Medieval Mondays: The Nature of Armor

Armor 3

We’ve all seen those pictures which capture Medieval knights riding gallantly into the fray or wielding a weapon with deadly precision as their armor shines in the sun. The iron or steel encasement was created to protect their body from all manner of harm, and as the years progressed, inventors thought of improved techniques which perfected the armor’s design.

Armor 1

Despite their efforts, modern scientific research has determined that Medieval armor may have been more of a hindrance than a help to the knight. An article published in Scientific American described an experiment where subjects were asked to wear a full suit of armor while running/walking on a treadmill. By measuring their oxygen intake among other things, the scientists discovered that the armor “unwittingly put its wearer at a heavy disadvantage.” (Heavy…haha!) A full suit of armor in the 1400’s could weigh anywhere from sixty to over one hundred pounds, and because the knight was covered from head to toe, their movements were restricted. In fact, the pieces on their chest and backs limited their breathing—forcing them to take only shallow breaths.

Allow me to go deeper for a moment.

I have been thinking a lot about armor lately…and not just the Medieval kind. The truth is, we all have armor, put there by life experiences: abuse, rejection, pain, or past. And while we put on our armor to protect us from all manner of future harm, if we are not careful, we forget what it is like to live life without it. Another article I read described the knight as a “living fortress,” and this imagery hit me hard. A fortress—an impenetrable building where nothing and no one gets in and nothing and no one gets out.

In some seasons, armor is necessary. It would have been silly for a knight to charge into battle wearing only his tunic. However, it would have been equally as silly for a knight to wear a full suit of armor at the dinner table.

So, let’s wear our armor when we must. Let’s carry the weight when life and circumstance demand it, but let us never ever get used to the shallow breathing. Let us always ask of ourselves as the great poet Mary Oliver said, “Am I breathing just a little and calling it a life?”

Armor 2


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