Back to Austria

Where did I get up to last time? Ah yes, that’s right, the Arms and Armour Museum. Let’s go.

This armour collection was started by one of the Emperors who held a great fascination for, as I would put it, “this sort of thing”.

I’ve asked Brett to add his thoughts, as he loved this much more than I did. I’ll make his comments a different colour, so you know who is saying what.



This tapestry is just truly amazing, the detail was so fine. It was like looking at a painting. I believe that someone used to go to war and it was his job to draw “cartoons” of battle scenes and then have them made into tapestries. Slightly slower process than taking your film down to the local photo shop. The close up gives a better idea of the intricate detail. The full picture shows the amazing size and complexity of the scene.

The cartooners (and yes I think they really were called cartoons) were kind of like our modern day war correspondant. There you go CNN, that’s prior art on ’embedded coverage’ by about 500 years. I’m guessing they had similar freedoms in how they portrayed the battles too.


An early, early piece of armour. If Brett had’ve angled the camera slightly differently he could have taken a self-portrait. I did wonder how effective this helmet would be in the middle of a furious battle.

This thing is a helmet ‘inner’. I’m not sure what the correct terminology is. It’s not hard to see why padding would be necessary when you consider the strength and weight of the helmets. One sharp rap to the head with nothing between you and the steel and you wouldn’t know much for a while.

Great Invention… Not!!!
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This was someone’s fantastic idea. It’s a pity that fantastic ideas aren’t always that fantastic. I think I’ll leave this one to Brett to explain.

Classic. This thing is called a Lantern Shield, and reminds me of a gnomish invention. The idea was to pack as many nasty pointing bits and clever gadgets into the one item as possible. This one succeeds in comprising just about everything a dueler might want: There’s a retractable sword blade, a dagger, a buckler shield, Wolverine like spikes projecting from the gauntlet (more prior art, eh Marvel), and the piece de resistance (literally) is the concealable oil casket and lamp. The idea was that during night duels the proud owner of the Lantern Shield ($29.95, free set of steak knives, as seen in photo…etc) could pull the cleverly fashioned lever thus opening the portal on the face of the shield and blinding his opponent with the penetrating intensity of a flame atop a small oil-fed wick.

The mind boggles. The experts agree that the most likely scenario would be that the wearer would spill hot oil all over his person, and in his anguish, and notably now in the deep dark of sudden blindness, would probably deal himself a mortal wound of some kind. The Medieval equivalent of an own goal, as it were. Ofcourse, the experts have been known to be wrong. It may just be that this was Vetware of the 1500s, for the handling of uncooperative cats or killer rabbits.


This hilt is another example of amazing craftsmanship. On all the “ends” are little Moor’s heads. They were considered good luck.

Things African and Oriental had quite a period of popularity apparently. Having had this pointed out, it was quite surprising to see how much of the collection bore some exotic element, particulalry the Moor’s head. I think in many ways Austria was the bulwark for central Europe against the Ottoman Turks, given its location and its role as center of Habsburg power. It is also why they have such a cache of arms and armour. It is interesting that despite being engaged in protracted war, some heroes of the ‘opposition’ were still held in high regard (e.g. Sultan what-s-his-name). I wonder whether this came in part from the chivalric notion of the brotherhood of knights above and beyond national ties (and particulalry above the peasant. The thought of being killed by a foot soldier kept many a knight up at, well, night). Jousting tournaments often included teams, where one team might dress in armour of Moorish design, complete with be-moustached helmets. I think we have a photo somewhere of one of these, Tara?

The complexity of the politics of these things always amazes me. I forget which Emperor it was who went out of his way to convene tourneys that included a more dangerous form of combat (real blades vs. clubs for example) in an attempt to gain the allegiance of the best young fighting men. Those same men today would probably be canoeing down mountain sides or underwater-bicycle bungy-jumping I guess.

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I think it is this piece of armour that was made soon after guns were introduced to battle. If you look closely you can see where this armour saved the wearer from nasty injury… or even death.

I laugh every time I see this photo. This armour is from the age where “battle” was a game. With duelling knights. Except that the contenders in these particular competions pretty much bludgeoned each other with clubs or something. They had to whack something off the top of the helmet (The helmet designer was a popular choice).

The next two photos are from the same piece of armour. It is amazing to think that something associated with war and hence death and destruction, can still be so beautiful. I think this armour was made after classic motifs made a bit of a come back. That may be Hercules (or not). This fad was followed by the even briefer flirtation with crop tops.

Armour Again
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By this stage we had been in the museum for hours and we were pretty much walking through and pointing the camera at anything that looked interesting, and taking its picture without stopping.

Had to have at least one picture of a dolled up horse.

What can I say… “He liked his food”?

Again beauty and ugliness mingled.

Mad horse disease.

Well as you can tell by the decreasing length of my comments on the pictures, I’ve had about enough for the moment. Til next time (and yes there’s still more arms and armour folks).

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