From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
A 15th-century Gothic breastplate, with belts hanging below the fauld for the attachment of tassets

A breastplate or chestplate is a device worn over the torso to protect it from injury, as an item of religious significance, or as an item of status. A breastplate is sometimes worn by mythological beings as a distinctive item of clothing.


In medieval weaponry, the breastplate is the front portion of plate armour covering the torso. It has been a military mainstay since ancient times and was usually made of leather, bronze or iron in antiquity. By around 1000 AD, solid plates had fallen out of use in Europe and knights of the period were wearing mail in the form of a hauberk over a padded tunic.[1] Plates protecting the torso reappeared in the 1220s as plates directly attached to a knightly garment known as the surcoat.[2][1] Around 1250 this developed into the coat of plates which continued to be in use for about a century.[3][1] True breastplates reappear in Europe in 1340 first composed of wrought iron and later of steel. These early breastplates were made of several plates and only covered the upper torso with the lower torso not being protected by plate until the development of the fauld around 1370.[4][2][5] They were between 1 mm and 2.5 mm thick.[5] In order to prevent the wearer from being cut by their own armour, the design featured outward turned edges that also increased stiffness.[5] In some cases, further strength was added by a ridge running down through the centre of the plate.[5] The first evidence for one-piece breastplates is from an altarpiece in the Pistoia cathedral dated to 1365.[4] Complete, lightweight, one or two-piece breastplates were readily used by the first decade of the 15th century.[4][6] The French term pancier, which became English pauncher and German panzer, was also used.

Bullet-proof vests are the modern descendant of the breastplate.

Breastplate and helmet of the French Horse Carabinier, during the Bourbon Restoration (1816–1824)
New-made replicas of a 17th-century helmet, two breastplates, tassets, a halberd and two military marching drums

Classical mythology

Both Zeus and Athena are sometimes depicted as wearing a goatskin shield or breastplate called an Aegis. At the center of Athena’s shield was the head of Medusa.


A "breastplate" or "breastpiece" was among the clothes of the Jewish High Priest. In the Bible, the word 'breastplate' is used figuratively to describe protecting oneself from unrighteousness (cf. Isaiah 59:17, Ephesians 6:14, etc.).

North American

Man's Breastplate, Crow (Native American), 1880–1900, Brooklyn Museum
Left Hand Bear, an Oglala Lakota chief, wearing a hair-pipe breastplate, Omaha, 1898.

The hair-pipe breastplates of 19th-century Interior Plains people were made from the West Indian conch, brought to New York docks as ballast and then traded to Native Americans of the upper Missouri River. Their popularity spread rapidly after their invention by the Comanche in 1854. They were too fragile and expensive to be considered armour, and were instead a symbol of wealth during the economic depression among Plains Indians after the buffalo were almost exterminated.[7]

See also


  1. ^ a b c Walker, Paul F (2013). The history of armour 1100–1700. Crowood press. pp. 36–38. ISBN 9781847974525.
  2. ^ a b Smith 2010, p. 70.
  3. ^ Smith 2010, p. 69.
  4. ^ a b c Williams 2003, p. 55.
  5. ^ a b c d Walker, Paul F (2013). The history of armour 1100–1700. Crowood press. pp. 39–41. ISBN 9781847974525.
  6. ^ Walker, Paul F (2013). The history of armour 1100–1700. Crowood press. p. 43. ISBN 9781847974525.
  7. ^ David E. Jones (2004). Native North American Armor, Shields, and Fortifications. Austin, TX: University of Texas. pp. 42–44. ISBN 0-292-70170-5.


  • Smith, R. (2010). Rogers, Clifford J., ed. The Oxford Encyclopedia of Medieval Warfare and Military Technology: Volume I. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0195334036.
  • Williams, Alan (2003). The Knight and the Blast Furnace: A History of the Metallurgy of Armour in the Middle Ages & the Early Modern Period. Leiden: Brill. ISBN 978-9004124981.

External links

Media related to Breastplates at Wikimedia Commons

Retrieved from ""
This content was retrieved from Wikipedia :
This page is based on the copyrighted Wikipedia article "Breastplate"; it is used under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License (CC-BY-SA). You may redistribute it, verbatim or modified, providing that you comply with the terms of the CC-BY-SA