-speed bullets. The chain mail glove might not have a place on the modern battlefield, but gauntlets are still used in historical reenactments and in fencing.

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