Not to be confused with Brigantine.
For the video game, see Brigandine (video game).

A brigandine is a form of body armour from the Middle Ages. It is a cloth garment, generally canvas or leather, lined with small oblong steel plates riveted to the fabric.


Protected clothing and armour have been used by armies from earliest recorded history; the King James Version of the Bible [Jeremiah 46:4] translates the Hebrew סרין SiRYoN "coat of mail"[1] as "brigandine". Medieval brigandines were essentially a refinement of the earlier coat of plates, which developed in the late 12th century, typically of simpler construction made of larger plates. The Asian-originated armour reached Europe after the Mongol invasion in 1240 that destroyed the Kievan Rus' and generated extensive damage to the Kingdom of Hungary in 1241. The new armour became very popular first in Eastern Europe, especially in Hungary, towards the end of the 13th century and after having proved effective was adopted by the medieval states from West Europe several decades later.[2]

Later Brigandines first appeared towards the end of the 14th century, but survived beyond this transitional period between mail and plate, and came into wide use in the 15th century, remaining in use well into the 16th. 15th century brigandines are generally front-opening garments with the nails arranged in triangular groups of three, while 16th century brigandines generally have smaller plates with the rivets arranged in rows.

The brigandine has been confused with the haubergeon, while the name is often confused with the brigantine, a swift small sea vessel.[3]


The form of the brigandine is essentially the same as the civilian doublet, though it is commonly sleeveless. However, depictions of brigandine armour with sleeves are known. The small armour plates were sometimes riveted between two layers of stout cloth, or just to an outer layer. Unlike armour for the torso made from large plates, the brigandine was flexible, with a degree of movement between each of the overlapping plates. Many brigandines appear to have had larger, somewhat 'L-shaped' plates over the central chest area. The rivets, or nails, attaching the plates to the fabric were often decorated, being gilt, or of latten, and sometimes embossed with a design. The rivets were also often grouped to produce a repeating decorative pattern. In more expensive brigandines the outer layer of cloth was usually of velvet. The contrast between a richly dyed velvet cloth and gilded rivet heads must have been impressive and, unsurprisingly, such armour was popular with high status individuals.

Modern flak jackets and ballistic vests are based on the same principle: a protective cloth vest containing metal plates.


It was commonly worn over a gambeson and mail shirt and it was not long before this form of protection was commonly used by soldiers ranging in rank from archers to knights. It was most commonly used by Men-at-arms. These wore brigandine, along with plate arm and leg protection, as well as a helmet. However, even with the gambeson and the mail shirt, a wearer was not as well protected as when wearing plate armor. However, the brigandine was probably favored by soldiers who preferred the greater degree of mobility this armour afforded.

Brigandine was simple enough in design for a soldier to make and repair his own armor without needing the high skill of an armorer.

A common myth is that brigandines were so-named because they were a popular choice of protection for bandits and outlaws.[4] This is untrue. Originally the term "brigand" referred to a foot soldier. A brigandine was simply a type of armour worn by a foot soldier. It had nothing to do with its alleged ability to be concealed by bandits. In fact, brigandines were highly fashionable and were ostentatiously displayed by wealthy aristocrats both in European and in Asian courts.

Similar types

European jack of plates

A similar type of armor was the jack of plates or coat of plates, commonly referred to simply as a "jack" (although this could also refer to any outer garment). This type of armor was used by common Medieval European soldiers and the rebel peasants known as Jacquerie.[5]

Like the brigandine, the jack was made of small iron plates between layers of felt and canvas. The main difference is in the method of construction: a brigandine is riveted whereas a jack is sewn. Jacks were often made from recycled pieces of older plate armor, including damaged brigandines and cuirasses cut into small squares.[6]

Jack remained in use as late as the 16th century and was often worn by Scottish Border Reivers. Although they were obsolete by the time of the English Civil War many were taken to the New World by the Pilgrim Fathers as they provided excellent protection from Indian arrows; one dating back to 1607 was recently found at Jamestown.[7]

Indian "coat of ten thousand nails"

The Indian equivalent of the Brigandine was the Chihal'Ta Hazar Masha, or "Coat of ten thousand nails": a padded leather jacket covered in velvet and containing steel plates which was used until the early 19th century. The skirt was split to the waist, allowing the soldier to ride a horse. Matching vambraces and boots containing metal plates were also used. It was derived from Islamic armor used by the Saracen armies. These were often elaborately decorated with gold lace, silk and satin and are highly prized by European collectors.

Tipu Sultan wore armor of this type during his wars against the East India Company. The Turks used similar armor during the Russo-Turkish Wars.

Two complete suits of armor are preserved in the Hermitage Museum, Leningrad.[8]

Chinese brigandine

A type of armour very similar in design to the brigandine was used in medieval China.

Russian orientalist and weapon expert Mikhail Gorelik states that it was invented in the 8th century as parade armour for the Emperor's guards by reinforcing a thick cloth robe with overlaping iron plates, but did not come into wide use until the 13th century, when it became widespread in the newborn Mongol Empire under the name of hatangu degel ("robe which is as strong as iron"). He also argues that Eastern European kuyaks and, supposedly, Western European brigandines originate from this armour.[9]

This type of armour was still used in China as late as in the Ming and Qing time. It was favoured by the officers both for its rich, expensive look and protection. Later examples, however, often lack iron plates and were merely a military uniform.

Russian kuyak

In the Moskovian Rus', there was a type of armour known as the kuyak. It is thought to have Mongolian origins[9][11] and be analogous to the Central Asian,[12] Indian and Chinese brigandine armours.[13] The word "kuyak" is itself a derivative from Mongol huyag, which means "armour" (of any type). No known intact examples of this type of armour survived the tumultuous history of Russia, but historical depictions, textual descriptions and photos[14] remained.

The descriptions, while not offering any in-depth details of the kuyak's construction, suggest a textile body armour reinforced with iron plates (usually not specifying directly the placement thereof, only mentioning the "nails" - rivets, which attached the plates to the layer of cloth), often with long armoured faulds, sleeves and/or pauldrons, sometimes covered in expensive textiles like sateen, velvet or damask and decorated with fur.[15]

Some kuyaks had large "mirror" plates or "shields" attached to the outside. Some descriptions also mention cotton wool padding.[16]

There were also brigandine helmets called "kuyak hats" that used the same principle of construction as the kuyak body armour.[17]

Japanese kikko armour

Kikko is the Japanese form of brigandine.[18] Kikko are hexagonal plates made from iron or hardened leather and sewn to cloth.[19] Kikko can be hidden by a layer of cloth over the kikko [20] or the kikko can be left exposed. Kikko were used only relatively recently, during the 16th century.[19]

Kikko comes in many forms including, coats, vests, gloves, arm and thigh protectors and helmet neck guards. Kikko armor was worn as a stand alone defense or under other types of armor as additional protection.

See also


External links

  • Hans Memling triptych wing depicting brigandine, c 1470
  • same site at the internet archive)
  • Rajput armor

Template:Elements of Medieval armor Template:Types of armour

This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.