The Stockholm Medieval Museum

In 2008 I was commissioned to make armour and weapons for a fighting rider and a foot soldier for the Stockholm Medieval Museum’s new permanent exhibition, which was inaugurated in 2009.

I spent a long time on a thorough research based on the source material available in Sweden and the North European cultural sphere with regard for the time period adjacent to the battle of Brunkeberg in Stockholm, on October 10th 1471. After having investigated sources in the for of text, church paintings and sculptures I came to the conclusion that a large part of the armour that was used had been made either by qualified craftsmen at different European centres for the manufacture of armour, or by armorers at a more local level, doing the same kind of work. There are no tangible resources with regard to fully developed armour workshops in Sweden from before the time in which king Gustav Vasa established a royal armory in the town of Arboga inn the 1530’ies. But by using the relatively few existing art sources one can trace certain characteristics for our region. I have manifested these characteristics in the armour of the horseman, in order to illustrate an equipment that is as characteristic as possible. The characteristics with regard to North European armours might indicate a somewhat widespread local manufacture. I have primarily based my design on Swedish sculprutes and paintings. These have of course — just as the armour parts — primarily been the works of foreing artists or fareign masters active in Sweden. One example is the wooden sculpture that is to be found in the cathedral of Strängnäs, which is made by Bernt Notke, a North German master active in the Nordic area during a period of seven years. The very few available sources in art and text available with regard to the foot soldiers armour have been interpreted on th basis of contemporary originals.

strängnäs domkyrka benpansar 1470-tal

The horseman’s leg armour and breast and back plate are based on a very detailed wooden sculpture in the cathedral of Strängnäs ascribed to Bernt Notke. When one studies the sculpture one can see that the artist must have made it using a real armour as as model. All rivets are correctly positioned and the straps have been made in a lifelike manner. The form has to some extent been exaggerated. But broadly speaking it should still be possible to use it as if it had been manufactured in steel. The typical ridges over breast and faulds, which in many instances also run out on the tassets, are characteristic for many Swedish breast plates. One ridge in the middle, plus two in the form of a cross over the breast. The arm armours are partly based on a sculpture in the church of Tillinge, but with the addition of besagews on the elbow cup and for the arm pit. The besagews are very common in church paintings with armour themes from this period. The design of the shoulder piece is based on a contemporary original. The gauntlets are also based on the same sculpture, and on another sculpture in the church of Hälsingtuna. Here one can also see a type of gauntlets which was very common in our region as compared to other areas. The helmet is based on an original in Coventry in England. My reason for choosing it as model was that pointed helmets are relatively common during this period, and the Coventry sallet was the geographically closest original that best fitted the rest of the armour. The dagger is based on a Swedish find belonging to the Swedish Royal Armoury.

The foot soldiers gauntlets is a reproduction based on an original gauntlet found in the city of Lund, which is exhibited at the Lund museum Kulturen. It has a simple design, which can bindicate either a local or a mass produced gauntlet for export — which can well have been affordable for a commoner belonging to a city militia, or for a peasant soldier. Contemporary pictorial art illustrates the solution using chainmail over the outer parts of the fingers. The helmet is modelled on North German originals, and this type of kettle hat is very common in our part of the world. The original for the pole arm can be found at the Royal Armoury, and figurations of similar, very simple weapons used by common soldiers are very common.

The horseman’s arming doublet was made by Vea Collins
Saddle, lance and bridles have been made by Stefan Hansson
The dolls are made by Catrin Abrahamsson
The foot soldier’s clothes were sewn by Tommy Hellman