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Suit of armour by Valentin SiebenbürgerThe only original, almost wholly preserved example of a knight’s suit of armour in Slovenia
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Suit of armour by Valentin Siebenbürger

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.

Object: Suit of armour by Valentin Siebenbürger 
Description: The only original, almost entirely preserved example of a true “knightly” armour in Slovenia.
Dating: 1530s 
Material: Iron, brass, leather
Dimensions of the breastplate: Height: 61 cm, width: 9.6 cm
Provenance: Workshop of Valentin Siebenbürger, Nürnberg
Inv. No.: N 35361
LocationPermanent exhibition The History and Arts Collections at the National Museum of Slovenia – Metelkova

More information

Master Siebenbürger

Siebenbürger is mentioned as a master armourer for the first time in 1531. During the 1530s, his workshop experienced a great rise in popularity. Nuremberg was one of the main armour and weaponry centres of Europe, but it was known primarily for the serial (mass) production of cheap military weapons. Siebenbürger was one of the relatively rare Nuremberg armour-makers who, in addition to the weapons of lower rank, also successfully traded in custom-made armour pieces for the wealthiest of customers. This is the period from which the armour in the museum also originates, making it one of the earliest examples of his work. Siebenbürger’s clients included Emperor Charles V, the Duke of Prussia, Count Palatine of Neuburg and many other distinguished nobles from the Holy Roman Empire.
Only a few complete armours from the Siebenbürger workshop have been preserved in European and American collections (and many more separate parts and fragments). The armour from the National Museum of Slovenia is therefore a very valuable exhibit since it represents an original whole that has not been significantly tampered with, altered or restored over the course of time.

How the museum acquired the armour

The armour was obtained from the former collection of Baron Hans Kometer from Puchenstein Mansion (Bukovje) near Dravograd in 1935. This is actually the most important piece from Kometer’s weapons collection, which the National Museum of Slovenia acquired by the merit of Josip Mal, its director at the time, following a very complex trial. The Puchenstein collection of weapons as a whole then became the property of the National Museum of Slovenia and today forms the core of the permanent exhibition of arms and armour at Metelkova.

The most important collection of arms and armour in the country

The collection of arms and armour at the National Museum of Slovenia is the most important in the country according to historical value and variety of exhibits. Chronologically it covers the period from the High Middle Ages up till the end of the 20th century. In addition to military, hunting and sporting weapons, once used by Slovenia’s forefathers, it also includes pieces from foreign cultures, from Africa to the Far East.

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Further reading

  • Tomaž Lazar, An armour by Valentin Siebenbürger in the National Museum of Slovenia. The Journal of the Arms & Armour Society,  21/2 (2013), pp. 37–48.
  • Tomaž Lazar, Tomaž Nabergoj, Polona Bitenc (eds.), Vitez, dama in zmaj. Dediščina srednjeveških bojevnikov na Slovenskem 2, Catalogue, Ljubljana 2013, cat. no. 84.
  • Tomaž Lazar, Gospostvo Pukštajn in rodbina Kometer: podjetniki, baroni, meceni, zbiralci starin. Kronika, 63/1, 2015, pp. 41–64.
  • Tomaž Lazar, Baron Hans Kometer in njegova zbirka starin z dvorca Pukštajn. Kronika, 63/2, 2015, pp. 293–318.

Open Today
Muzejska10:00 - 18:00
MetelkovaClosed
Snežnik Castle11:00 - 15:00
Bled Castle09:00 - 17:00
Ad Pirum11:00 - 22:00