Military Equipment of the Reconquista and Hundred Years War

A quick look at key bits of kit.


Item Start Date Common Date End Date Comment Figure
Round shield Pre-period To 1300 in Spain elsewhere 1200 Never    
Mail hauberk          
Traditional Kite Shield c. 983   15th C Iron or bronze boss  
Nasal Helmet ? 1000 – 1250 14th C ‘old fashioned’ by 1250  
Mail Leggings 1066 From 1150   Some appear on Bayeux Tapestry  
Painted Lance ? 1100 – ? ? Usually painted by 11th C  
Helmet with faceguard 1100 ? ? Face guard initially separate but attached from 1200. Evolved into full barrel helm. Fig 6, Heath (1989)
Long almost triangular shielf   1100 – 1200      
Phrygian helmet   1100 – 1200      
Flat top helmet 1140 1200 – ? 1300 Persisted in Spain until 1300 Fig 4, Heath (1989)
Flat topped shield 1140     Most common shield after early 13th C.  
Surcoat 1141 1200 – ? ? Started white; heraldry introduced about 1200  
Mail mittens 1180 1200      
Animal crest on helmet 1187 ? ? Unrelated to heraldry Fig 7, Heath (1989)
Plate shin guards 1240 1300 – ? ?    
Kettle helmet 1175 1250 – ?  Never    
Barrel helm 1200 1230   Evolved from the helmet with faceguard  
Mail Gauntlets 1250 ? Common before 1285      
Coat of plates 1259     Started in Germany  
Plate Gauntlets 1296        
Sugar-loaf Helmet   1289 ?   Gradually replaced flat-topped barrel helm Fig 15, Heath (1989)
Heater shield 1250 1270 – ?     Fig 15, Heath (1989)


I’ve put together this table so I could easily pick out what armour was suitable for which period.

Figure Title Date Description
Fig 41, Heath (1980) Visigothic Infantryman 7th century Visigoths no longer wore traditional clothes now being influenced by Byzantine fashions. This guy wears a tunic, close fitting breeches, boots, short cloak and tall hat. Tunics mainly white, red or buff. Breeches mainly red or dark blue. In the 7th century Visigothic infantry would carry spear, shield, and side arm, or bow and arrows. Side arms would be a sword, scrama, or semispathum (short sword). The Visigoths also used the Frankish style throwing axe (francisca to the Franks, but called cateia or teutona by the Visigoths). Some infantry wore mail or scale corselets and helmets.
Fig 42, Heath (1980) Visigothic Cavalryman 7th century Helmet, corselet (mail or scale), shield, sword, lance and javelins.
Fig 54, Heath (1980) Carolingian Medium Cavalryman 7th-10th centuries Similar figures appeared in Visigothic armies from the 7th century and were provided by the Gascon, i.e. Basques. Stirrups began to appear mid 8th century but some riders went without into the 9th century.
Fig 127, Heath (1980) Norman, French or Breton Medium Cavalryman 11th century Although the figure is “French” similar figures appear in Spanish manuscripts. The Spanish versions lack the coif.
Fig 132, 133, Heath (1980) 11th C European Heavy Infantrymen Early 11th C to early 13th C Hasal helmet, mail corselet (mail or scale), kite shield.
Fig 135, Heath (1980) Spanish Heavy Cavalry from 10th century Helmet, mail corselet (could be scale), wood or leather round shield, lance and sword. Round shields were used up to late 12th century. Helmets, sword hilts and shields were often decorated in gold and silver.
Fig 136, Heath (1980) Spanish Heavy Cavalry c. 1050 Helmet, kite shield, lance, sword. No body armour. Similar but with a kite shield. Kite shields were introduced into Spain in the late 10th or early 11th century.
Fig 137, Heath (1980) Spanish Heavy Infantryman Early 11th century Phrygian-style helmet, mail corselet, round shield, and spear. Unarmoured types were also possible.
Fig 141, Heath (1980) Spanish kite shield patterns 11th century The most common Spanish shield colours were red and bright blue. Fig 141 a-c are Norman zoomorphic designs but the Spanish used similar patterns. They are not heraldic. All of the shields have a boss and rim.
Fig 141 m has no boss and four dots arranged in a square. These are the rivets holding the carrying straps on the back of the shield. The shield has a rim.
Fig 141 l has a boss, dots above and below the boss, and a rim. There are three dots in an upward pointing triangle above the boss and a diamond of four dots below.
Fig 141 d-k are Norman and Saxon designs but would probably do for Spanish.
Fig 120, Heath (1980) Late Saxon or Anglo-Danish Huscarl 11th century Some Spanish infantry wore armour similar to this figure.
Fig 132, Heath (1980) European Heavy Infantryman 11th century Some Spanish infantry wore armour similar to this figure.
Fig 133, Heath (1980) European Heavy Infantryman Early 11th to early 13th century (1110 specifically) Some Spanish infantry wore armour similar to this figure. Scale corselet.
Fig 6, Heath (1989) Knight with Surcoat c. 1205 This is the first of the figures within the Feudal Armies book that has a surcoat. Heath observes that surcoats start appearing about 1150 and were common from early 13th century. In the 12th century they were white but by 13th century had begun to carry heraldic devices.
Fig 63, Heath (1989) Spanish Knight 12th-13th century This guy has helmet, mail corselet, round shield, a lance used over arm, and a sword. The round shield gradually dropped out of use in the 13th century so he is more typical of the 12th century. Aside from the mail leggings there is little between this chap and Fig 135 in Heath (1980) who is from the 11th century. By the mid-13th century Castilian knights were expected to wear bright colours including red, green and yellow. Scarlet was reserved for the King.
Armour, helmets, swords, and shields was decorated with gold or silver. Armour was often gilded.
Fig 64, Heath (1989) Spanish Knight 13th century Round topped bascinet helmet (typically used in place of the barrel-helm), mail corselet, long surcoat, shield with straight sides and round bottom, lance, and sword. The shield, sleeves of the surcoat, helmet, and pennon all display the same shield device. The body of the surcoat has a Berber style floral decoration.
Fig 65, Heath (1989) Spanish Town Militiaman 12th-13th centuries (specifically c. 1125) Bare headed, long robe, boots, round shield, spear, and falchion. The lower classes wore sombre colours.
Fig 66, Heath (1989) Spanish Town Militiaman 12th-13th centuries A better armoured militiaman. He has a mail corselet and coif but no helmet. His shield seems to be similar to that of Fig 64, Heath (1989), i.e. straight sided with a rounded bottom.
Fig 67, Heath (1989) Spanish Javelinman (Bidet, Bidower) 12th-13th centuries This guy is distinctively Aragonese, Navarrese or Basque. He has a thrusting spear, javelins, short sword or dagger. All were unshielded and most unarmoured. Some had light quilted or leather armour.
Fig 58, Heath (1984) Almughavar Mercenary 13th-14th centuries (specifically c. 1302) This guy is the Catalan version of the previous figure. Although Catalan they served other masters, e.g. Castile, Aragon, and Byzantium. He wears a leather cap, tunic, short fur jacket, leather leggings, and shoes or sandals. He has a thrusting spear, javelins, short sword or dagger. All were unshielded and most unarmoured. Some may have worn a mail coif.
Fig 68, Heath (1989) Jewish Soldier 11th-13th centuries (specifically c. 1220)
Fig 69, Heath (1989) Aragonese Berber Jinete 13th century (specifically c. 1200)
Fig 70, Heath (1989) Brother Knight, Order of Santiago 12th-13th century In habit
Fig 71, Heath (1989) Brother Knight, Order of Santiago 13th century Faded red surcoat, helmet and shield with device of Order of Santiago, The horses had housings with the same device on them and red leather chanfrons or mail bards. Confrere brethren of Sanitiago, and probably other orders, wore their own arms on their shields.
Fig 72, Heath (1989) Brother Knight, Order of Alcantara 14th century (specifically c. 1300) Wears a habit in place of the surcoat. Calatravan brethren always wore blackened armour.
Fig 72, Heath (1982) Italian Infantryman 14th century (specifically 1370) Spanish military fashions followed the Italians.
Fig 84, Heath (1982) Spanish Man-at-Arms 14th century
Fig 85, Heath (1982) Spanish Man-at-Arms c. 1400
Fig 86, Heath (1982) Brethren of the Order of Santiago 1486
Fig 87, Heath (1982) Brethren of Order of Calatrava c. 1430
Fig 88, Heath (1982) Castillian Jinete 14th-15th centuries From 1367 Jinetes were up armoured.
Fig 89, Heath (1982) Castillian Slinger c. 1360
Fig 90, Heath (1982) Spanish Spearman 15th century (specifically c. 1468) Could also be 14th century.
Fig 91, Heath (1982) Spanish Archer 15th century
Fig 92, Heath (1982) Spanish Spearman Late 15th century
Fig 93, Heath (1982) Spanish Hermandad Militiaman 15th century


Heath, I. (1980). Armies of the Dark Ages 600-1066 (2nd ed.). Wargames Research Group.

Heath, I. (1982). Armies of the Middle Ages, volume 1. Wargames Research Group.

Heath, I. (1984). Armies of the Middle Ages, volume 2. Wargames Research Group.

Heath, I. (1989). Armies of Feudal Europe 1066-1300 (2nd ed.). Wargames Research Group.

Nicolle, D. (1998). Granada 1492: The twilight of Moorish Spain (Campaign Series 53). Osprey.

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