Dates Back to: Hellenistic and Roman times

The Cuirass is a piece of armor covering the torso and consists of a chest plate and a back piece. It’s formed of single or multiple pieces of metal or other rigid material that covers the torso.

Originally a thick leather garment covering the body from neck to waist, Middle-Ages cuirasses usually stopped somewhere around the midriff or bellybutton to allow a proper movement range to the wearer. 

During the 14th Century, cuirasses became more popular due to chainmail being phased out among the nobles. In Canterbury Cathedral, the Black Prince’s effigy, dated 1376, displays a cuirass covered by a royalty-emblazoned jupon.

History of the Cuirass

The cuirass was used in Hellenistic and Roman times, usually representing an enhanced musculature of the male torso and sometimes embellished with symbolic representation in relief. Cuirasses and corsets were made of bronze, iron, or leather.

During the 13th and 14th centuries, the cuirass gradually comes into general use connected with plate armor for the limbs. Plates were initially directly attached to a surcoat. In the early 15th century, plate armor began to be worn without a surcoat, but later a tabard was in general use over the armor. 

Components of the Cuirass

A cuirass consisted of:

  • A breastplate, a piece of armour covering the chest. True breastplates reappear in Europe in 1340 first composed of wrought iron and later of steel. 
  • A backpiece, fastened to the breastplace with straps and buckles. 
  • A gorget, or collar protecting the throat. 
A cuirass from Augsburg, Germany, c. 1590. Image courtesy of The Wallace Collection (CC).
A cuirass from North Italy, c. 1580. Image courtesy of The Wallace Collection (CC).
A cuirass from North Italy, c. 1570. Image courtesy of The Wallace Collection (CC).

Gift Ideas

Right Now on eBay 

Books about Medieval Weapons

More Medieval Weapons & Armour

Medieval Weapons: Springald.

Medieval Springald

The Springald or Espringal was a mechanical artillery device used for throwing large bolts.

Medieval Armour: Mail Coif

Medieval Mail Coif

The Mail Coif is a type of armour made of flexible chain mail and worn over the head.

Medieval Armour: Faulds.

Medieval Faulds

The Faulds were pieces of plate armour worn below a breastplate to protect the waist and hips.

Medieval Weapons: Falchion or Sabre

Medieval Falchion

The Falchion is a one-handed, single-edged sword of European origin and reminiscent of the Persian scimitar.