Medieval Rondel or Basegew

Dates Back to: Early 14th century

The Rondel or Basegew (or besague) was a circular piece of metal attached to a helmet, breastplate, or gauntlet. It was worn as part of a harness for a plate armour.

Rondels hung off breastplates and covered the armpit, a usually vulnerable point. They were also used to steady the jousting lance – in this instance, they would be called basegews. Armour without besagews usually employed more prominent shoulder defences or left the mail beneath exposed.

Rondels also appeared on the back of a type of medieval helmet called armet. Although their purpose is still unknown, they might have been used to protect strapping. Some historical gauntlets designs feature rondels. The mirror armour (an oriental armour) also developed polished rondels called “mirrors”. 

History of the Rondel or Basegew

Next to their head, arms were the most important area a warrior had to protect. 

By the 13th century, small plates had begun to supplement chain mail in response to new weapons such as crossbows. By the 14th century, plate armour had become more widespread and the plates more shaped.

Elbow and shoulder cops emerged, and spaulders became articulated in order to protect the shoulders. As armour evolved, there was still an area between the spaulder and the breastplate that was not protected: the armpits. A small plate was added, the rondel. One of its main advantages was that it didn’t hinder movement. Rondels and besegews were attached directly to the spaulder or to the mail shirt underneath. 

Medieval Depictions of Rondels and Basegews

Depiction Of Jousting From Manuscript
Depiction Of Jousting From Manuscript. The Book of Tournaments of Emperor Maximilian I. Image courtesy of the Wallace Collection.
A beautifully etched and engraved pair of spaulders with matching besagews belonging to Baron Wilhelm von Rogendorf, attributed to Kolman Helmschmid, made in Augsburg, Germany, ca. 1523, housed at the Kunsthistorisches Museum.

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