Medieval Shields

Here is a comprehensive listing of the various types of shields that were used during the medieval period. Many of these were carried by knights but they were not just part of the armament of mounted knights. Some types were used by infantry and ground troops.

The History of the Medieval Shield

Shields, as in any type of armor or weapon, developed and changed over the centuries. They also changed in shape and size. They were typically not larger than three feet in diameter and made of wooden planks that were laid next to each other. The surface of the shield was often covered with leather and painted. As iron and metal working skills came into play a hole was often cut in the center of the shield and a metal boss was placed over it.

A real hoplite shieldVery early shields: Around the seventh century BC the greeks made and used a circular shield called a hoplon. These hoplon shields were made of wood and bronze and they were derived from even earlier shields made totally of bronze. The picture at left is of a real Hoplite shield in a museum in Greece. I took this picture while on a trip there. The Plaque reads: Bronze Spartan Shield - loot from the Battle of Pylos 425 B.C.




Make This shield for fun

Spartan Shield

This is a great looking shield that is creative and easy to make. It looks just like the shields in the movie 300 and is based on the hoplon. Complete tutorial with video. How to make a Spartan Shield

Next comes the Roman Scutum Shield

Roman Scutum

A Roman Scutum This type of shield was in use by the Roman Republic into the 3rd century. It was rectangular in shape and usually measured around two and a half feet wide by five feet tall. And it was usually slightly cylindrical in shape. It was made of three layers of wooden strips and these strips were oriented differently for strength. First one layer was laid horizontal then the second layer was laid vertical and the final layer was laid horizontal. This changing direction of the wood made it very strong. It was then covered with strips of leather. Often times there was a shield boss in the center.


Viking Kite Shield

The Kite Shield was the next big development in shields and it saw a lot of use from the 11th century to the beginning of the 13th century. (Pictured: VIKING KITE SHIELD)




From the beginning of the 13th century the Kite Shield changed; particularly the shape along the top of the shield flattened out into what we tend to think of as the shield shape. This is typically a coat of arms kind of shield. The next two pictures give you an idea of this progression from rounded to flat top.

Types of Shields

  • Buckler - A small round shield often carried by infantry troops.
  • Heater Shield - A large shield that first appeared around 1270 AD. It takes its name because it was shaped much like the bottom of a flat iron.
  • Kite Shield - This was a large elongated shield that was rounded at the top and came to a point at the bottom. It was very common between the 10th and 13th centuries.
  • Parma - round shield used by the Roman Army.
  • Pavise - A large European shield typically of a rectangular shape and convex. A notable thing about the Pavise is a central ridge that runs vertically down the middle of it. This was typically used by archers and crossbowmen.
  • Renntartsche - A very large shield that covered all of the wielders body. It was made of wood and leather and often reinforced with metal.
  • Targa- Generic word for Shield.
  • Mantlet - Technically a shield but too large to be held in the hand. it was a large shield that was placed on the ground. They could be for a single person or even large enough to protect siege equipment like siege towers and trebuchets.

Parts of Shields

  • Boss - (also called an Umbo) A round center part of the shield that is reinforced and made for deflecting blows away from the center of the shield. Often made of wood or thick metal. these were mounted on round shields.
  • Bouche - a notch cut in the top of a shield to rest a lance in when jousting.
  • Enarmes - The straps inside a shield which an arm was passed into in order to carry the shield.


Wizards Tower Make a Cardboard Shield
I have some nice tips and a tutorial on how to make a good looking cardboard shield. Make a cardboard Shield