Slovenian museum collections today keep relatively few
examples of protective equipment from the Medieval and Early Modern Period. A
special position is held by the armour, which was made in the 1530s by the
acknowledged master Valentin Siebenbürger from Nürnberg.
It is the only original, almost wholly preserved
example of a knight’s suit of armour in Slovenia. It was tailor-made for a wealthy warrior of noble
birth, who fought as a heavily armed cavalryman. This is also indicated by the folding
hook on the right side of the breastplate, which was intended to support a
heavy cavalry lance under the right armpit. Given the form of the protective
parts, we can determine that its owner possessed an athletic physique, with
relatively wide shoulders and a very slender waist.
Even though the armour may look massive, it is not
unbearably heavy – it weighs 24 kilograms in its entirety and its weight is
well distributed throughout the body due to its well-considered design. The
sheet metal on the chest plate reaches a thickness of up to 3 mm, while in less
exposed areas, in particular on the limbs, it becomes thinner to about 1 mm.
This provided the user with an optimal ratio between the level of protection
and distribution of mass or ability to move.
The production of a complete suit of armour from sheet
metal required flawless mastery of the blacksmith’s craft, excellent knowledge
of the human anatomy and a sense for ergonomics. But the protective equipment
of the knightly elite was not just a superior product of the military
technology of its time. It also signified an important status symbol and its
design reflected the fashionable taste of the Early Modern Period.
Siebenbürger’s armour is made in the so-called
Maximilian style, which is recognised by the ribbed surface of the protective
plates. The artfully formed wavy metal sheet, on the one hand, imitated the
very popular wide, gathered clothing of the time. On the other hand, it was
possible to create a more robust armour which, with the same weight and
thickness of the panels, provided better protection against strikes and missiles.