Shields for Beginners

What About the Other Shields?

Shield Terms Glossary
Shield Types
What About the Other Shields?
Which Shield Should I Bear?

What about Tower Shields? Or pavises? Or those really weird spiked shields I saw in that one German manual?

Of course there were other types of shields used during the medieval era. However, the shields covered in this article are the shield types that were most commonly used on the battlefield. Pavises, mantlets or Setzschilden—the door-shaped, immobile shields used for missile-weapon protection—were never as popular as the other shields mentioned here because of their limited scope of use.

“Tower shields” were so-called because of their limited use in sieges and in tower defense. However, their use upon a medieval battleground would have been unheard of. While forming a shield-wall of door-sized shields that rest on the users’ iron-shod feet or upon the ground can be an effective, creative way of winning re-creation battles, it is not historical, and would not have been practical during the Middle Ages.

Dueling shields such as those depicted in Hans Talhoffer’s 1467 fechtbuch and the Codex Wallerstein were used for trial by combat, and were weapons in and of themselves. While much fascinating work remains to be done concerning the use of these strange shields, they were certainly not for use upon the battlefield, and therefore outside the scope of this article.

Spiked dueling shields as depicted in the Codex Wallerstein.

Similarly, some of the unusual, almost bizarre shield/weapon combinations that were invented during the Renaissance (such as the “lantern shield” made popular by some role-playing games) were often as not completely unfit for combat outside of their own small scope of use—perhaps for dueling with sideswords or rapiers. While historical precedent exists for such shields, they too are not discussed in further detail here.




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