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The Scandinavian

Baltic Crusades


De finiti o n)> ora crusade

Participants in the Ba iLie C tu ~ades
The Ba il ie at the time olt lw Crmades

was born In 1970. He was
educated at the University
of Lund In Sweden where he
studied medieval archaeology,
history and ethnology. He Is
also a specialist in medieval
weaponry and warfare.





The dilliculties of interpn:ting sources

1100-1 ~WO: shields - sword.,- helmets- mail atmourthe gambeson- the importance or the bow and crossbowclose comha1 weapons
1300-1 ~ 00: additional pla te reinforcementsthe coat-of-plates- helmet~: the bascinct, the 'Order helmet'
and the 'J...ettlc-hat'- mmual cop,ing of.,ome infantrv and
cavah"\ items- ~>hields and hucJ...Ier~. \\'eapom: hand-held
guns- crossbows- swords- daggers- pole-arms
1400- 1500: plate armour - halberds and polcall.e1>Jongswords- crossbows


1944 and worked in the BBC
Arable service for a number
of years, before gaining an
MA from the School of
Oriental and African Studies,
London, and a doctorate from
Edinburgh University. He
has written many books and
articles on medieval and
Islamic warfare.

ANGUS McBRIDE is one of

the world's most respected
historical i llustrators, and
has contributed to more than
90 Osprey titles in t he past
three decades.




1100-1300: Armour- shit:lcJ.,- weapons




Strongpoint., and raiding

Climalt.' and terrain- \\inlet warfare
Boats and ships
Siege warfare









Men-at-Arms 4 36

The Scandinavian
Baltic Crusades

D Lindholm & D Nicolle Illustrated by A McBride

First published 1n Great Bntaln In 2007 by Osprey Publishing

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arc familiar with the Cmsades to the Holy Land
during the Middle Ages; others know of the Rcconquista, in
what arc now Spain and Portuga l, which was another form
of medieval crliSadc. In conuast, the crusades that took place around
the Baltic Sea during the same period are less well known. Even those
studies which have been made have emphasized the role of Gcnnans,
and above all the Germanic military orders - the Sword Brethren, and
the Teutonic Knights - rather than that of the Scandinavian peoples
who played such a vital role.
These expeditions were regarded as genuine crusades, both bj the
medieval European Church and by Lhose who took pan in them. The
Baltic Crusades, as they are now known, were sanctioned by Papal
authority; and they had a profound impact upon the subsequent histol)
of all the states that surround the Baltic Sea.

D e fin it i on s of a c ru sa d e

OPPOSITE The Danish knight

Henrik Plot in full armour, shown
In a 14th century stained glass
wi ndow. This Illustrates the
transitional styles of body
defence - probably with a
coat-of-plates worn over a mail
hauberk and 'soft' armour as also found In the grave-pits
at Vlsby. (In situ Do llefjelde
Church, Denmark)

In recent times a 'crusade', in its original religious and warlike sense,

has generally been regarded simply as an ugly phenomenon from the
Western world's blood-stained past, without much consideration being
given to the actual origins of the term. To the Christian peoples of the
Middle Ages, however, the word had a very specific meaning: it was
an armed expedition or series of expeditions intended to remove a
perceived threat to the Christian faith , or to convert non-Ch1istians to
Christian iry (by force if necessary) , or to achieve both these ends.
Not all such religiously inspired armed confl i ct~ were against Muslims
or pagans, however. Those against 1he Albigensians in sou thern France
were undertaken to crush a ' heresy'; while those against the Byzami ne
Imperial capital of Constantinople, against Bulgars, Hussites and o1her
peoples and communities in Europe, pitted Latin or Catholic Christians
against Christians who adhered to a different version of the faith.
Meanwhile, the so-called ' Italian Crusades' were little more than poli tical
wars to maintain or extend Papal power. At the legal core of all such
crusades lay the tact that such mi litary efforts had to be sanctioned
by the Pope - Christ's represenrative on earth - or, at the least, by a
respected bishop who was himselfrepresentiug the Pope.
Participating in a crusade offered many material and spiritual benefits
for the believing vVestern European Christian, and this was as true of the
Baltic Crusaders as it was of I hose who mounted expeditions to Lhe Holy
Land in Palestine. These benefits may be sununaJiLecl as follows:
While a man was on crusade, all his assets were protected; they could
not be seued in payment of taxes or other debts. All his sins were

forgi\cn. including those

committed while on the
cntsadc it'>elf. A crusader
would not be prosecuted
for am crime'> committed
before the crmade, and if
lw fulfilled hi., oath and
completed hi., crusade
(and .,UJ"\ived), then these
crimes would be forgi\en
b\ the worldh authorities;
in other words, a man
could return horne with a
clean slate, both spirituall}
and legally. Anr loot that
\ ....
he might take while on
crmade could usually be
kept, although a tithe
was normally expected to
be paid to the Church
of 1>uch ' profits' of
~ l.l:l
4>/: i.....~
People from all wall-s
of life took pan in these
ventures, ranging from
king-. and prince\ of the
through C\er. le\el
dm'n to the verT
poore'>t. Impired b\ their
faith and their hope for Lhe
.,,,Jnnion of their immortal
Swedish territory
..,oub. the\ gathered whate\et meam the\ could
CJ Danish t~rritory
aflord and set off into the
,---""' Swedish Crusades
distant unkn0\\11, to rid
the world of those they
~ Danish Crusades
belic\ed to be 'enemies of
the faith'.
rn the past, many historiam have made much of the fact that the
crusades were a means for ruler:. ami cotnnnmitics in times of local
peace to rid themselves - at least temporarily - of landless and
burdensome younger sons of the propcrtkcl clas.,cs, and of greedy and
troublemaking noblemen whose ambitions threatened the stabilitY of
the state. In reality, this docs not usually 'iCt'lll to have been the case.
In<>tead, the vast m~jority of crusaders took part because rhev believed in
what they were doing and accepted'' hat their local religious leader\ told
them was their du~ to God. Thb wa., a tim<' '' ht>n man\' believed in the
reaching of their Church so strongh that the\ \\ere \\illing to lay down
their lives for it. Difficult as it mm be in ou1 -,ecular age, it is essential to
grasp the~e facts if one wishes to under-.tand
the cntsades became
<;uch a popular mo,ement, dra\\ ing in man) of the leading political and
ecclesiastical princes of Europe to \UCh a remarkable degree.


P a rticipant s In th e Balt ic C r u sa d es

Tn the carl~ )Cars the Baltic Crusade., mosth imohed ~(andinmia and
the German-speaking a reas. ' Outrc mer'. or the crusader lt'lritories in
the Middle East, provided a more appealing arena for wuthern
monarchs and their peoples. After th e loss of the la~r rragme nts of
the Ho ly Land in 1291, crusading opportunities in 1he ea<;tern
~leditenanean became limited. A<> a re.,ult, French and Hurgundian
would-be cmsade1'!. began to show increasing imere'>t in the pagan
lands of the Baltic region, this being especiall) apparent dudng the
11th century. The Teutonic Knights, as an international military order
of chivalry, could poren rially draw upo n manpower from right across
Christendom , but in rea li ty the Order's rccnliling bases were limited to
their core lands within the German Empire.
Where Lhe Scandinmian counuie., were concerned, it \\tl.'> never a
very large-scale affair, and there was no qucslion of the Baltic Cmsades
capturing the imagination of an entire conlinent in the wa\ that the
First Crusade to j crw..ale m had done. T here were, of course, many
volunteers; but for rh e most part rhc forces involved were ' roy-a l
crusades', carried our by rule rs and the relinues tha t lhcy lhe mselves
could muster, whether from Denmark, Norway or Sweden.
The Baltic Crusade'>, and especialh the campaign<> direned against
the pagan Lithuaniam, also came to be ~een as offering an opportunity
for men to gain valuable military cxpetience without hm ing to travel
all the way to the Middle East, where a feeble cmsading cOon was sti ll
under way. It was for these reasons 1hal the Baltic became th e most
popular region for cr 11~ading during the 14th cen tury. Thi~ is furtJ1er
highlighted by the facr that the Papal autholities offered rhe same
re\,ards and conditions to Scandina\;an ~mereigns a.., were offered to
the English and French when it came w allocaling the tax revenues
collected by the Church for the specific pwvose of financing a crusade.
By the mid-14th cen tury
I he Church came to realize
that a dwindling income
from these taxes meant
lhaL, if continued pre sure
\\<I'> LO be maintained in
the BaJLic region, a larger
portion needed to he
over to
rh e
monarchs acw ally inmlved.
~fo1al pressure wa<> al~o
C'\elted: for example,
St Bi rgitta of Sweden was
at that time extremelr
influential, both in rh e
Church and in worldly
matters. She wrote on tJ1c
topic of cmsading se\eral
times, in an anempt to
revive interest amongst
J..ings who now .seemed to
lack sumcie nt enthusiasm.

The Bishop's Citadel of

Kuressare, on the Estonian
Island of Saaremaa, described
as the only medieval fortress
In the Baltic States which Ia
virtually complete. Nevertheless,
the upper parts of both the walls
and the towers were added
during the 20th century.

The Baltic at the time of the Crusades

Since at least the Bronte Age. the BaJtic Sea has been a factor \\ hich
connected rather than di,,ided those peoples and counuiei> which hl\
around iti> shore..,. It prO\ ided relatively easy communications and tr-ade
routes between mall\ different regions. The fairly modest <,i;e and
enclosed nalttre of the Baltic Sea also meant that crossing it wa.., 1101
particular!\ difficult. During the Iron Age and Earl~ Medie,al period \\ideh known a.., the \ 'il,ing period -trade in this rc~on intensified to a
remarkable degree. A., a re ... ult traders and raiders from almost all the
surrounding coast.., sailed across the Baltic to visit their neighbour..,,
either for peaceful pmpoi>eS or othen\ise.
Thh. had the impot tant effen of ensudng that the peoples of the
Baltic Sea posse!>sed much broader and more accurate knowledge of each
other than was the c;tse, for
example, amongM the earl)
crmarler!. to the Middle
Easl. In the Mediterranean
the cmL~tal and maritime
peoples may have known
a l<>L about t.ach other.
but the ordinat) crusaders
from further north and
weM wen. \\Ocfullv ignorant
about their Muslim foe~.
A.., the people'> of the
Scandinm ian
Pen imula
and of Denntat k began to
consolidate inw kingdotm
along es<,etllialh \\'e<,tet n
problem!. posed b\ tribal
raiders from elsewhere in
the Baltic cea-,ed to be a
local is~ue \\hich could be
dealt \\itJ1 piecemeal. It now
became a matter lor royal
authority and became a
state responsibility. It also
orTcrcd the new rulers of'
what became Denmark,
Sweden and, to a l e~sct
extent, Norway a means
of exerting and demonstrating royal pmn.'r a~
prott'ctor' of their sul~jeCL'>.
Although the..,e per.,i>.ten 1
raid~ \\ere not the onh
rea\on for \\hat -.ub-.equently beccune Lhe Baltic
Cru~ades, Lhe\ certain!~
gaYe added momentum to
the movement.

Union of Kalmar
Teutonic Kntghts

Hanseatic league

hom the -;tart it becanw clear Lhat the geographical dispo'>itiun of

the new (andinmian 'tate' t'nabled them to locus on sligluh different
region.., at least lO begin \\ith. Dt'nmark lool-.c:d ea,tward to the \\'c:ndbh
coast of what is no" non lwrn Germany, and to the southem ot midBaltic region of what are now the Polish coa~t and parL~ of the new
independent Baltic ~tate,. Swt'rlen looked towards Finland and the
northern pans of the Baltic rmL~tline. To a large extent thi-. di'>pmition
also reflected regional politic'>; Denmark "a' alreach much more do~eh
connectl'rl bv uade and political relatiotv.. hip' to northem Getman}.
while Sweden had closer cnnnt'ctions to the: ti'ing Russian prindpalit)
of Novgorod and tJ1e tribtt l areas around Fin land.
Tn comidering the following chronolog)' of the major cventl>, readers
should bear in mind that the earliest campaigns were not ~tricth
speaking 'crusades', becaml' the Pope had not \et sanctioned them
as wt~r-. conducted in rlw name of Chri'>tianit\. Pope Ut ban had
proclaimed 'the Cntsade' (the First Cru<>ade) in 1096, directed lO\\<Ucls
recapruring the Hoi) Land from the Mu,lim!>. It would take: manv
years before the idea of a 'northern' or Ba ltic Crusade took root in
Scandinavia. However, in 1103 King Eric I 'Ever Good' of Denmark
made an armed pilgdmage w Palestine, the flr~t European crowned
mler to 'isit the neKly e<;tablbhcd Cmsader Kingdom of .Jnmalem although he died on his \\"'<1\ home. Four ) ear'> later Sigurd .Jm-.alafar,
one of the co-rulers of 'orway, also made an epic \Ovage from
Scandina\ia through the Straits of Gibraltar to the eastern
Medircrranc:an, where his little fleet helped the cntsaders conquet the
coast. Thi~ should again, perhaps, be regarded a~ an armed pilgrimage,
since the broader ideCl of 'crmacting' - as a calling, distinct from I he
specific expedition which we now call, \dth hindsight, the 'Fir~t
Cru'lade'- had not yet fulh de, eloped.
Key for numbered castles some with modern place n am es
In brac kets:
(1) Copenhagen
(2) Kalundborg
(3) Sprog o
(4) Nyborg
(5) TArnborg
(6) Vord lngborg
(7) Stoc kholm
(8) Tavestunhus
(9) Viborg
(1 0) Kn holm
(11) Landskrona
(12) Kopor'ye
(13) Narva
(14) Reval (Tallinn)
(15) Leal (Lihula)
(16) Abo
(17) Kuressare
(18) Kast elholm
(19) Segewold (Sigu lda)
(20) Raseborg
(21 ) Hasenpoth (Aizpute)
(22) Turaida

I095-99 First Crusade to the Iloly Land.
1103 Pilgtimage of King Erik of Denmark to the easL
II 08 .\n appeal for help i'> made in Lhe northern German Dioce'e
of Magdeburg.
1135 Danish attack on rlw Slav (Rugian) island of Rl'tgen.
I 147 The first ' northern crusade' against the pagan Baltic Slnv!>.
1168-69 King Valdemar I of Denmark attacks and conquers
Rl'tgen island.
I l 71 Pope ,\Jexander H1 authorizes crmade'> against the pagan
populations or the ea"Cnl Baltic (Sia\ , Bait and Finn II ihe'i).
1185 Pomeranian Slavs !lurrender to King Canute IV of Denmark.
1188 Estonians (Finm) raid the Swedish city of t.Jppsala.
1198 Pope Innocent TTl authorizes Lhe Livonian Crusade against the
eastern Baltic coast.
1200 Bi'>hop Alben establbhes the see of Riga (now in Lat\ia) and the
Order of Sword BroLherl).
l 206 Valdemar Seijre lead~ hb 1eet agaimt the Osilian (Estonian-Finn)
i..,lancl of Osel, supported by Archbi~hop Andreas Sunesen
of Lund.

1200-09 Con quc~t of the Livs (now central Lania) by crusader~ and

Bishop Albert.
1217 Pope I lonotilh ITl authorizes a crusade against the Prussiam

(now in north-tastern Poland and the Russian enclave of

1219 King \'alclcmar TJ of Denmark goes on a crusade against the Ew,;
according to legend the Danish national flag miraculomh fell
from the 'k' at the battle of Lmdanise during this expedition.
King \aldcmar founds the cit\' of Reval (now Tallinn) and
initiates 1he conquest of northern Esronia.
1226 Gennan Emperor Frederick IT's Bull of Rimini grants Pnt'>-.ia
to the Tcuwnic Order in what are now north-eastern Poland,
the Rm.sian enclave ofKaliningrad and part of western Lithuania.
1230 Pope Grcgot)' IX authorizes the Teutonic Knights to anack tlw
pagan Pru ~siam.
123 1-40 The Te ut on ic Knigh ts and other German crusaders conquer
the western Prussian tribes.
1236 The German Order of Sword Brothe rs is virtually wiped out hy
th(' pagan Lithuania ns a t Siaulai (Saule).
1240 Fir'it Baltic Crusade against th e Russians of ovgorod; Swedish
cntsaders defeated by Prince Alexander Nevski.
1249 Conquest of the central regions of Finland (pagan Sumi and Em i
tribe~ ) hv Swedish forces under Birger J arl.
1254-56 ConqueM of the pagan Samogitians in Sam land (no'' the
eastern pan of the Ruc;sian enclave ofKaliningracl).
1290 Conque'>l of pagan Semigallia (now coastal Lithuania) bY the
fetllonic Knights of Lhonia (now Lat\ia).
1291 Fall of cnt~ader-held ,\ ere in Palestine; transfer of the
headquarter-, of the Temonic Knight<> ro \'en ice.
1292 Swedi'>h crmadet"> establish an outpost in pagan Korela (Fi nnic)
teniLOt') .tt \'iborg (now \ 'yborg in nord1-western Rus~ia).
1300 Swede'> forrif} Land.,krona on the River Neva (now St Peter~bmg
in north-western Rmsia) on the frontier bet\,een the pagan
(Finn) Korela and l7hora tribes.
1308 Teutonic Knights occupy Danzig (now
Gdansk in northern Poland).
1309 fh e headq uarter of the Teutonic Knights
is moved from Venice to Marie nburg in
Prussia (now Malbork in Pola nd).
13 18 Novgorod ians raid Swedish-ru led Finland
and burn the ca thedral in Abo (now
1323 Treat} of N6teborg ends the war bet\,een
Swcdt'n and Novgorod; peace is agreed
between the Teutonic Knights and Grand
Duke Gee! imina'> of Lithuania.
1316 King Valdemar I\' of Denmark sell'> Danishheld territon in what is now northern
Estonia to the Teutonic Knights.
1348 King ~lagnus ofS,,eden invades Russia
(King ~l agnus' First Crusade).
1350 King ~lagnus of Sweden\ Second Crusade.

A king and one of his retainers

or guards, In a tate 12th century
Swedish-Danish relief carving.
Note that the helmet, right, Is
of the almost flat-topped form
but still has a nasal; the mail
coif covers almost the whole
face and Is shown In a different
stylized manner to the mall
hauberk. The soldier Is
otherwise armed with a tall,
almost flat-topped kite shield
and a sword. (In situ Lyngsjo
Church, SkAne, Sweden)

1362 Christian Prussians and crusaders capture wesLCrn Lithuanian c.ity

of Kaunas.
1364 Pope Vrban \'issues a Bull urging a cominuation of the
crusade against the Ducl1\ of Lithuania, the la~t 'pagan '\late
in Europe.
1381 Cannon used b) TeuLOnic Knights f01 the fin.t time on the
Rj,er 'emen.
1382 Teutonic Knights seize the l .ithuanian c-apital ot \ 'ilniw.
1381 JogaJio (Jagiello) become'> ntler of tlw '>tilllt~~gel~ pagan Crand
Duchy of Lithuania.
1386 Grand Duke Jagiello of Lithuania is bapti/ed ao., a Chri<;tian, is
crmmcd King of Poland as Ladi.,la'> II. and foundo., the Jagiellon
dyna'it)' which ruled Poland until I 668.
1398 Teutonic Knights capture the Swccli~h island of (,otland and
regain Samogelia from Grand DukP Alcxandct \')tauta., (\\'irold)
of Lithuania.
1409 Samogctians revolt against Teutonic Knight!>' rule.
1410 Poles and Lithuanians defe<1t the Teutonic Order at the battle
14 23 Last German crusaders reach Prussia.
1429 Teutonic Knights sent to defend I Iungat) against the Ottoman
I ~54-66 The Thirteen Years' War between Poland-Prw.~ian rebel
alliance and Teutonic Knights; Teutonic Knight'> !me western
Prussia but retain eastern PnL'>'>ia <L'> , t.,sab of the Poli-.h crm,11,
and remain independem in Livonia (no" Lal\ia and b.tonia).
l.J-96 Swedish force attack the RtL'>sian (~luscmite) lot lit''' of
Ivangorod on the eastern frontit>r of Estonia.
1302 Wolter von Plettenberg, Ma-.ter of the Teutonic Knight-. in
Limnia, defeats Czar Ivan II of ~lusco\'\ at L1kc ~molina.
1361 Livonia divided between Poland and \\eden (0'>el i<;land to
Denmark in 1573).

In Early Medieval and High MediPval Scandinavia a S)~tem of defence
developed which was still largt>ly based on the charaneristic Viking
Age dependence upon ships. It came to be known a!> the INiung, and it
enabled a ruler to summon a specified number of ~ighting men from a
particular geographical region. By the time of the Baltic Crusades each
hundare district should have been able to muMer up one hundred men
and four ships, and formed part of a larger region called a svealand.
The vel.sel was called a sniirka or 'seashell'. and wa-. technologically a
descendant of the Viking age warship. ~1eatl\\hile the nlf(t/and formed
the core of the Swedish kingdom. and could mu'>ter as manv a~ 2,200
w<HTiors. There were, in addition. a \cHYing number of volunteers.
The /edung was a way of organiLing all anll\ to campaign outside
it!> own teJTiLOry and, as such, pro,ed 'en u~eful for Ualtic crusading
expeditions. This /edung had it.'> roots ill the Viking .\ge, and "-.u. found
in all Scandinavian countries at one time 01 another. First formalized in
Denmark during the first half of the 1 lth centu~. it prO\ided a legal

Inlaid silver d ecorations from

a 12th century sword blade.
Although excavated on the
eastern side of the Baltic
Sea, the weapon was almost
certainly made in Germany or
Scandinavia; the decorations
show warriors In typica l 12th
century European knightly
equipment. (after D.A.Drboglav)


method whereby a king could mmter an arm~ - ot colleCL taxe~ paid as

an alternative to attending the mmter. The concept \\ent back to the
9rh and I Oth centuries, when 'Sea King,' could be elected and ghen
prmisional authority oYer men who had a'>'>embled for a limited time
or to achieve certain limited and pre-agreed goal<.. '\e,enheles..,, these
carlv and temporary 'kingships' had no power of enforcement 0\er
their men, and exercised authorit'. onh b\ coment. Being cemred upon
a ship, such an organizational unit con.,isted of the \hip it'>elf, the men
ir carried plus their personal equipment and prmisiom: all the ship's
company agreed to serve for a -;et number of drt\'>.
The lPdung system of a'isembling men must not be confused with
'feudalism', since the lPdung was not gathered around leaders on the
basis of their nobility or seniorit} by birth. Instead it imohed free men
who o'~11ed farms and who were eligible lor military duty, and as such
it had more in common with later concept~ ol milita!) consc1iption.
No exemptions from taxation or any other ~on of reward were offered
as compensation for service; the ~enice itself r('mnined an obligation.
On the other hand, the taxes clemancled in place or service from those
individuals who did not present th emselves to serve later became a
pennanent tax, especially after the ll'dung wa<; abandoned in fa, our of
more truly feudal methods of a~sembling an army. Although the lPdwzg
eventually declined, the raising of Ievie~ ol free men remained an aspect
of military power in all Scandimwian coun tries unril the emergence of
true conscript armies in the 17th centun.'
Finland may also have had 110ille form o( lnlung <;\'>tem after its
conquest by Sweden, and the ledung sv'>tem was cenainh used in
Denmark as well ao; in i:':orwav. At it'> mmt ba'>ic Je,el the '>\'>tem relied
on each hemman or fam1 ~upplving one armed man, thu-. spreading
the burden of prmiding arlequateh equipped foot'>oldier.., throughom
the entire community.
The 14th cemun 'ia" '>ignificant changes
in the socio-political climate and in militan
technolog). both of" hkh resulted in a differem
military situation. lh now the Scandinavian
nobility had also strengtlwned its a hi lin ro muster
well-armoured and well-rnonnted cavalr} forces.
The evidence shows that a great many, perhaps
even a m<vority of early Baltic Crnsaders in the
12th century had been well armed. Subsequently,
during the I ~ th and 14th centuries, mounted
troops were raised from amongst the a1istocracies
of the rmsading natiom, a lthough foot soldiers
still formed the core of armies raised b\ the
ledung system, again supplememecl h\ volunteers.
In contrast, the knighth milirnn orders had a
different organitational and mili4tn stmcmre.
They represented the onh standing forces
available for the Baltic Cm...ades, other than the
household uoops of the bishops and the settler
nobilit> of tile newl) conquered territories.
1 See MAA 399, Me<Mval Scalld<navlln Alm18S (2} 130<H500

ARMOUR & WEAPONS, 1100-1300

When studying medieval military equipment, horse-harness and related

objects, we are always f~1ced with the question of how representative the
surviving artefacts really are. 'Where Scandinavia is concerned, it is also
important to recognize that, in military as in so many other respect<>, this
region was not quite the same as Continental Europe. An interesting
example of this phenomenon was the Norwegian Kongshird ('king's
army'), a mil itary force which the written sources assure us was well
eq uipped by Scandinavian standards. evertheless, the Kongshird lacked
items such as great helms and plate reinforcements to its armour, at a
time when these were widespread amongst the knights of France or
Germany. For instance, in the region ofUpplsandslagen during the 13th
century, the law required that only one man from every hnmnrm need
achieve the same standard of military equipment that was expected of
every man in the Hinl, which consisted of the king's best men.

RIGHT Scandinavian inscribed

effigla l slabs:
12th century knight from
Vejerslev in Denmark, believed
to be identified as a crusader
because of the cross on his
helmet and carried in his h and.
FAR RIGHT The kn ight Blrger
Persson and his wife, 1327. His
armour is of the old-fashioned
type, consisting of ringmail
without plate additions. (in situ
Uppsala Domkyrka, Uppsala)


(A) Sword from Denmark,

second half of the 12th century
(National Museum, Copenhagen;
photograph via E.Oakeshot1)
(B) Sword from Scandinavia,
second half of the 13th century
(private collection; photograph
via E.Oakeshot1)
(C) Sword from Denmark,
second half of the 14th century
(National Museum, Copenhagen;
photograph via E.Oakeshot1)


Milital) demandl> and the availabili tY of arms

and armour dif1ered considerabh between the
Scandinmian countriel>. Thc~e variations tended
to renect wealth and acccs-. to the major armsproducing centte.., of \\'e'>lt.'rn Europe. The
standards of militan equipmcm in medieval
Denmar~ \\ere. for e"Xamplc:. '>omewhere between
those of the poorer ~tate-. of :'\on\'<\\' and Sweden
to the north, and \\ealthier Genuam to the south.
Furthermore, much of the Dani~h aristocraC\
had clme link<> \\ith the northern German
aristocracv, whic h ea'>ed the '>pread of new ideas
and milital) 'fashion.,.
Throughout Scilndinmia fighting men used
whatever they could obtain or wa~ issued to them
by hig her authority. Arms, armour and costume
were in no ~ense unifc>r m. Documetllal)' sources
migh1 record the level of equipment that was
required, as i'l 110rt of ideal. Mediev-al illustrated
sourc<'s r<'rord what an anist thought men should
have, based on hi!> own obsen<Hions and what he
learned from pattern boo~s. Whether such written
and pictorial e\idence reflected current realit) is a
very different mauer.
Scandinmia \\"a'> not a militan bac~\\"ater, vet
the nature of warfiue in the Baltic region wa~ not
the same as that in Fn1nce. England, Spain or the
Cnrsader states of the Middle East. Scandin<l\ian armie.., were relati\'el~
~mall. and local geogntplw reduced the role of hea\ih annoured
Ca\1\lr)lllen- in fact, the terrain in \\hich the\ operated often rendered
their traditional tactics difficult or e\en redundant. Comequently. footsoldiers were c,en more important than the\ would othemise have been.
This resulted in \"anous laws or requirenlent\ concerning tJ1c militan
equipmem of infantry troops. One 13th century Swedi~h leg-al codex
called the Upplandslagm specified that C\Cr) footsoldier must be
equipped with a shield, a sword, a helmet, a mail hauberk or other
armour, and a bow with 36 arrows. These requirements were 1>imilar to
rhose of a well equipped Viking warrior from a et' ntlll"}' and a half earlier.
Until well into the 12th ccnlu ry the ordinary inlanuyman's shield
was still round in shape, and rhe popularily of' this fonn may actually
have persisted even longer, since it was holh reliable and easy to make.
Further developments in the design and 11tructure of ~hielcls initiall}
reneCLed the changing needs of monnted combatant~. resulting in an
elongated or so-called 'kite' shield which could proteettheir nrlnerable
legs. fhis was then gradually -;hortened and made more curved in
section, which ofiered greater resilience to blow~ \\ithout adding much
weight. Evenmally these elongated shields wcr<' also adopted bv men
fighting on foot.
The most t)'Pical Scandina,ian sword of thi.., period remained the
<>ingle-hand weapon that had been used ..,inn a t lea~r the l 1th cemun:
this had sn11ight edge~. a pommel of round. mal, disc or almond
-;hape. and a straight crossguard. The onlv real change was in the

point, which graclun lly became more acute,

permitting thrusting as well as cutting. \'\'hilc even
this was not uniH' rsal, the evidence nc,enheless
tends to support thE' idea that methods of using a
sword laid increasing empha<>is on the point rather
than rel}ing so much on the edge.
Scandinavian lwlmct-. from this period included
the pointed or conical sO<alled :'\onnan helmet, \\ith
or ,,;thout a na.,al guard. Another type was a ,-ariation
on this Sl) 1e with a rounded rop. It is also possible
that, during the 1140s, an older <>tylc of \'iking Age
helmet with e)e- and noseguards (usually known as
the Gjermundb) form) might still ha\e been used.
During the I~th centurv helmet., used by mounted
combatants reflectcct Continental European fashions;
many if not most '"ere probably imported from
Germany or elsewhcrc. 1 he first such new fashion was
for facegua rds; th ese started as sim ple plates attached
lo ord inary helmet'>, but gradually became larger.
From this the f1ll ly enclosed helmet or great helm soon
developed, and was used in candina,ia as elsewhere in Westem Europe,
though on I} b~ caval!). B)' contrast, the broad-brimmed 'kettle' helmet or
chapel-de-fer became much more popular in 13th century Scandina,ian
am1ies, being cheap to manufacture and highl}' effectiYe. A distinniwh
Scandina,ian Yer'!.ion of this 'war-hat' would in fact be developed during
the Hth centun.
The mo!>t tYpical bodv armour wa the mail hauberk, IL'malh \\ith
each ring hming n\C others pas~ed through it and ri\'eted clo-;ed. The
mail shirt<, tL'>E'd dtu;ng the \'iking Age probably did not reach much
further than the groin at most, and some were noticeabl\' shorter, while
mail sleeH~ that onh reached the elbows were considered adequate.
.\gain, the ri~ing imponance of ca\'all) and their greater need fm
protection led to .,ignificant changes in armour, including mail
hauberks that reached to mid-thigh and \\~th wrist-length slee,es;
thereafter, mail mittem wc.:re added to protect the hands. A later
development wa~ mail kggings. supported by a belt or strapped around
the rear of the legs. Another cle\'cloprnent was the mail coif or hooded
extension of the hauberk, replacing the earlier mail avcnLial that
was sometimes attached to the rims of helmet.'l. T h e mail hood then
developed into a separate piece of armour. All forms of mail were
secured to the body or limbs using leather cords, otherwise the mail
tended to flap about, making the wearer clnmsy, slow and Lircd.
The final item of armour was the gambeson, a form of soft armour.
This was uot a nc\\ imention, the Romans having worn something
similar. During the Middle Ages the gambeson unden,ent several
changes but retained its original purpose- to absorb a blum impact and
e\en to resist piercing anacks. Cloth, when well padded. is superio1 to
metal \\hen absorbing the shock of a blow; when worn beneath mail
armour the padded gambe<;on also protected the wearer from the
chafing, wimer cold or '>lin-warmed heat of metallic armour. Sometime<;
gambesons were worn on their mm, as the only annour a\'ailable to
footsoldiers, being relati\cly cheap to manufacture.

Two bronze m aceheads, 13th

century. This type of w eapon
w as widespread and came in
many forms; the simplest
version was simply a wooden
c udgel with Iron studs
hamm ered ln. (National Museum,
Copenhagen; end Malmli


Th e I mportanc e of the
bow a nd crossbow
Scan eli na\ iam had a long
tradition of using sub-;tantial
bows in both hunting and
warfare, a \impl<:' 's<:'lr bow
being u\ed from the \ iking
Age \\ell into the later
medie\'al period. 'J hei1 si7es
varied from relati,eh c;hon
to what might be called true
'longbow\', but whether that
term shou ld properly be
used is largely a matter of
seman tics. Long bowshafts
have sun ivecl from the
preceding m illennia, for
instance from the hogs of
Nydam. A wall painting in
Soclra Racta churc h inclt1des a figure with a short bow on his lef"t
shoulder; one bow found in Norwa y was 35in (89cm) long, while
illuMrations f"rom the Viking era al'io depict weapons that look <ihorL<.'I
than what would now be regarded as longbows. All the available
medieval evidence points towards the use of bows of a metre or so in
length. r he ctocunwntan sources refer to them simp!\ as 'bow:.',
\\ithout funlwr distinction, but the tenn tongbow' was an English one
that was ftrM med in I HR. It is important to understand that the site ol
the bow wa.-. intended to suit the stature of the indi,idual archer, and to
attempt any sophi\ticated classification from the random sun in1b b
quite unsafe. ~1mt bows in the Baltic region seem to have been made ol
a single piece of wood, \\ith no e'iclence of lamination.
Arrows of the bodkin type are known to have been an anciem design,
and many haw been found in boat-graves dating from the 6th to 9th
centlll) \'cnclel and Valsgarde pe1iods. These narrow or needle-shaped
arrowheads facilitated the penetration of armour, of no matter what
!>orl; a rows with broad head~ were less suitable in warfare, since they
were generally unable lO penetrate even tingmail armour.
'!\That is more imporl a nt was how these simple bows were used. There
seem to be no records of bows or crossbows being used in l<trg<'
speci;lliLcd f(>nmttions, as would be th e case in much of Continenta l
Europe. Pcrhap11 the archers were dispersed amongst other troops,
being employed defensively - as was the ca~e in 14th-15th century
England. H owever. the fact that the Upplanclslagen military laws
stipulated that each lrdung man should have a bow and arrows suggeMS
that the men we1 e expected to be able to use them. Perhaps archery
was !>omething that ev<.'l) man was expected to be able to do re<L'>onablv
well, but at \\hich ven few were specialists- as was often tJ1e C<L\e in
Continemal Europe.
The cros~bow'!> importance in Scandina\'ia and some otJ1er parL'> of
the Baltic can be -.cen from its carl) appeardl1cc, and from the large
numbers of crossbow bolts that arc almost routineh found ar
fortifications and battle sites. In fact tJ1e crossbow became the weapon of


(A) A highly decorated 12th

or 13th century sword from
Finland, with an Inlaid pommel
and qutttons. (National Museum,
A heavy axe head; this would
have been more of a toot than
a weapon, but would have been
used by peasant warriors If
nothing else was available.
(Untversttets Oldsakssamling,

Axehead from Norway, of a

type which would have been
useful both as a weapon and as
a woodsman's axe. This design
remained In use with minor
changes from the Viking Age to
the 18th century. (Universitets
Otdsakssamltng, Oslo)


A highly decorated 1oth to

13th century axe from Finland,
the tntatd socket part with front
and rear extensions along the
sides of the helve. (National
Museum, Helsinki)

choice for common soldier-;, along with the spear or halberd, and
remained 110 C\Cil into the carl} 16th century period of unrest. The
first recorded usc of the crossbow by Scandinavians dates from
1170 and the Dani~h crusade against the Estonians, and its
popularity increased Mcadih thereafter. It was considerabh
easier to usc than a hand bel\\, and required far le<>s practice
to achieve an acceptable leH' I of skill. h shot bolts at
greater spcl'd than a bow, resulting in greater damage lO
tJw target and being more cflecthe against armour.
The 13111 cellllll) sa'' fu1ther adoption of the crossbow,
be especially effective in
\icge warhtrc, most notably from behind cover inside
fortifications. As a con.,equence the crossbow became
an indispemable asset in the hands of Baltic Cmsaders.
In some respects the simple or early form of crossbow
was aclltally easier to manufacture than a good quality
handbow, its bolts or shafts ccrt<l inly being a lot less sophistkated than
a good arrow. T he armour-penetrating points used on crossbow bolts
rcmaiued \'ery sinlilar to those nom1ally used ''~th t11c hand bow.
The most widespread t}pe was a solid bodkin point that could easily
puncture mai l and, under fiwourable conditions, could even penetrate
plate armour or helmets.

A mid- 14th century German

great helm, known as the Prank
Helm, of a type used throughout
those regions Influenc ed by,
a nd s upplied with mltltary
equipment from, Germany.
(Waffensammlung, VIenna;
Ministry of Works photog raph)

Clo se comb a t w ea pon s

OtJwr \\capom that \\el e used during the Baltic Cmsades included the
weir-axe. This came in a \ariet\ of ~ves, bur rhe heavy battleaxc \\ilS
largeh finional: a real war-axe needed ro be light enough to \\ield
quiclJv in order to be an cffecri,e weapon. T he effectiveness of the
a.xc was largeh due to its cuuing weight being concentrated at one
end of the shaft, rather than being '>pread out along its length, a'>
11ith a .,,,ord; conseqn<>nllY the total weight of a war-a.xe could be
considerabl) less than 1hat of a sword. Such war-axes ranged from
those held in one hand to those wirh longer shafts wielded in
both hands. The Iauer, in Scandina,;;m hands, may actuall) ha\e
in11uenced 1he devt>lopmen t of pole-arms in Russia.
The spear remain<>d a
\eJ'} impor1an 1 wE-apon,
being cheap and straigh tforward to make ancl easy
to U'>e. \1\' hen wit>lckcl in
conjunction with a shiC'Id
it was also highly effective
as 1he weapon of infantl'\
formation!> faring mounted
enemie<>. During the 13th
centurY, if not caJlicr,
the mace al-.o became
reaction to incn:a.,ingh
heaw armour. The mace
can be sceu primarily ""

lWo small wooden buc kler-type

shields believed to d at e from
the 13th century; they are reInforced with d ecorative metal
stri ps and w ith large central
bosses over their fist -grips.
(National Museum, Copenhagen)


an armour-breaking weapon, in contra~t to the cotlcemratcd cutting or

penetrating action of a sword. axe or ~>peat. The di~tinctive medieval
mace had studs, spikes or short. blum, blaclc-like flange~ for incre<l!>ed
impact through the concentration ol the ''hole weight of the blo'' in
small a reas of the surface.
The dagger or knife ob' ioush came in mam '>hape" and si1es. since it
was an indispensable tool for c\ct)da\ chore-. and for eating food. Such
an all-purpose utili!) knife had a blade of ,tbout the length of a man s
hand, usually with a single edge. s, contt<l\t, the dagger ot true fighting
knife was fashioned primarih as a weapon ,mel ,,a.., neither imended
nor suitable for the cutting of food 01 other working ta.-.k..-.. Not mam
examples of tme daggers arc illusU<Hcd in carh medie,al European or
Scandina\'ian art, and this weapon onlv came into its mm during the later
Middle Ages, reaching a peak of popularit) in the 15th century.
ARMOUR & WEAPONS, 1300-1400
The major changes first took place in Continental Europe rather than
in Scandinavia during Lhe second half of the ~ ~~ Lh and the first half of
th e 14th centuries, most notably in the add ition of plate reinforcements
to vulnerable areas of the body and limbs. The earlie~t such additions
were to the elbows, knees aud shou lders, plu!-. the shins and arms- area!>
that were most commonly struck in mounted combat. Con<;equemh: it
was amongst horsemen that such developme1w. fip,t occurred.
Another more brradual change wa'> the de\elopmem of rigid or
semi-rigid body am1our culminating in the coat-of-plate~. This fom1 of
armour consisted of a flexible CO\Cting or ba'>e of leathet or se,eral
layers of cloth. to which plates of steel \\ere ri' eted, the number and size
of which ,~aried a great deal. Se,eral example-. \\t'rc found in the gra,epir.'i at Korsbetningen on the Swedish i'>land of (.otland, ha\ing been
buried following a battle in 1361. The coat-of~plate-. \\as \\Om mer a
mail hauberk and quilted soft am1out. This combination rendered the
combatant's torso ,;nually im ulnerablc to am thing e:-.cept powerful
mi'isile weapons and t11e he a' icst pole-anm, "hcrc.a... hi-. arm-. and legs
remained relative!) exposed.
The helmet also underwent .,ignificant changes during the 14th
centwy, tl1e full or great helm being replaced b} 01her t)pes that had

The Iron plates from two coatsof-plates excavated from the

grave-pits of the battle of Vlsby
in Gotland, 1361 .
{A) This armour consists of 2g
plates riveted to a support of
leather or linen; It Is of a type
which appeared at the end of
the 13th century In Continental


Europe .
(B) This form with f ewer and
l arger plates is regarded as a
l ater style. (National Historical
Museum, Stoc kholm)

fewer nat Surfaces, in an ;'1ll('111pl tO ('nsnre that

blows glanced ofT' harmkssly. For horsemen the
rno~t noticeable new style was tlw bascineL, which
could incorporate a mo,cablc visor of either the
'pig-face' or 'dog-face' shape. ln addition to pro\iding very efleCiive protecrion for head, neck and
face, the bascinet also muallv had a mail aventail
attached to i~ rim to cover the neck and throaL
A distincti\e form of ha'iciner found only in
northem Europe and snniving in a single specimen
from Poland i~ now known a'i the 'Order helmet',
renecting its ~upposeci a'lsociation with the military
order of 'Teutonic Knights. The face was protected
by a visor and the helmet had an aventail. The lower
part was essentially the sanw m; that of ordinary
bascinelS, but the upper part wa.s extended into a
tall point rather like the traditional helmets of
Russia and further cast; this helmet therefore seems
to be a fusion ofWestern and Eastem styles.
Beneath these various forms of helmets it was still common to wear
a mail coif with a padded cloth coif underneath. For rootsoldier!> the
most visible development was a ncar universal adoption or various forms
or blimmecl kettle-hats or chapels-de-fer; this type had been developed
during the 13th century but really came into its own during the
follmving century. A special fonn of kettle-hat developed in Scandina\ia
had a rounder skull and a narrower brim.
It is worth noting that inlamrymen seemed inclined to continu~
using helmets that did not cover their faces and hardly impaired their
vision at all. The re<tsom arc probably found in the different method.,
of combat employed by hea\ily armoured mounted troops and the
generally more lightly equipped footsoldiers. Nevertheless, the chapelde-fer was also used by mounted troops, although less frequently than
among tltc inl~mtry. Meanwhile, infantrymen gradually adopted pice~~
of armour previously ckvelopcd for cavalry use, including mor~ wristand knee-length mt~il habergcons, sometimes with mail mittens, and
occasionally mail chausses for the legs. Even so, it still remained
generally tne that men on foot preferred to carry less annour tlmn
riders, because there was no horse to share their burden.
Shields genert~ lly became smaller and, for mounted combatants,
emerged as what is today widely known as the 'heater-shaped shield'.
Infantry continued to usc larger shields although, towards tlte end of
the 14th century, thert' was a tendency for foot soldiers to abandon
shields altogether. Shields were, nevertheless, an ar~a in which
Scandinavian developmcnL'i differed from most of Europe. since the
buckler or small hand-held shield became increasingly popularity. It
could take many shapes, the si mpleo;t being little more than a shield-boss
with a small wooden shield around it. The diameter of such bucklers
normally ranged from 12 to 16in (30-40cm) with a sturd) hand-grip
behind or within the boss. The wooden surface of a buclJer could also
be strengthened with dt'cor.trivcly shaped metal reinforcements on the
front surface while the rims were often strengt11ened by suips of leather
to prevent splitting.

Walt or ceiling painting of

St Olaf, with the axe which was
the symbol of his martyrdom.
The painting was made c.1380;
the long-shafted axe now seems
to have the socket extended Into
a hammer-like head on the back.
It was almost a forerunner of
the poleaxe, Indicating that the
tong-hatted axe wielded with
two hands continued to be In
use throughout the Middle Ages.
(fn situ Skamatrup church,



Helmets, from the end of the

13th to the mid 15th centuries:
(A) Reconstruction of the great
helm found in the castle of
Aranaes, c. 1300
(B) The great helm found at
Aranaes, in It s original condition
(National Historical Museum,
(C) Norwegian ' kettle' helmet
o r chapel-d e-fer, 13th century
(National Historical Museum,
(D) 'Kettle' helmet, 14th-15th
century (Museum of Estonian
History, Tallinn)
(E) Danish ' kettle' helmet, first
half of the 15th century (Royal
Danish Arsenal Museum,


Here the main developments were associated with

missile weapons and infant.ry pole-arms.
It was during the 14th cemury that gunpowder
reached Scandinavia and the Baltic, the Teutonic
Knights and Danish armies being relatively earlier
than Sweden and Norway in the use of this ne11
technology. Early hand-held guns were litlle more
than miniatmiLed cannons, and would haYe been
more effective in frightening an enemy than in
doing much physical hann. Such devices did,
however, prove useful when attacking or defending
fortifications, where the man with a gun could fire
from behind considerably better cover than was
possible with a bow or crossbow- the vertical and
horizontal staves of the latter needed more space
and they were shot through larger embrasures.
On the other hand, firing mechanisms were so
unreliable that guns could only be used effecti\eh
in static connicts such as sieges.
During the 14th century the crossbow wali
developed further. Increases in its reliability and
power renected both improved techniqnes of
manufacture and higher quality materials. The
crossbow now seems to have replaced the handbow almost entirely. The bolts shot by such
weapons remained essentially the same as before,
their points being mostly of the basic armourpiercing bodkin shape, though such points now tended to be shoner
and squatter than those on arrows to be shot from hand-bows.
The sword similarly underwent minor changes, but tl1esc were to a
large extent cosmetic, changing the appearance of the weapon rather
than the way in which it was used. A surviving weapon known as the
Tritonia Sword is a good example of a type that was very popular as
a horseman's weapon during the later 13th and first half of the 14th
century. I t is also necessary tO point out that, while typologies of sword
blades can shed light on the emergence of newer or more fashionable
forms, the older or more traditional ones remained in production at
the same time.
One innovation which appeared during the late 13th and early 14th
centuries was the longsword. This was a development of the earlier
horseman's single-handed war sword and was, in effect, an enlarged
version with a longer blade which made it easier for a man on horseback
to reach his target. This new form was then developed further into a
separate class of weapon, for use both on horseback and on foot. Tn
reality the type of sword used by an individual was almost certainly
a matter of individual preference or was simply what a particular
employer saw fit lO issue to his followers.
This was the century during which the dagger became more
prominent as a fighting weapon, at least in the sense that it was
increasingly often depicted in pictorial sources. These show that daggers
were specifically weapons rather than also serving more utilitarian

functions. The 14th centur, fighting dagget relied on it'> point to inflict
cl.unage. allowing the \\t>apon to be thnto,t into the mo\t \ulnerable
chin~ in the jointed area' of armour. Contrar; to a ,,;c(e.,prcad modem
belief, the slashing rype of attack using the edge of a dagger wa~ quite
useless even aga inst an opponent wearing ordinary clothing, whi le a
thn"t could penetrate deep into the vitnl orgam without much effort.
The mace remaint>d in usc, as did other forms of wcapom ''hich
tdiecl on \\eight. Amongst the other edged weapons would hme been
tlw axe, but this did not sec aTI) :.ignificnnt changes. It doc' .'>eem that
the earlier type of long-hafted axe wielded \dth two hand') now fell
into disuse, perhaps ail a result of th e development of more efficient
pole-arms which combined au axe blade with other useful fentures. One
of the most significant dcvelopmems during the 14th centut)' was this
combining of thrusting and slashing blnde'> into one weapon, of which
tlw halberd would e\en tualh become tlw mo'>t de\'eloped t\ pe. Its basic
de.,ign was nevenhele'>s simple: one or more cutting blade-, were added
to a sub,tantial spear shaft to create a hugely imprmed weapon. The
precise date when these new cut-and-thrust weapons appeared is not
known, bul rhey were clearly present in Contincnt.al Europe in the first
half of the 14th century and in Scandina\'ia during the second half of
that century. :\leanwhile the spear remained an important weapon, but
would gradually be replaced by earl\' forms of halberd'> amongst
profe.)sional soldicn. if not yet among local militias.

(A) Bronze gun-barrel from

Loshult, Skilne, Sweden; length,
11 .81n/30 em; early 14th
century. (National Historical
Museum, Stockholm)
(B) Bronze barrel of a late
14th century hand-gun; length,
7 .51n/19cm. (National His torical
Museum, Stockholm)
(C) Removeable Iron breech from
a cannon, 15th century. Such
weapons were probably supplied
with multiple breeches; loaded
separately and then fixed Into
the rear of the barrel by means
of a wedge between the breech
and part of the carriaee, these
allowed rapid fire. (Museum of
Estonian History, Tallinn)

ARMOUR & WEAPONS, 1400- 1500

The m~or directions or technological change in

15th century Scandinavian milirar; equipment
were towards more plate armour, and an
tncrea.,ed reliance on more complex form~ of
pole-arm~. Another feature of this ccntur. was
the fac t that cntsading efforts shifted aw<1y from
the Scr~ ndin avian coun uies and were henceforth
most ly limited to the Teutonic Knights and the
Gcnnan-spcaking region~ ~outh of the Baltic.
During the 15th cenwry armom tended to
develop into more '>pecialized fonm.
techniques also meant that it was often quicker
and cheaper to manufactme items of plate rather
than of ringmail. Plate not o nly gave better
protection bm also permi tt ed increased mobility,
largely because the old fm>hioned, thickly padded
,oft armours worn beneath mail could now
largely be dispensed with - the benet filling
plate armour required little or no such padding.
Furthermore, the armour became modular rather
than covering large areas of the body wi th singlt>
pieces of iron or stee l. Thi~ even included the
torso, \\hich could nm\ he covered with two large
pieces lor the front and for the back, each of
which often consi-;tcd of two separate t>lements.
resulting in a better fit and greater mobility.
M<.anwhile mai l declined in importance in fa\'our





Scandinavian dagger dating

from the 14th or 15th century.
(Museum of Estonian History,
Tallinn; photograph D.Nicolle)

This statue In Storkyrkan,

Stockholm, dates from 1489,
and was made to commemorate
victory at the battle of
Brunkeberg. It Is a majestic
piece, and If we disregard the
decorative elements it is an
interesting example of both
armour and horse harness
from the late 15th century.


of plate annour, often on ly being included as a means of covering

vulnerable gaps in plate defences at the armpits, elbows and groin.
Small plates could be attached to a flexible garment to form a
scaJe-lined brigandine, which resulted in a relatively tight-fittingjacket,
usually sleeveless. For mounted soldiers, pieces of plate armour now
covered their legs, someti mes with mail underneath. The soldier's upper
body was covered first with a thin arming jacket, on top of which went
plate armour covering the torso, arms and shoulders. Although almost
all styles of armour corresponded to a general model, there were
significant regional variations and different solutions to specific
problems. The jupon was a padded garment that developed out of the
earlier gambeson but was tailored to follow the contours of the body,
and was often worn on the o utside of an armour. This enabled thejupon
to double as a warm outer gannent in cold weather.
T he ' kettle-hat' retained essentially the same shape, but occasionally
borrowed features from other popular helmets such as the sallet. This
resulted in an interesting version which had a deeper and wider brim
with a slit for the eyes. Wiele brimmed chapels-de-fer were most common
among footsoldiers, but sometimes fully armoured riders used them:
they offered excellent protection plus improved visibility.

The 15th century was characterized by a continuation of several 14th

centu ry developments, most notably towards better pole-arms, stronger
crossbows and more efficient use of gunpowder, the latter resulting
in greater numbers of more
powerful cannons and handheld guns. However, the
change in weapons technology
that had the most direct
impact on the way battles were
fought was the fully developed
halberd and poleaxe.
The former now consisted
of a shaft about 50-SOin
(c.130-200mm) long, with a
metal head which incorporated not only a cutting
edge and thrusting point but
often one or more sharpened
hooks. The great advantage of
this weapon was its remarkable
ease of use, while also being
highly effective against both
heavily and lightJy armoured
foes. To achieve its best effect
tl1is halberd was intended w
be used by men in formation.
Other styles of pole-arm also
d eveloped, including new
forms of spear such as those
with additional horizontal

Pagan Prusslan statues, mostly

in the form of armed warriors,
perhaps used as gravemarkers
or for some other religiou s
purpose; they were found In
what is now th e Rus sian enc lave
of Kalinlngrad , ox -KISnlgsberg.
The swords suggest that they
date from the 1Oth to 12th
centuries. Note that two of
the rear vi ews seem to show a
round , slung shield, and a hood
with a large llrlplpe. At centre,
a cap with an upturned flap
resembles that whic h we
reconstruc t In Plat e Ft . Most
of these figures have drinking
horns. (after V.I.Ku lakov)

cross-bar<>, as shown in Dolnstein 's famous dntwing'>. This remained in

use into the Renaissance period, when it evolYed into weapons -.uch as
the partisan and the pike.
The poleaxe was another chantcteristk deYclopment of the late 14th
and early 15th centuries. It ccune to be regarded a'> a di'>tinctheh J..nighlly
or chi\'alrous weapon. and found pm ticular fa\ our in Continental
Europe, though it wa~ less popular iu Sweden and "\oma~. TaJ..en into
widespread LL'ie in Germany, the poleaxe \\<U. comequentl) taJ..en up by
the Teutonic Knights and C:.ennan crusadets, who tnuoduced it to the
Baltic rej.,rion.
T he m~jor de,elopmem in 15th cenltln -;words \\a<; a funher
evolution of the longsword, resulting in an almmt perfeCl cte,ign which
was now the preferred aristocratic weapon. SeYeral such longswords
have been found in noble tomb~ in the S\\eclish diocese of Lund. In
battle the longsword had original!) been the \\eapon of a mounted
knigh t rather than a foo~olclier, but now it seems to hme required
the usc of both hands to be elfective. Only the st rongeo;r am10ur could
withstand the longsword, a particularly fine example being seen in
a statue of' St George slaying the Dragon in Storkyrkan, Stockholm,
'' hich commemorated the Swedish victory at the battle of Brunkeberg
(see opposite).
During the 15th centUI) the so-called hallock dagger became a
near-uni\ersal male accessor}. while the ronde! dagger abo developed
into a fearsome close-combat weapon; its slender but \el'\ sturd\ blade
could be u<;ecl against the most ~trongh armoured opponent. The
importance of the dagger can aho be '>een in the 'Fight Books' of t.his
period, where texts dealing with the sword and bucJ..lcr are now fe''
'' hile large shields are entirch absent; in conU<tst, '>enionl> dealing'' ith
the uo;e of a sword and dagger were abundant.
\\'here crossbow., were concerned, the
bowstme became notabh '>trongcr while the
manner of spanning the \\Capon changed in
consequence, with the adoption of the cranJ..:,
goat\-foot or ''indla~~ mechani'>nh.

The regions along the ea~tern side of the Baltic
Sea experienced in(luence'\ from the Eur.:L'\ian
steppes that \\ete neH'r felt in Scandinada,
although the\ did reach '>l'\t'ral part., of Central
Europe. Thi'> had the eflt:ct that, \\hile the ba~ic
npes of militan ecptipnwnt U'>ecl along the
eastern and '><>uth-ea.'>tem ... hores of the Baltic
differed \t'f\ little from thme of Scandin.l\i.t and
\\'estem Europ<.>, tlwi clecoratiom and some
a'\pects of the it sn ]( or .lppt'<ll .mce could diller


The m~jur influence was, of course, from the

great nomadic horse-based cultures of the steppes.
This was present from at least the early 6th century
onwards. Unfortunately, there are as yet fewer
surviving examples of medieval military equipment
from these regions than from Western Europe; but as
archaeological research develops further, the
historians of these countries will be able to delve
more deeply into their military-technological histOI).

Estonian and Scandinavian

weapons , ranging from the 10th
to 12th centuries. (Museum
of Estonian History, Tallinn;
photograph D .Nicolle)


The mail shirt was the standard form of body armour

along the southern and eastern shores of the Baltic,
as it was in Scandinavia during this period. But there
was also use of a form of scale armour, consisting
of small metal scales sewn on to an undergarment
of leather or several layers of cloth. Padded soft
armours similar to the gambeson were also present.
Helmets basically corresponded to those found
in Scandinavia, while there were distinctive local
or ea~tern styles, including those in which the top
narrowed into a point about 8in (20cm) high. 1L was
also quite common LO attach a mail aventail to the
rim of a helmet to provide additional protection.
Mail coifs were similarly used, although mail leggings
do not seem tO have become as popular as they were
in Western Europe. Perhaps it wa~ the influence of
the great horse cultures of the East which precluded
items that tended to impede horsemanship.
As elsewhere, the use of mittens and hand protections were important; again as in Western Europe,
plate reinforcements were used. It is possible that
this was an ongoing tradition from the earlier Viking Age, while at the
same time being influenced by the Eurasian steppe cultures, especially
as the use of bone or metal reinforcements might elsewhere have been
regarded as an archaic technique by the medieval period. Similarly the
pointed style of helmet that became common in this area can be traced
back to a common root that was presem from Inctia to the Baltic. Tllis
form of helmet essentially consisted of a round base which narrowed
acutely or more gentJy to a narrow top.
The sh ields used east and south-east of the Baltic coast were initially
of the same round type as used in Scandinavia dUiing the same period.
These continued to be used, but were later supplemented with the
kite-shaped and so-called 'heater' types of shield. The way in which
these sh ields were constructed was probably much the same as
elsewhere, though as yet there is not enough archaeological evidence
to slate this with certainty. A base ofwooden boards would have been
covered with one or more layers of leather, parchment or even, on
occasions, with fur. The round shield would always have had a boss,
and some form of reinforcement around the rim to prevent the boards
splitting. The exterior of such shield could, of course, be painted in
designs or colours.

Wea pon s

The \\Capons were mu(h the

'"me a~ those u!>ed b) other
European peoples. Swords a nd
axes remained the favourite
edged weapons, and these
could be wielded with one
hand. rhere ~ lillie t'\ idence
for the use of long-hafted axes
1\it'lded with two hand' such
"' those seen in Scandinavia.
Most swords were of the
dottble-cdged, straight-bladed
l\pe. w.ing very much the
\atne language of form <\\ ~een
funher west. \\'eight) weapons
\UCh "' the mace were popular,
especially for usc on horseback, as was aJso true of spears
and lances.
The bo'' was a particuhuly
importan t weapon in the Baltic
regions, hm"ing long been used
b) the hunting communitie1> of
these sparsely popula ted lands.
A\ such it doubled a~ a weapon
of war and a tool for suni\'al
in ,, diflicult climate. On the
othct hand, the crossbow does
not seem to have achie,ed
the same popularity as it did
in Scandin avia or Continental
Europe. i nevitably, these bows
ha\e left little trace in the
archaeological record; yet
there is no reason to suppose
that they were differem from
those used on the oth e r side of
the Baltic. The size a nd weight
of the bows might, however,
have differed. Longbow~ are
known to have been used in
Europe from t11e earl} Bronze Age onward..,, -;o th eir de'>ign \\<\.\ clearly
known; on the other hand, a smaller bo" is easier to me as a hunting
weapon in dense forest.
It is an interesting possibilit)' that Lithuanian and Rmsian forces
may have had access to the Magyar form of bow, which was a composite
weapon, widely used b\ the peoples of the '>tcppes and eas1em forests
before the spread of the ~horter but thicker Turco-~1ongol how. Not on I)
were new wa,es of steppe peoples pushing imo Eastern and Cenu-al
Europe from the 12th century om\-ards, but Hun:. and orlwr-. had been
migrating into whar is now Hungary and some surrounding rt'j.,rlOlll> from

ABOVE Part of a 13th century

wall-painting at Garda on the
Swedish Island of Gotland,
which seems to have been
painted by an artist from the
East . The eas1em Influences
are seen In the helmets of the
horsemen, which still do not
have the face-guards which
were otherwise normal In
Europe at this time. The shields
are of the smaller 'heater type;
and note that the spears have
crossbars, which is usually a
f eature of hunting weapons.
(In situ Garda Church, Gotland,
LEFT Another detail from the
13th century Garda wall
painting; these helmets are
significant. The man on the right
has a tall , pointed or 'spired '
style of the type commonly seen
In Russia or in Byzantine art.
The man In the centre wears
some form of brimmed 'ket11e
hat'. (In situ Garda Church,
Gotland, Sweden)


a much earlier date. All of

the!>e people11 relied to a
great e\.tent upon archer)
and U!>ed ''uiou~ fonm of
composite hm,. Such how~
would hme been '>lllaller
in O\erall .,i1e than thmc of
simple one-piece wooden
used in Europe. In Ru ...-.ia
and sonw other pan~ of the
far north of ea-,tern Europe
and wcstem A~ia, a form
of bow mad(' o f more
than o ne piece of wood
and sometinws reinforced
by bone or antler, was
also widespread. In some
respects iLo; cons truc t io n
had dements in common
with the fully com po"i re
bow of wood. sinew and
hom. and m;w indeed ha\'e
been its archaeological
The most common pole-arm was the spear, as it was in Scandinm ia.
and "a' of similar comtnrction, although the spearheads were not
'en large in compar;.,on to some earlier Viking .\ ge spear blade-..
~ l ost were around 7-8in ( 17-20cm ) long and, when used lor hunting
such animab a., boars, would ha\'e incorporated a crossbar. A knife
of some son would ha,c been almost uni\'ersallv carried, in desigm
ranging from the carl~ single-edged utility knife to the later lonm of
specia lited fighting kni\es.
Armour in the Baltic region initially d eveloped in much the same way
as it did in Scandinm ia and the rest of Europe. One major difference,
howeve r, seems lObe tha t true pl a te a rmour did not achieve such wide
popu larity in th e easte rn Balti c countries, Novgorod and the re~l of
Rmsi a as it did elsewh e re in Europe. The reasons for this are unclear,
bm may in clude the absence of a 'chivalrous culture with it11
associated tournamerH11 and other such a ris tocratic acti\ities. which
encouraged the drvelopmerH of hea\icr armour within Europe.
Another pm~ibilit\ i~ that plate armour simply did not sene am
useful purpme in the son of \\arfare that erupted between the
re.,urgent nnth e Finn and Bait populations and the crusading annie'>
and militan order11. The \CJ\ nature of the dcnseh fore-.ted
countn.,irle and the relmi,e lack of large face-to-face battle-. on open
ground would ll<l\t' rendered hea'1 armour almost usclc-.s.


(mntimud (II/ juiJ!: 13)

A horse's bit and a pair of

bronze stirrups from a 12th
century Estonian grave. These
Items are closer In style to those
used by the nomadic peoples of
the steppes In southern Russia
than to Western European forms,
and s how that the area on the
eastern shores of the Baltic
Sea absorbed technological
Influences from the East as well
as from the West. (Museum of
Estonian History, Tallinn;
photograph D.Nicolle)

Iron caltrops used as a defence

against cavalry attack; Estonia,
13th-14th century. (Museum
of Estonian History, Tallinn;
photograph D.Nicolle)



1: Danish knight

2: Danish sergeant
3: Captured Estonian wamor








or comiderabl} greatc:-r impOitance \\(\~ the increasing volum<. ol

equipment a'ailable to the ordinan f(>O~oldiers who, a\ llw 'ea1.,
passed, acquired larger mail shin'>. mail co1fs and coats~f-plate, , ''hich
offered good protection without h.unpe1ing mmemem 01 bc:ing too
hem,. Il i-. imponam to under-.raud that this was an exarnpll' of an
exchange of inlluences between \\'e-.Lc:tn Europe and rhe c.a,ttrn
regions of the Baltic and even funhcr east. Similarly. there wa' a
con 1inuccl u~c of metal reinforccmeJILS to protect the arms, prima1 ih
in the fonu of 'splints' or srrips of metal. ' elbow cups' and imprmed
hand dclcnccs.
\\'hen these changes and developments are ,;ewed a'> a whole. it
seems that it was the in\'ading CJU\ading armies Lhat had lO .ICI,IJ}l to
local circumstances, rather than local peoples cop\ing the im ,lder.,.
On the other hand the use of padded armour of variou' dc,igm
became jmt as important for local fighting men as it wa' fm the
in\'acling crusader'>. or cour;;e, such garmems also offered imul.llion,
and rhe cominued use of leather and furo; against the hiring cold ol
the Ba ltic winter remained an i1nponant t~spect of military equipmenl
in rhis region.


The 't'\o1 thc1n or Baltic Cn.1\ade.., \\<.'Ill through se\er.tl ph<t'>C.'' rhei1
and tactics often being adapted to '>Uit changing cin Ulll'>t.mre'
and challenges. In many waV' the'>e campaigns became a \\,u ol
endurance on all sides; it wa'> very dillicult and cost!}. espe<i<llh f(lt
Denn1a1 k and Sweden, to support their conquests on the fill 'ide of
th e Baltic Sea. Since neither had large armies, thme Ioree., \\hirh
were sent soon found them!>e l ve~ g eath outnumbered b\ the local
inhabitants. The struggle Lhm bccam<. one of establishing 01 nmm ing
a 'iet-ie'> of ~trongpoints. Thc~e prmed to be the best, and ptrhaps
rhe onh mean' by which the Scandinm ian cmsader'> could coni rol
COIHJUel<.'d terriwn.
To htce the indigenou' E"onian' and Lat\ians the Da1w.h or
Swedi'>h ctu-.ading armies numben:cl no more than 1,000 li<>OJh. ~uch
small number'> made the initial conqueM of large area~ \l'J"\ difficult;
this wa,, the main reason why the. Baltic area saw the building of mam
more castles tht~n was the case in Denmark and Sweden them~e l ws. B\
con~tnlcting such a slrongpoint 1hc occupiers could gradual!\ Pxlencl
their contml outwards through a poliC\ of combined mili1an .trrion,
co-opera1ion, 1radc and politics, 1hm enntually taking owt a largct
teniwn . ~ew fortifications could rhen be built funhe1 awa\, ,mel the
procc-., rt'peated a.'> often a-. nec<-.s;\1\.
Crmacling armics simph newr had enough men to conguc.1 the
Baltic r('gion ouuight- in fact , the\ oft<"n fouud them.,eht>'> bt,iegccl
\dthin their ca\Lles, surrounded h\ a 't'a of enemies. Such a 'trattg.
and its as,ociated tactic~> were to a large cxteut dictated b~ 11w lact that
~he area was almost completd; CO\'cncl by dense fore),ts or lakes. This
a lso had the effect of making rivers and other waterways ('XI ren1c.h
important a\'enues of mmenwnr for both sides. As a r('sult, castle~
tend('d robe erccted close for such \ita! lines of communication.

An 11th o r 12th century

spearhead f rom Finland, with
curved extensions each side of
the sock et . (National Museum,


Scandinavian seals, Illustrating

types of Baltic shipping:
(Top) Seal of the city of Bergen ,
dating from 1376, showing that
the ol der type of Sc andinavian
ships used In the early crusad es
were s till In use - or at least still
had symboli c resonance. The
ref ere nc es to the old VIking
longshlp are obvious.
(Below) Seal of the city of
Stralsund, 132 9 - half a century
before that of Bremen - showi ng
a kogg, w ith raised f orec astle
and st em c astle. This type of
v essel, In various sizes, was the
most common sh ip type In the
Baltic fo r several centuries.


In Europe 1lw warfare of the medicntl period

focused m a grcm extent on the t<wng or holding of
castles and fortified wwm. Such ccunpaigns also laid
considerable emphasi'> on '>ending relief to -;uch places
when thev were cut off, Ull eatcned or under arrack.
If a place fell or suncndered, it nonnalh accepted
its ne" lords- \d1o could, in thei1 turn. ~ub~equentl~
expect to endure anotiH'l -.iege a~ the pre,iotb
proprietor;, auempwd LO reclaim that location
HoweYer, this mock of ,,.uf~u e ''a~ not the preYailing
pauern in the Baltic Crusadt''>. at leaM not after the
initial invasions of1he coa-.tal area~. From the Iron Age
onward settlements and wwn;, had i~prung up along
these coasts as a result of trade. Some of these tmms
were already quite large. but were quick!} besieged anrl
conquered by the crusader~. The construction of
suongpoints, usually in the fo1111 of casLles, became
a very important aspect of :.ubsequent warfare, but
besieging such places was neithet the onh nor eYen the
major method of conducting warl~1re.
Instead, the Baltic Cru~ade:. were largeh a matter
of skirmishes and raid'>, dut ing \\hich occa'>ional
set-piece baules occurred - normall} only when
both sides believed thaL they could achie\e tactical
acl\'antages in such a conrrontation. Furthermore.
the terrain did not aiJm, for 'en imaginati\e
manoeuning; the mmement;, or troops tended ro
be relatiYelv predictable, and aYailable routes were
stricth limited b\ gtogt<lpll\ and \egerarion. Rapid
forays into enem' tcniton did pia' ,m important role.
yet the group'> of men imohed would have been
small, ranging from a touple or hundred to perhaps a
thomand troop<,.
One severe limitation W<h that ~uch raiding forces
had to carry all their mm prcl\'i~ion.., , inhibiting the time that they could
be in the field. There was liule oppottunit) for them to live off such
generally unprodncti\'e lam!. Consequent!}. campaigning in this region
was reminiscem of the cheYauchce raid~ of the l lundred Years' v\'ar
between England and France. The main goal~ of the~e raids were to
disperse the enemy and destro} hi-; rc~ources, depopulating a region by
obliterating crops and dwellings, and then retrealing before the enemy
could counter-attack. The localtentlin tended to po~e problems even in
this form of warfare: the mam lake~. rhers, stream-.. bogs and marshes
fom1ed such hazardous and ~omctimcs unpreclictable baniers that it
was all roo easy for tl1e raider-. to get rangh1 bv a rising lake or a ford that
wa., no longer passable becau<;e of unexpeCit>clh hem"Y r.tin or melting
~llO\\. Because the raiding pattie-, \\t>te them-.ehe-, relati\ch limited in
number, they could not aflord w get caught ll\ defending forces against
~>llch naruraJ obstacle~. Ao, a con.,eqm'nn. the Teutonic Knights. \\ith
their Yen limited number-. of men, mack a point of dhiding their
raiding forces into small detarhnwnt.,, in orde1 to minimiLe possible
losses if a part) got itself cut on or trapped.

Raiding wa~ ~>a fe;t when it wa<> carried out relatively close to friendh
fort/>, and along the Riv<'r:-. l), ina and Niemen. This wa~ because. in a
counuy that offered :-.o few road~ and so manv obstacles, pro\'i'>ion-. were
always a problem . Since <'ach man had to carry whatever he needed,
poor planning 01 unfc>reseen mishaps sometimes resulted in soldier'>
having to eat their 0\\ n pack-animals - and even, on more than one
occasion, their hot'>e'>.
An example of the problenh pre'iented b' the Baltic tenain i'>
prO\ided b' a Swedi'>h thrmt towards the lake and wwn of Ladoga from
the Swedish ca~tle of \'iborg in 1293. Troops '"ere sent into the Ladoga
region and erected a fori known as Keksholm; bm its ganison wa<; wiped
out b) a O\gorodian coun ter-attack the ,ery same year. It simplv prO\ eel
impos~ible to main tain a castle around 200 miles' travelling dbtance
from the neare~t friend!) st rongpoim; 1hat 200 miles had to be travelled
by water, becau~e the direct merland distance of just 50 mile<; w<L~
impassable. T he probkm of supporting fon,ard ontposLs was much the
same throughout the en tire region, and as a result the odd'> were stacked
heavil)' in favour of the def<'nding popula tio n. In crude terms, the
Novgoroclian o r Lithuanian forc<'s. operating within thcir<)\\11 territories,
were capable or absorbing and tlwn swamping the invading crusaders.
During the earl)' )'t'ars of the Baltic Crusades it was
customary to ~laughter a ll captives our of hand, with
the exception of the p<'asams and labourers who
were still required to cultivate the land for their new
masters. On the~e wild frontier<> capmred fighting
men "ere killed regardless of th<' starus of the \1ctim
or hb killer. J'hi'> \\th not nom1al behmiour \dthin
\\'estern Chri'>tendom, and a'> more cru'iader'l arri,cd,
panicularh during 1he I lth ccnmn, there began to
be more oJy,enance ol tlw f:miliar practice of taking
p1isoner'> for ramom. lhi' in mrn resulted in parleys
or brief truce'> to negotiat<' th<' release of captives.
:'\laturalh, since he normal!\ had no means of raising
a ransom, the ordinary footsolclicr could still expect
little mere)' if he fell into <'ncmy hands.

Baltic shipping:
(A) Boat 5 from He lgeandsholmen, dated to the first decade
of the 14th century; this Is an Interesting example of a
sniJcka of a type used by the l edung armies during the
preceding centuries. It had a length of 72ft/22m and a beam
of 11.5ft/3.5m. An Important c hange from the earlier Viking
period Is that the rudder Is now fixed to the sternpost. The
ship could be sailed as well as rowed , and would have been
ideal for disembarking troops because of Its ability to
navigate s hallow waters.
(B) Reconstruction of the hull of the Breme r kogg, dated
to the 1380s; In additio n to the m issing mast a nd rigging,
there w ould also have been a substantial supe rstructure
at the stem.
(C) Rec onstruc tion by Harald Akerlund of a shi p found at
Kalmar and dating from the mid- 13th century. This was a
freight tran sport, with a length of 36ft/11m and a beam
of 14.9ft/4.55 m et res.


Climate and t e rrain

The castle of Abo In southwestern Finland. Originally

constructed In the 1280s to
support a Swedish crusade In
th is region, it was subsequently
enlarged, most notably In the
second half of th e 14th century.

Viborg Cast le In south-easte rn

Finland, dating from the late
14th century.

The climate of the Baltic region i~ mild enough

dudng summer, although spdng and autumn
often ~ee 'en hcaw rain'>. 1l1is. ''hen coupled
\dth severe wintet'> and hean snm,fall, made
warfare difficult at certain '>eason-, of the) ear. For
example. tlw record-. tell m that on one winter
campaign tht' TeuLOnic Knights had to trmel
in single file hccam<. it '"'" impossible to pa"
through tht' dNp '>llO\' ''hich Ia\ on either side
of their path; the tactical hatards of <;uch a march
formation in thick forest need no emphasis.
The extreme cold th<ll occasion all\ strikes the
Baltic region could also be crippling. especiall}
to animab, and the record~ again indicate that
during harci winters horse~ could die in such large
numbers that the cava lry were left without
su ffi cie nt mounts.
Such a combinatio n of difficult terrain, ~ea~onal snow and spring
and autum n rains made campaigning in the~c regions an extremely
harsh challenge, and took a great LOll of both men and equipment.
Clear!}. these climatic obstacles almoM imariabh worked in favour
of the local or indigenous deft>nders, who were accustomed to
these conditions and were operating in a climate '' ith '' hich thev
were familiar. Circumstances could b<.come e\en more difficult for
the cmsaclers if there was a mild. wet wintet ''hen the ground did
not free1e; at such times the entire countn'>ick ..eemed to turn into
an impassable bog. haunted '" clou(b of biting in~ecrs after the
arri,al of warmer weather.
The n.,ult of all thc'>e factor<; was that a son
of no-man \-l,md <,oon emerged between the
fightinl{ partie~. Thi~ could consist or strerches of
rough termin up to perhaps 120 miles (190km)
wide, "ith 110 real roads and in which onlv the
watenvay~ offered pm.sabk routes.
Winter warfare


The idea or fighting during winter was not

normally regarded a~ ~ensib l e in Continental
Europe, but in Sc11nclinada it was traditionally
seen as a suitable stason for any arnw that could
cope with the cold. In a region where even wellestablished dirt road-. were simply non-existent
across wide .,,,athe'> of the country, it was actuall}
ea~ier to campaign in cold winters than in
summer. became the ,,,Hen,-.w., were nonnalh
froLen and thus prm ided eaS\ routes for tra\el bv
sleigh and on hor-.ehack. EHn the fore~ts tended
to be ea.~iet to pcnell<ll(', becau-;e '>leighs could
operate in am thing ('Xccpt rhc .,oftest and deepest
snow. flw onh pra< tical alremativc wa'> to maJ...e at
least part of the joutll(.'\ b\ coastal -,hipping.

The use of ski~ and sleighs was well documented throughout

the entire Scandinavian and Baltic region. Although not witable lor
transporting large number of troops. skis did permit easy scouting in
wintertime. The use of horsC'-drawn sleighs provided a practical method
of transporting equipnwnt and supplies during a campaigu - indeed,
the onl) method that could be adopted during cmsading expediLiom
other than using the river~. \\'inter warfare thus became more or les~
a necessit\ rathet than a maner of choice; in the milder seasons it
was often impo'>'>ible 10 tt<m'>pon heavy loads deep inland or to <lll}
distance a\\a\ from the main waterway:.. Comersel~. howe,er, "intet
campaigning required '>ttb'>tantially larger supplies of food and even of
equipment in ordet to maintain a crusading force at an cffecti\C Jc,el
of fitness and flgh1ing capahilit:v.
Sleighs were pullt>d h} horses harnessed singly or in pairs, which
could easi ly pull many hundrech of pounds weight if packed on a
well-made sleigh. Troops were normally obliged to march on foot if
they had no h orses 10 ricle. Riding horses themselves were generally
not well su ited to win ter campaigning. During one especially bitter
winter the Teutonic Knights lost a n estimated o ne thousand horses,
which represented virtnally their e ntire stock and thus reduced tllem
to a n infantry force until replacement mounts could be obtained.
Once the initial conq uest of rhe coastal regions had been completed
and the area of control had been pushed up the m<!_jor waterways,
the campaigns had to he extended into the wintertime if funhet
progres!:> was to be made .. ormally there were two forays during each
winter, one in December and one in Janm\r) or Februaq, with some
time between these expedition<. for the Chtisunas celebratiom. The
crusader'> \\erc able w pur<,ue thi!. twin campaigning strateg\ panh
as a result of the fact that a number of their main bases \\ere located
on the coa'its, which made it easier for them to ship in supplie'i
throughout much of the ve~u. B, conu-ast the Lithuanians, who
lived inland , founcl it much more difficult to procure 'ittpplie'>
during wintcr.

The city walls and outer towers

of Tallinn (Reval), as they
appeared In the late 19th
century before the city spread
much beyond Its medieval


Boats and ships

Castle plans:
(A) Gurre , Denmark

(B) Lihula, Estonia: 1 c itadel,

2 first bailey, 3 living
quarte rs, 4 = s tabl es, 5 = fossa,
6 = outer w all, 7 = quarry or pit ,
8 = Inne r gate, 9 = entrance
w ay, 10 =second bailey,
11 = moat , 12 = e mbankment,
13 = w ell and spring.

(C) Raseborg, Fi nland: 1 = line

of old moat , 2 = line of new
m oat , 3 = natural wate r
obstac le.


1l1Jrt nl

14 cnl

Seafaring capability and a capacil:\ to wage war on wa ter was an

important aspect of these conflicL'>, C'>pecialh where Denmark and
Sweden were concerned. For the Tcutoni< Knights and the other
German crusaders this wa.o; also import.mt but gencr.tlh les'> '>0, as these
somhern participams had greater acce..,.., to Janel communications.
The Scandina\ian countrieo;, mmt not.thh '-.orw<ty and Denmark.
continued to me later modification'> of the olcl \ 'iking Age long.,hips
right inw the 14th centun. Thi'> o;t\le of '>hip. knmm a'> a miirka in
Sweden, was an ideal Yessel for tmmporting trOOJh. being able to can;around 25 men pins their equipment, .Ulcl being extrernelv o,eaworth~.
lL was equipped \dth oar'>, which made it ](:..,., \UKeptible lO being
becalmed, and which also enabled '>II< h H''>SCI'> to n.l\igate estuaries,
riYers and lakes. This versatilil). along with its '>hallow draught, made the
.wiiclw suitable for both tramporting and puuing ashore men and
equipment during \atious crusading campaigns.
The major disadvan tage of the miirlw wa'> that it was not particular!}
suitable for fighting on watC:'r when compared to the later kop;g, which
cou ld carry more troops and was built in several different sizes. Being
comiderably higher in the water it proncl to be a better fighting ship.
especially when fitted '~ith small fighting platform<; 01 'castles' for
archers or crossbowmen fore and aft. flw higher hulls of these vesseb
made it possible to shoot down on am enctm who was in a more old
fashioned Viking-style ship.
The peoples who lived along the t'<l'>tt'rn and o;outhern Baltic coasts
were emhusia.<;tic raiders, a.\ the Scanclimt,ians thcrmche., had been in
earlier years. Their ships are belined to h.tn- bctn vcr: '>imilar to the
older \lking Age longships. Thio; technological inferiority, pluo; the fact
that <Ttl'iader expeclitiom quickh '>Ciled control
oYer mmt of the cml'ih, made actual o;ea battles
\irtualh non-exi'>tent.. Once the Christian mariners
of the Baltic Sea abandoned long.,hips in fa\Otu of
lwggs, an) attempt bv unde< ked, \hallow-draught
Baltic ships to tackle an armed \\'e.,tcrn ,es~el
would almmt renainl) f~til. Once the crusaders
YenturC:'d far inland up the riven., however. the
balancP might be mor<' equal. The Lithuanians
and Novgorodian Russians maintained fleets of
river boats for 1he specific purpo!>e of blocking \ita!
watPnvay'i and avcnu<'S of communication.




Ca.'ltles are remarkablv abundant in the Baltic

region. ~fmt wen. built b\ crmader 'i<H"ereigns to
guard their ne" holding'>, b\ the militan orders
or b\ the hi..,hop'> who al'>o "ielded significant
militan power in these land'>. Mearmhile the
nati\c population., had their mm traditions of
fortification. :\..., .1 1 e.,ult the B.tlti< Cm-,ades were
charactcriLcd b\ a '>t~le of \\adare in "hich
fortificatiom pl.t\ed .111 c.:xceptionalh import."\nt
role - as W<l'> abo the ca'>e itt the Latin-Cn.ts."\der

\Iiddle East, where terdtory could not be held in

thl' fi1ce of powerful imading force~ \\ithout the
prc~cnce of castles.
The earliest form<; consisted of can hworks
with timber addition~. in the old Western
European moue-and-haile) style; but these
remained \Uinerahle to fire e'en in ~uch
we h nologically prinu uvc warfare a... that
conducted by the peopll''> of the Baltic coa\tlancb.
Tl1e crusaders soon experienced this threat, and
dlorl.~ ''ere rapidl)' put in hand ro bui ld virtually
fire-proof stone fortificaLions. Since the troops
of Lithuania and even No\'gorod had very little
c'pcrience in siege warfare, such ~trongpoinL<>
ga'e the crusaders ~olid anchors for their
arcas of comrol. Over time more elaborate and
occa<;ionally quire large fortifications were
con~>tructed, rhe biggest probably being the
Marienburg of rhe Teutonic Knights and the
Viborg of the Swedes.
fhe earlier defemi'e works constructed b' t11e
local indigenous populations were mo.,th in
naturalh Mrong locatiom '>LICh as hilltops, hluffo; or
peninsulas, and they made full use of such terrain.
\~1wn the crusaders conquered Lhese regions they often rebui lt in the
identical locations for the same tactica l or strategic reasons. The remains
of lllOM fortificatiom ill the Baltic lack clll idcnLifiable moat, since
man\ of the location., \\ere strong enough \\itlwut this feature, tl1eir
nantral advantages suflking to slow dmm .111 advancing enem\. Thi'i was
patticularh apparent when the castle wa'> on top of a steep ~>lope.
The quality of rhe acLUal foniflcation work tended to be high,
c~ptcially those bui lt by or for the Teutonic Knights. One reason may
ha\c been an exchange of personnel with the Order's holdings in the
~Iiddle East and othct places where the 'icience of militat) architecture
\\~1'. more advanced. Nc' enheless, the site'> of the Baltic fon ifications
\\Cte general smaller than the epic fortre'i'>CS in t11e cnt-;ader ~tates of
the eastern \Ieditermncan. Seeking to control a wide region, with a
Mrictly limited number of uoops bur agaimt an enem} lacking any
sophisticated tradition of siege warfare, it was better for the crusader
occupiers of r.he Baltic states to have nttmerou~ smaller, clispers<'d castles
than a few very large regional cemres.

The so-ca lled Virgin Tower

w hich fo rmed part of t he Inner
d efences between the Toompea
Citadel and the medieval city of
Reval. (D.Nico lle photograph)

Siege warfare

Nevenheless, in unpacified country sonw kind of siege of one or more of

their .strongpoints was a con~Lant possibility. As ahead)' pointed out, the
one local resource in almostunlimitccl supply was timber- that is, solid
fuel. Consequently it wa~ normally only tetnporal') strongpoint!> that were
built of such material~ once stone fortifications were being built.
Siege equipment in the form of mangoneb, ballistas .md othet large
missile-throwing or -.hooting de,ices wet e med bv the crU'><Idcr-. when
breaching the gate~ of local fortification'>. Ballering num '>et'm have
been of the simple ancl relatiYely small hand-held type witlckd h)' teams


The city walls of Tallln , the

largest city and capital of
Estonia. They mostly date from
the late 14th century. There Is a
dramatic difference between the
crowded Interior of the old city
on the left, as seen from the
Paks Margareta or 'Fat M argaret'
Tower towards the Great Coastal
Gate, and the exterior of the
medieval city which now
consists of a public park.
(D. Nicolle photograph).


of men, but they pro\'ed eflective l'llough. I lowcver, rhe most effeni\e
tactic when dealing with Baltic fortificatiOili> wa~ '-oimplv to .surround 1he
place and star\'e ilS defender~ into !>ubmi-.<oion. Meanwhile effort., might
abo be made ro torch it b) approaching undet the CO\'l'r of fascines and
stacking both wet and cit; wood again'>t the g.tte and timber pali<;ade.
The impact of smol...e ha~ often been O\erlooked h\ militat; histonan'
when discussing the eflecti,enes~ of fire: cleme ... mokc coulcl efleniwh
blind and choke the defenders and. undet the right circumstance~.
might e\'en lead to it~un.
In their struggle again~t the itwacling crw.aders the nati,e
popularions used the simpleM of siege de,ice~ such a<o ladder<o and
ramps, hut also sometimes stone-throwing machines. There seems ro he
no e\iclence for the use of sapper<o to undermine fortifications in the'e
regions. Since they enjo)ed a numerical advantage, it was often more
economical in lives for local force~ to blockade a crusader stronghold
until i1s defenders either ran out of food or their morale collapsed . .\m
sortie by the small garrison usually l~tiled for sheer lack of number<;.
T here were, howe\'er, several occasions when the be1-.iegers needed to
overcome the defenders as quickly a-; po~sible so a-; to avoid becoming
rrapped between a garrison and a relieving annv. Even in <;uch cases the
small size of the garrison u~ually meant that an a~<;ault made under
rhe cover of plentiful bow!> and cros~bow:, was likelv to succeed "ithour
incurring excessive\} heaw los~e~.


The longer tetm resullS or the Baltic Cru ... adt'> agotill'ol the indigenotL'\
peoples of rhe region can be judged in .1 munbet of "~" and ~ome of
these de\elopmenlS had long-l~ting nunifkatiom.
In general terms, the conflict.\ in the Baltic .,cem to have spnrrerl on
rhe emergence there of more clearh defined linJ.,ruisric and cultural
regions, and thus e\entually of nation '>tal<.''>. It i<o almmt certain that
the gntdual dmnge from loose
tribal confederations into
nwn. centralized forms of
government reflected the need
for more cohesive military
l(>tcc.~ wil h which the face the
invading crusader<>.
T he defence or ad\'ance of
C:hri-;tianil} against paganism
had bten the corner-;tone of
the Baltic crmading movement,
and tlw 'l'>L state of Lithuaniathe ltt'ot pagom -.tate in Europe olli( ialh became Chri~tian in
I :~Hii.
\\'ithin Sumdinada il\elf.
the tlnee natioth of Denmark.
\,mwa\ and Sweden were
united rrom 1397 in the

lloublesome Union of Kalmar, which had

originall) been ~uggcsted b) Queen Marga eta J.
One significant effect of thi~> union was a decline
in Scandinavian interest in Baltic crmading.
Thi' more or leo;~> left the Jeu10nic Ordet on its
o\\ll: the Order became an important po\\er
111 Scandinmian regional politics during the
lllmultuous 15th ceutury, b11t this devclopmem
fonuibULed to that Order'~ ~eemingly sudden
It is important to recognite that the Bailie
region comprised a large number of di\'erse
powers, but that all were linked by a common
interest in tradt>. The Baltic Crusades were not,
in am simple sem.e. dircctc:d against a common
'ea~tern enem\ . but re,ulted in a 'ihifting
pattern of allegiances and alliances in which the
ll'aders of the Crusades a lways had to work pragmatically within the
e\i-.ting pattern of economic ties and interest~. The raw 111aterials and
pmducL'> extracted from tlw great nonhetn foresL<> and seas were of
continuing ,~<~lue for man} centuries; the importance of the salted fi'>h ,
furs, walrus ivo; and resins that Scandinm ian seamen, hunters and
trappers supplied to merchants from mor<' southerly countries would
soon be joined, and later mer~hadowed bv the timber products that
fcxl the great age of shipbuilding and world-"~ de nm igation that
,, .., already thmning at the turn of the 15th and 16th centurie'>.
'laintaining the delicate balance thar regulated Baltic trade would
become .so increasingly important lO other European nations that in
time the m<~jor powers would be led ro intervene directly in the region
on ~e' era I occao,ions .
.\t what we would todm term the geopolitical leH I, the Baltic
Cru~ades resulted in a number of 'ery olwious de,elopnwnts. S\\eden
gained conrrol oi Finland, which was e\entually drawn into the hean ol
the Swedish state rather than being merely a distant pnwince. Finland
would in fact pia\ a very important strat<.gic role, as well as being a
,igniflcant source of manpower for Sweden , -ight up to tlw time ''hen
it ''as lost w Rmsia in 1808. Sweden al'>o gained other prminces in the
Baltic region, constructing ~>everal strong castles that would pia} an
important part in the later Great Nordic VVar and in the Swedish
expansions of the 17th and 18th cenrurie'>.
South of the Baltic, the kingdom of Poland emerged a-. a significant
power on the eastern frontiet of the Get man Empire, <Uld would
subsequently become an important participant in late European
politics- linked lor many years with L ithuania. F'mrhcr east, Muscovy
(.Mm.cow) ab'>ol bed Novgorod and likewi'>e grew into a m~or power,
\\ ho'>e often \\,Hiike rivalry with Sweden lao,wd long after the end of the
medieval pc.-iod. In realin, the enmin b<.tween Rus.,ia and Sweden ,
which lasted from 1250 umil IH08, was a con~equence ol the cnLsacling
movement, which led to a cla~h of their trading interests. It might be
a rgoecl that the various su uggle' that swit kcl a ronnel the Baltic Crusade'
a cwallv encouraged the unification of 1\mgorod and .\lo'>cow. leading
to the development of the late Russian T.-.an't '>tate.

The keep of the c astle of

Raseborg, eiCtenslvely restored
in the late 19t h cent ury.


Meanwhile another and much more ~ignilicant threat to

Christendom was emerging far LO the l>Outh-cast, \vith the rio;e of the
Ottoman Turks. This threat became acute during the !me 15th and earh
16th ccnnuies, and consequent!} the old conflict between Orthodox
Christian and Cat.ho1ic Christian lands in e<htern Europe and the Baltic
b<.came secondary. Europe's rcsolllce~ .mel effon~ would nm' ha,e to be
invested on this new ~outh-eastem fromie1.



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www.,;aam1orati .com




OF R0GEN , 11 68- 11 6 9
A1 : King Valdemar I of Denmar k
Although Denmark was tn close economic and cultural
contact with neighbouring northern Germany, its military
equipment was, like that of the other Scandinavian states,
still rather old-fashioned. Therefore we have reconstructed
the king here with good quality arms and armour, although it
would have been seen as half a generallon behind the times
by a French or even an English observer. King Valdemar
wears a one-piece iron helmet w1th integral nasal, over a
mall coif with its ventail pulled across his throat and chin.
H1s mail hauberk With its long sleeves and mittens is,
however, of the latest design; It is worn over a quilted
gambeson which probably replaced the more archa1c felt
'soft armour'. His mall chausses are of the type which cover

only the fronts and sides of his thighs, knees and legs and
are worn w1th soft leather boots. H1s sh1eld, sword and
sword belt are of des1gns which could have been seen 1n the
late 11th century, but the decorations on his horse's harness
follow the latest trends in Germany and northern France.
A2: Danish knight
The seemingly archaic character of some Scand1nav1an
armour 1s seen on this man, whose simple Iron helmet has
1ron ear- and neck-pieces attached by short leather straps.
His matI hauberk has an integral coif with a ventail across hts
mouth, but the sleeves are only of three-quarter length: the
hauberk is slit at the sides, which was more for fighting on
foot than on horseback. The scabbard is tied to the soft
leather sword belt In the normal manner. The shield 1s of the
long kite-shaped variety needed when the only other body
protectton was the mail hauberk; note hts lack of leg
protection. A knobbed bronze mace was typical of many
parts of Scand1nav1a and the Baltic reg1on.


A3: Slav nobleman from Baltic coast

The Slav-speak1ng and as yet still pagan tribes of what is
today north and north-eastern Germany were quite rich and
had wide trading contacts, as well as the booty from their
raiding; hence, this nobleman's military gear is relatively
abundant and decorated. The 1ron helmet is probably of
Polish or Russ1an ong1n, built up from four segments each
with a ra1sed re.nforc1ng corrugation, riveted beneath an iron
frame; but note that his simple mall hauberk lacks a coif. The
neck of h1s linen sh1rt IS closed by a gilded bronze brooch. He
is armed with an abundantly decorated war-axe, plus
a s1mple kn1fe. The large round shield would be held on his
fist rather than on h1s lower arm and hand, as was the case
with most Western European shields. Here, as his village
and idols burn, the ill-fated warrior was trying to save a horn
sacred to the pagan god Svantevit.
81: Danish knight
By the late 12th century the Danish, and to a lesser extent the
other Scandinavian kingdoms, had been drawn more closely
into the mainstream of Western European culture. This was
clearly reflected In the arms and armour of their military
aristocracies. This knight has a high-domed, one-piece iron
helmet of a type popular in Germany to the south. The ventail
of the coif of his long-sleeved mail hauberk is here shown
unlaced; one slightly old-fashioned note is struck by his
mittens, which lack fingers and are more like extensions of
the sleeves, whereas the very long skirts of h1s tunic again
reflect German fash1ons. Beneath the mail hauberk and
the tunic is a th1ckly qu1lted gambeson, and his legs are
protected by mail chausses worn over normal woollen hose.
82: Danish sergeant
The 1ncreas1ngly popular flat-topped form of helmet was
apparently also reflected 1n some helmets which were of twopiece construction. This lower-status sergeant's mail coif is
here taken off h1s head, exposing 1ts quitted lining. Again
the man has a qu1lted form of soft armour beneath his mail
hauberk, visible at h1s neck and below the hem of the hauberk.
The bagginess of his leggings might indicate
that they are trousers rather than more
typically Western European hose;
trousers continued to be worn
in Scandinavia, particularly by


The sea l of Blrger Brosa,

Sweden, late 12th
century. The helmet and
armour are typical for
the time, although the
face-guard - which was
becoming Increasingly
common - is lacking
here, and the helmet
still has an o ld-fashioned
nasal bar. The sword also
looks more like a Viking Age
weapon, with a broad groove
and stubby quillons. See Plate
A1 . (Riksar'kivet, Stockholm)

men of poorer origins. The blade of his spear has short curved
lugs or 'wings', which were another archaic style, suitable for
fighting on foot rather than on horseback.
83: Captured Estonian warrior
He appears to be a peasant warrior rather than a member of
the indigenous Eston1an anstocracy, h1s weapons being a
substantial axe that might also have been a working tool,
and a knife 1n a decorated leather sheath. The blade of the
spear is a form found throughout the Baltic region. but
the bronze standard was actually found in a Lithuanian or
Prussian rather than an Eston1an tribal area.
According to legend, it was dunng this campaign that the
Danish flag fell miraculously from the sky at the battle of
C1: Danish knight
One again the arms, armour and even the clothing styles
of this member of the Danish knightly aristocracy indicate
strong German infl uence. The tall, two-piece iron helmet has
a fixed iron visor, and is worn over a mail coif which forms an
integral part of the mail hauberk. The visibly raised outline of
a very thickly quilted gambeson worn beneath the hauberk
and the surcoat can be seen at his shoulders. His legs
and feet are now protected by complete, all-round mall
chausses, though these have leather soles beneath his feet.
The scabbard is still tied to the sword belt in a traditional
manner; the knight IS also armed with a massive bronzeheaded mace, thrust beneath h1s saddle.
C2: Low-status crusader
The directly riveted construction of this man's helmet might
reflect Eastern rather than Western European influence, and
would probably have been cons1dered old-fashioned even
1n Scandinavia. H1s hm1ted form of ma11 hauberk, baggy
trousers, fight1ng kn1fe and s1mple short-hafted infantry
spear also show h1m to be a peasant or low-status warrior.
The reality behind the story of how what became the Damsh
national flag 'fell from heaven' during this battle is, of course,
unknown. Perhaps a blood-stained cloth might have been
blown across the field of combat, being seen by some
religiously excited crusaders as a white cross on
a red background?
C3: Danish sergeant
As a professional soldier, although one of
humble origins, this Danish sergeant
wears an early form of brimmed iron
'kettle-hat' -a style of helmet which
became very popular throughout
later medieval Scandinavia. Since
he is fight1ng with a large axe
wielded with both hands, he has
slung h1s large k1te-shaped shield
on h1s back, held by its broad leather
of his mail hauberk is again oldfashioned, lacking a ventail to be
drawn across h1s ch1n and throat, but the
hauberk 1tself IS worn over a quilted softarmour. The dist.nctive bronze hilt of h1s sword
is often associated with Finland, and the weapon
might be war-booty.

Swedish panel paintings, 13th century:

(Top left) Note at right t he warrior wit h a flat-topped great
helm , a shortened kite shield with a rou nded top, and
a surcoat.
(Top right) Both warriors wear full mall and carry swords,
one having a smaller 'heater'-shaped shield s lung on
his back.
(Right) At left, two fully armou red knights on horseback,
one with a great helm and t h e other with only a mall coif.
(in situ DlldsjiS Church, Smli land, Sweden)


Defeated on the River Neva by the Prince of Novgorod in
July 1240 dunng the Baltic First Crusade, these unfortunates
try to escape by boat.
0 1: Swedish knight, mid - 13th c entury
With h1s flat-topped great helm, full mail armour and partially
padded surcoat, th1s knight looked essentially the same as
fighting men of comparable status elsewhere in Western
Europe. Only the fact that he wears boots over his mail
chausses might indicate a local Scandinav1an style, perhaps
reflecting the weather in this part of Europe; his battleaxe,
while unusual elsewhere in Western Europe, would not be
entirely unknown. The shorter shield Is a new fashion, asapparently - are the quilted cuisses around his thighs and
knees. The same applies to his horse's caparison, saddle
and harness.
02: Swedis h infantry sergeant
Most of th1s man's military equ1pment is aga1n in the mid13th century Western European mainstream. It consists of a
low-domed one-piece iron helmet with an integral nasal; a
full mail hauberk with a mail coif, here worn underneath a
quilted cloth-covered coif; a full-length, long-sleeved quilted
gambeson; and a modern style of short but broad - almost
triangular - shield. On the other hand, the substantial fighting
knife slung almost horizontally from his sword belt, and the
baggy trousers worn over his close-fitting hose, are very
Scandinavian or Baltic.

0 3: Swedi sh sailor or boatman

The one-piece, broad-brimmed iron 'war-hat' had by now
become very widespread in Scandinavia. It was once again
common for men from many backgrounds to carry a
substantial knife or dagger. Otherwise th1s man's multiple
layers of cloth1ng, especially the broad-shouldered cape
with a hood - here shown pushed back off the head - seem
designed for work1ng 1n a potentially cold and wet
environment such as the Baltic Sea.

E1: Swedish knight
The nature of warfare in and around the dense forests, bogs
and lakes of Finland meant that some of the heaviest armour
used in other parts of Europe was often unsuitable. This was
usually a conflict of raid and ambush, in terra1n without roads
or very many passable tracks. This Swedish knight wears a


Mail habergeon or small form of hauberk, early 14th

century; t his piece is in fact English, bu t is entirely typica l
of armour of that period. The style woul d have been more
or less the same since the late Viking Age, with o nly a
lengthening of the arms and skirts to accommodate
riders. (London M useum)


brimmed 'kettle-hat' or chapel-de-fer which does not

interfere w1th his vision; its substantial cheekpieces are a
distinctively Scandinavian feature. Otherwise, he has a
German-style coat-of-plates beneath a separate mail coif
and over a full mail hauberk, plus mall chausses for his legs.
E2: Swedish sergeant with sp anned crossbow
Walking with a spanned and loaded crossbow could be
a dangerous thing to do, unless there was good reason to
expect an ambush. The helmet worn by this sergeant may be
old-fashioned in Its basic shape, but is quite advanced in its
corrugated or fluted reinforced surface. He otherwise relies on
mail for protection, and is armed with a relatively short infantryman's sword and a thick circular, wooden, buckler form of
sh1eld. In add1t1on to a crossbow with a composite stave
a crossbowman needed an 1ron spann1ng-hook on a belt
around h1s hips, and a quiver to hold the short bolts or arrows.
E3: Finn auxi liary wi t h pack-mule
Local indigenous auxiliaries are known to have been less
well armed than th61r Scand1navian rulers and colon1zers. This
man only has a rather ancent two-piece iron-framed helmet,
though h1s sword 1s a f1ne old-fashioned weapon. His thick
fur-lined coat would also have prov1ded some protection.


F1: Danish crossbowman
Northern Estonia and its ma1n c1ty of Reval {today called
Tallinn) was all that remained of Denmark's crusading
expans1on by the 14th century, and would soon be sold
to the Order of Teuton1c Kmghts. Nevertheless. 1t was a
valuable possesson that would have been well guarded.
Because of the b11ing north w1nd th1s crossbowman wears a
fur-lined hat rather than a helmet: beneath th1s is a mail COif
which also covers hs shoulders. The outline of a thtekly
padded mall tippet or collar is also visible. Over h1s longsleeved hauberk - which lacks m1ttens, because of his role
as a crossbowman - he has a scale-lined coat-of-plates.
His other equipment consists of a spanmng-belt for his
crossbow, a quiver for his bolts, a small wooden buckler, and
a sword which has both a very old-fashioned pommel and
much more modern down-curved quillons.
F2: Lithuanian nobleman
Whether a fully armed Llthuan1an nobleman would ever
have approached the gates of Reval is unknown; however,
this well-armed warrior represents the best equipped
military elite of Europe's last pagan state. His helmet is of
segmented construction with an iron frame; rawhide thongs
threaded around the rim secure an internal lining, while the
neckpiece is loosely riveted so that it can move slightly. He
wears a gold torque around his neck and a gold armband
above his elbow, below a short-sleeved ma1l hauberk. In
addition to a short sword w1th a pla1n iron pommel and
quilions, whose scabbard hangs from a richly decorated belt.
he IS armed w1th a decorated spear and javelins. His prickspurs are of a distinctive form, and are kept in place with
leather straps and iron buckles.
F3: Teutonic brother knight
The m11itary orders usually had the best and most up-to-date
equ1pment. Certa1nly this brother knight of the Teutonic
Order IS well armoured, w1th an ear1y form of bascinet which
has a h1nged v1sor and a ma1l aventail attached to the 1ns1de
of its rim; the broad, shoulder-covering part of this aventail
also extends over part of the man's upper arms. The coatof-plates opens only on the nght shoulder, where an iron pin
is threaded through lfOn staples. Beneath the coat-of-plates
is a mail hauberk with three-quarter sleeves; additional arm
protections are in the form of hardened leather rerebraces
for the upper arms, splinted vambraces for the lower arms,
and partially plated gauntlets. His chausses appear to be
scale-lined, rather than with the usual ringmall. His massive
single-edged falchion would be held in a scabbard that was
slit down almost the full length of one side.
G1 : King Magnus Eriksson of Sweden
By the mid-14th century the m1iltary equipment of the
ruling elite of Sweden and the other Scandinavian
kingdoms was fully within the Western European - more
particularly, German - trad1t10n. Consequently King
Magnus is shown w1th a deep form of bascinet with a
face-covenng ma1l flap, here 1n 1ts lowered position, and
a coat-of-plates beneath a heraldiC surcoat. Under these
he wears a mail hauberk. padded aketon or gambeson
rerebraces. vambraces and gauntlets, h1s leg armour is

S1m1larly complete. He 1s armed with a knightly sword, a

flanged mace, a substantial dagger, and a second saddlesword beneath the flap of his saddle. In contrast, his horse
harness is quite simple; note that much of the length of
the reins is now made of chain rather than leather as a
precaution aga1nst 1ts getting severed 1n combat.
G2: Swedish knight
In contrast to the armour worn by his king, this ordinary
Swedish knight wears old-fashioned gear, most notably h1s
massive flat-topped great helm. It Is worn over a separate
ma11 coif which protects the neck but not the shoulders.
Beneath this is the sleeveless surcoat and long-sleeved mail
hauberk. His plated gauntlets are more up-to-date, but his
leg armour is again very trad1t1onal. In contrast h1s swordbelt,
sword, dagger and dagger-sheath suspension system are in
a more recen t style. He carries the Swedish battle standard
known as the Folkunga Vapnet.
G3: German mercenary
Judg1ng by h1s arms and armour, th1s mercenary commander
passing on the report of his scouts comes from southern
rather than northern Germany. Some degree of Italian stylistic
and technological influence is visible, most obviously in his
deep-brimmed steel 'war-hat' helmet. In other respects his
body armour is similar to that of K1ng Magnus, but 1ncludes
guard-chains attached to the coat-of-plates beneath his
surcoat; these will prevent the man los1ng his weapons 1n the
tumult of battle. His haubergeon has broad three-quarterlength sleeves, which hang in pointed rear extensions behind
his elbows. Under the fabric outer coverings his upper-arm
rerebraces are lined with riveted iron splints, his gauntlets and
th1gh-covering cuisses with scales. The fact that the scales
are on the exterior of h1s feet-protecting sabatons is probably
a matter o f fashion. His slightly concave heater shield is slung
on his back by its long guige. He is not riding his own destrier
or war-horse while scouting in the forest. but has selected a
smaller and perhaps more nimble local mount with a s1mple
native Baltic or Finnish harness.


In that year Swedish c rusaders attacked the fortress of
lvangorod overlooking the River Narva on the eastern
frontier of Estonia.
H1 : Swedish artilleryman
By the late 15th century there had been many significant
developments in European military eq uipment, in
Scandinavia as elsewhere; not least was the widespread
adopt1on of gunpowder weapons. Here an artilleryman
prepares to fire a med1um-sized cannon which is protected
by a moveable limber shield. The firing IS done by healing
a touche in a charcoal brazier, then applying it to the 'touche
hole' or touch hole. The gunner is protected by a notably
bulbous style o f bri mmed chapel- de-fer that was very
popular in Scandinavia. He also has a mail tippet
on h1s neck and shoulders, and a long-sleeved, padded,
and probably scale-lined jacque worn over a mail hauberk
or haubergeon.
H2: Finnish crossbowman
In con trast to the lightly protected gunner, this crossbowman
wears almost complete 'white harness' or fully plated
armour. The only pieces that are m1Ss1ng are the mass1ve
breast and back plates wrth the1r attached hip-covering fauld.

Toompea Castle, the oldest part of the fortifications of the

city of Reval, now called Tallinn, the capital of Estonia.
See commentary Plate F. (D.Nicolle photograph)

The former have been replaced by a cloth-covered, scale-lined

bngand1ne - in the case of a footsold1er, presumably for
reasons of weight. His helmet is a part1cularty deep form of
brimmed 'war-hat' with eye-slits cut in the front part of the
brim. The crossbow is still of a relatively traditional form, but 1t
1s now spanned by means of the leverage exerted wrth an 1ron
'crows-foot', which made rt easiE!I' to pull back the strings of
the more powerful forms of stave.
H3: Swedish man - at- arms
This man is c learly a member of the wealthy and fashionconscious military elite. His helmet is of the latest style, an
iron salet form with a v1sor that could be raised or lowered.
This was often worn With a steel bevor wh1ch covered the
chin, throat and upper chest; 1t did not move w1th the head,
but was fixed to the breastplate. In add1!Jon to the loose
tabbard which is fastened only at the shoulders, he has a
velvet jacket with widely puffed sleeves. This garment goes
over the armour of his arms, upper chest and back, but 1s
tucked 1ns1de the plackart and fauld wh1ch protect h1s
abdomen, hips and groin. Below this IS a mail haubergeon.
The leather sword belt is split so that one part goes closely
around the waist of his armour while the other part falls
loosely down to his left hip. The front of his hips have the
additional protection of plated tassels wh1le the rest of h1s
legs are enclosed in full steel leg harness.


Refc.tnct' tn lllu.,tnllion~ art 'h(n\n
111 b o ld I'I,He' ,ue <hown with pagt .111cl
I<K,ttor-. in brackeiS.


( ..uda, Gotland 23
( <'llll.ln cno...aders 21. :IH
<man mercenan G3('11. 17)
(,t'IIH,\Ih :-\

,\bn H. 36
i\ lcxa n rlt t \1"1-i. Pm K(' 8, 0 (2R, 4.'i)
<ltmi<s !1- 10
ll t tl'IUI I I

"'"'he lmets
IIOil-1'10(1 II. 11-13, 22. 44 , 45
Ullll-1400 16,16--17.24,33, 46
I fUII-J.'i<KI !!4, 33
g.unhnorl\ t:l
jupcnh !!0
n1.1il I 'l. 19. 22, 33. 46
pl.11t 16, 111-!!<l.:! I
,ulillt"rn.m. '>wedbh H1 (32. HI

C.utl,uul 9. 23
CoUll(' C<l\11<:. ntnm.trk 38
11 00-l:lOO I ::I, 15, 22. 23. 44 , 45
J:lOO-l.JOO 1~1 7, 18
I 1C)(l-1500 1!!. 19-20
'I.1Uit-haL, (chapelwle-l<'o) I i, 18. 20. 23
llnh J.oucl 5. 7, 3H-39
hnr.t <quipnunt 24
111111\ 2:~2-1
h.1ngoood 9. H (::l2. 17)
Jm,,tl.tf,u. Sogurd 7

1\,tltl<. I h1 ..11 the time of the Crm~de<

4 , 6 , ti- 7
1\t'l)(t'll, Sl'oll n l <i1} 34
bn:t ll llolll, S"tdi \ h 03 (28, 45)

bo;m :lH
<u 11/111

'I"P' B.1ltic

lin"" Bilge1, 'f',tl of 44

1\nnJ..dxK b.mle of 20
c.1hrnp,, 11 on 21
C.lptilh :l.'i
t;mlt' htnldmg 33. 3-t. 35. 38
vr ulw lortific'-atinn'
<:lu ;,u.tn,, cru>.tdn between :1. 12
1 hoonnlnw 7-(l
<lun.tlt' 'l(i
( I ""hOWI\1('11 Fl (30, 16)' H 2(32, 17)
<''"" I' dl'li n i1ions and bene fits :1-1
Cnl\atl f"io'> t Ba ltic 8, 0 (28, 43)
'Cn l\,tcl <'. 1lu' ( Fi .-,1 Crusade) 7
<111\Mkt, lnw.... latu' C2 (27, 44)
<111\,ldt\, aftennath nf 1().-12
'-lng \ l.1gnus' First ,md
'><nnd H
1 llt,,tdt' httw<en Christiam 3. 12


l).mi'h 1m,.uh .1gainst the l:.stonian\

C(:!i, Ill
D.mhh n ""'der.
c""'howm.tn Fl (30, <IIi)
l.n~ghts 3, A2(25, 13), Bl (26. 4 1),
Cl (l!7, II )
'l'tgc.IIH' 82 (2!\. 44), C3 (27, Ill
();ll ti, lt im.r ~ion of Ri:tgen islan d 7, AC.!!'l.
I'' II)
thftIH I' '~'11'111, IN/ung 9- 10
lklllll.lll. (;, 7. 12, ~:~. 38, -lo-11
lhin,t. RiH :~.;
cquopnwnt, miliLlf\ 11-21. 33
"' nlw .u mour. helmets: weoi.tpon'
llf)(l-1 :100 22
,J,i, .uul ,Jt-igh' 37
F.m I '111t Cnod', King of Denmart.. i
\wni.tn "'" '" ' B3(21i. 44)
E\wou.tn' H. C(27, 44). 33


Fi11l.md X. 10, II
Finn oiiiXi li a q E3 (29. 16)
Fi illl i\11 (I O\\lmwmdn H 2(32. 17)
rm lifit.l1inm :lH-3!1
' " 11/111 <,L\IIe\, building
huil<hn~ umb< fon 8 (26, ~~~

I,,,Jrn .... l'uinu or <10-1 1

k11tg, 12rh ct:n lltn 8

l!hh cen tun ll

n.mhh 3, A2 (23, 13), Bl (2h. II),
C J (27.H)
~~"dj,h 01 (28, ~5). El (2!1. l~r- 16) ,
lnunmc 3. 5, 8, 19. 21, F3 (3U, lh) , :1-1,
:16. :17. '\8. 39. 41
N.nc...,.,.rre. Sa.trermkt i-l.md, 1\r,Jtnp\ CoLtdtl 5
l.tdll):ol :15
1..11\t.tll\ :l3
I 1hu l.1 <,L,tle, Estonia 38
I 11h11ania 9, 40
l.nh llanian ro ..es 35, :l!l
Li rl 11oart ia 11 n o bleman F2(:l0, IIi)
I HI HO<rt1i.tn' 5. 8, 37, 31!
1.1 nd.mi\e, bau.k of 8, C(27, 11 )
\ l,tgnm l::ricJ..sson. Nng of S"<'tkn H.

'>dolor. S\\edi>h 0 3(:.!1! l:l )

!'>1 Rorgiua of .,,,t'dtn ,
!'>1 (.,urge stante 20 . !!I
!'>1 Ol<tr 17

\e,tb. Scandina1 i<lll 3 1, II

'ergeanl< B2(21i. II). C312i, II),
0 2(21!, ~5). 2(29, Ill)
shield> 12. 15, 17, :12, 23, 15
ships. Baltic !l, )(), 34 . 35, 'IH
sug1 11<11rart' !11, :111-W
'>l.11 nol>leman A3(2'; 11)
snl<litr. 121 h 11'111111'\ 8
\Lmdard, FniJ..ung.t ''IIIH'I C2( .11, ~7 )
StocJ..holm. SwrJ..\11..111 .... c:,orgt SIAIUI'
20 .21
'>tralsund. seal ol em 31
\lr.llt'g\ 33-10
H'l'flltmtl ( re~iun) !J
S"tckn 6, i, :tl, :t~. Hl-11
S11ed ish ;m... l. <Ill I'"'K'""'I 11. 11(:1\!, ~7)
S11edish cnts.l<krs !l, (:!11, ~~>-lh)
a n i llermmn HI (:12, 17)
kmgh~ Dl (:!R. 1'>), F. I (2'1. l:i-lti),
C2(31. 17)
man-ar-anm H3C:l:.!, 171
'ailoo 01 bo.1tm~n 0 31211, I'H
"''lleams 0 2(2!l !1), E2 (:.!!1, lh)
~"cdrsh dl'ftat l11 1'11111 t ,\ln.onder :-.n sJ..i
H. 0 (2R. Frl
""edr<h thru<t
l.l<lt>g.t n
S\\ord Brother;, Onlt of :l, 7, H


tac ti" 3:\-IO

Tallinn '" Reval
ttof<lin 3-1. :IIi
Tcutnn ic Knigh rs Oocl1'1 :1. :;, H. 1\l. !!I.
F3(30, 46), !H, 'Ill, '~7. :IH, ;1'1, l l
Lradt. l\aiLi1 II
cpp!andsla~l'/1 (SIIC'd i'h le-ga l ( oclc) 12, I-I
l ' ppl<.!ndslagen reg;on II
l ' oban, Pope 7

Gl c:il.~~i)

m.llhll-.!llll\, S\\edish H3 C:t!. 171

\l.u11nhurg !>. 39
llll'l<t'll.U'\, (",eo man G3(:ll . li )
\ f "" nn ( \l<htO\\) -1 I
'-ftv.t, Rher 0 (2R. 15)
\lit'llH'n. Ri1er 9, 35
uohl<nwn A3(25. II), F2 (:l0. IIi)
\lon1 ,J\ !i. :ll!, 10~11
\lot 1w~i.u1 1\mrg,flirtf (' l-i ng~ amw') I I
\lovgmucl 7, H, +I
\lmgm ocli.tn roo ces :u, !~H. :m
Ounm.m Tuo k, -12
l'.tp.tl .nuhoriues 3. 3
p.tlli<i)l.!nl> 3
l'tr """. Bn-ger II
l'lu1. llt'lllil. 3
Pnl.nul Pnlt, 9 . .J I
I'll""'"' ,t,Hll<'' pagan 2 1
1,, idc r>. tnba l li
1a iding 31-35
Rastbnrg castle, Fin laml 38 . 41
Rtl.tl (now lltllinn) R, F'(30, 111), 37, 39,
40. 4 7
Ri'tgtn 1\lancl 7, A (25, l:l-11)
Ru'"'' H, G (31. 4&--17), II

\';olckmao I, King nf lknm.uJ.. i

\'ihmg C::hrle 36 I'I

\I I:!:>. H)

1\<trrior. Uth nn1un 15

warrior. E<tont.trt B3!2h. 11)
"ardor;, Pnr<<i.m 21
.IH aLw caltrop,, iron
11110-1300 11-l!i, 12 13, II . 22.2:1-2 I, 33
1!\0<l-1400 l H- 1!1, 2 1, '1:1. 44
I HlO-L'lOO 20-21. :.! I, :1:1
~l iTO\\' 14
"'e' 14. 1.~. 17. 1!1, ~!:\
in Baltic l"uHI, .mel ~'"J.:CHocl
22 23-21. :u
bolts. cro<slxm 1:>, IS
boll, 14. 2:~21
clo\C combat n-11i
uo"bo"' 1-1-l:l. IK. 21
<laggc'" u;. I k-Ill, 20 !!I
h""'' If\, 19, 2U
h.1lberd' 19, 20
kn 11es 16, 2 I
longsword~ I X, 2 1
maces 13, n IIi, 1!1, 2:'
poleaxes 21

l :i. I H, :/0-~1.21.33

'"cucls 10. 12. l~-1:1. 14 , IH, :!:1. 11

\\-anu \\ar fare 3t~J7

The uniforms, equipment, history and organizatton

of the world's military forces. past and present

The Scandinavian
Baltic Crusades
This book describes and
illustrates the armour,
weapons, fortifications
and ships of one of the leastknown phases of the medieval
Crusades- the expeditions by
Scandinavian Catholics against
the pagan peoples to the east
of the Baltic Sea, and their
subsequent clashes with the

Full colour artwork

Eastern Orthodox Russian

princes of Novgorod and
Muscovy. rrom isolated castles
built in this bleak \\ilderness
of forests, lakes and bogs,
the small garrisons struggled
equally against the enemy and


terrain and climate.

1 he text 1s Illustrated with

photographs of rare museum

relics and of castles, and
spirited colour plates by
Unrivalled detail


Angus McBride.

ISBN 978-HI4176-9R8-:>


www.ospr eyp ubli s hin g.co m