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This glossary below is divided into sections for ease of use, viz Armour,  Architecture (including that relevant to monuments) and Armour Terminology

Click on the relevant link to access the correct section. Each section is also alphabethically bookmarked.

There is also an illustrated glossary showing labelled drawings of much of this material: click hereto access this section.


AKETON.  A padded coat worn beneath the mail in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, and also often used as a defence in its own right.

AILETTES. Wing-like additions to the shoulders, normally rectangular,sometimes found laced to the mail in the later thirteenth and early fourteenth centuries.  Thought once by many writers to have had a defensive purpose, but they were probably purely decorative and often serving heraldic significance, to display the wearer’s arms. There use was almost wholly confined to England, France and Flanders.

ARMING POINTS.  Cords furnished with tags and attached to the arming doublet, hose and shoes for tying on elements of armour, usually threaded through holes in the upper vambrace, couters, cuisses and sabatons.

AVENTAIL.  A tippet of mail attached to staples (vervelles) alongthe edge of the face-opening of the basinet to protect the throat and neck, and the top of the shoulders.

BACINET.  The bacinet was originally alight helmet (the word means ‘little basin’ in French), but it was later applied to what is now called a great-bacinet, and eventually, in the sixteenth, the tilting-helm.

BESAGEW.  The besagew was usually round or oval, and could be on the elbows, or even (horizontally) as a guard on the haft of an axe.

BEVOR.  A defence for the lower part of the face.

BREASTPLATE.  Protection of the chest, generally formed by one main plate of steel, but in the fifteenth century often of two plates,an upper and lower, the latter overlapping the former.

CAPE.  A term used in this article to describe the lower part of a coif or aventail which covers the top of the shoulders and upper chest.

CANNON.  One of the tubular plates protecting the upper and lower arms.

CHAPE.  The metal terminal of a scabbard or a belt.

CIRCLET or CIRCLE.  A narrow fillet around the brow of the head,worn over the coif.  Sometimes circlets are decorated, at other times they are plain.  In some case the plain examples may represent a strap, possibly securing a metal scull-cap under the coif.

COAT ARMOUR.  See surcoat.

COAT-OF-PLATES.  It consisted of metal plates attached by rivets to a textile cover or, more rarely, lining.  It started to come into use from the first half of the thirteenth century.  Gowns lined with such plates, often only identifiable by the heads of the rivets holding them.

COIF.  A hood.  The mail coif fitted closely to the head and neck, and a flap crossed the chin and was fastened at the side, leaving only a portion of the face exposed.  At first it was an extension of the hauberk, but about the middle of the thirteenth century it was made independent of it, falling to the shoulders.

COUTER.  The defence for the elbow.

CREST.  Heraldic device surmounting the helm, introduced in the second half of the twelfth century, but not common until the fourteenth century.

CUISSE.  Armour for the thigh.  Cuisses on effigies are often represented as mail, leather, metal and in some instances quilted.

CUSP.  A curved projecting point in the ornamentation of architectural arches and armour decoration.

DAGGER.  The dagger is first recorded as an accompaniment to the sword in the late thirteenth century. It first appears on English effigies in the early fourteenth century.

ENARME.  A loop on the inner side of the shield grasped by the hand or through which the left arm was passed.

GAUNTLET.  Defensive glove.

GORGET.  Defence of the neck and throat, and upper part of the chest.

GREAVE.  Plate armour for the leg between knee and ankle,introduced at first for the protection of the shin only and strapped over the mail in the second half of the thirteenth century. Closed-greaves consisting of a front and back plate, modeled to the calf and hinged together, came into use in the fourteenth century.

GRIP.  That part of a weapon (e.g. of the hilt of a sword or dagger between the pommel and the guard) which is grasped in the hand.

GUSSETS.  Mail patches sewn to the arming-doublet to cover parts not protected by plate: the armpits, elbows and fork.

HAUBERK.  A shirt of mail.

HELM.  The great helm, covering the entire head and face and reaching nearly to the shoulders, was introduced at the end of the twelfth century.

HOSE.  Mail stockings.

LAMES.  A thin plate, especially one of metal.  Mobility was achieved by means of loose-fitting rivets and internal leathers.

LOCKET.  Metal band encircling the scabbard, including that at the mouth of the sheath.

MAIL.  Flexible armour made of iron or steel rings, each passing through its four neighbours.

MUFFLER.  Muffler is the term for a mail mitten.  A bag-like extension attached to the sleeve of a hauberk or gambeson with a separate stall for the thumb.  The mail did not extend over the palm of the hand, which was covered by either fabric or leather, with as lit so that the hand could be released when fighting was not imminent.

ORLE.  The orle was a roll worn around the skull of the bacinet.  It was often represented as if decorated with precious stones and pearls.

PAULDRON.  Plate defence for the shoulders, attaining its maximum development in the large Italian pauldrons of the fifteenth century, when it had large extensions covering the armpits before and behind.

POLEYN.  Plate defence for the knee introduced to reinforce mail in the second half of the thirteenth century.  It later had a fan-shaped wing on the outer side, and was articulated both to the cuisse and to the greave.


POMMEL.  The spherical or other-shaped termination of the hilt of the sword or dagger on the end of the grip farther from the blade,acting as a counterpoise to the blade and giving support to the hand.

QUILLONS.  A quillon is one of th two bars forming together the cross-guard of a sword.

SABATON.  Armour for the foot,comprising a toe-cap and a series of overlapping lames crossing the instep.  Introduced early in the fourteenth century.

SALLET.  A light helmet shaped like a sou’wester, that in England,France and Germany during the second half of the fifteenth century virtually supplanted every other form for use in the field.  The basinet survived only for the tournament.

SCABBARD.  The sheath of a sword or dagger.

SCHYNBALD.  A plate defence for the lower leg, which was strapped over the hose.

SKIRT (of lames).  A defensive skirt consisting of a series of hoop-like lames descending from the waist of the breastplate and overlapping upwards.

SKULL.  That part of a helmet covering the cranium and occiput, sometimes referred to by old writers as the "basnet" or"bassinet-piece.  Also used of a light steel cap.

SPAUDLER.  The spaudler is the early term for the small version of what was to develop into the pauldron.

SPURS.  Early spurs were of the prick variety, that is to say furnished with a simple goad or spike, often mounted on a ball, orcone.  The rowel spur, with a wheel of five or more points, was introduced in the thirteenth century, but only became general in England from about 1330.

STANDARD OF MAIL.  Upstanding collar of mail, frequently worn in the fifteenth century.

SURCOAT.  A sleeveless garment worn over the mail in the thirteenth and early fourteenth centuries.  It was gradually shortened, until in the second half of the fourteenth century it became brief and tight fitting.

SWORD.  The medieval knightly sword was of simple cruciform structure with a straight, double-edged blade either with a central hollow, or sometimes of diamond section.  Its component parts were the hilt and the blade with its tang, of which the former consists of the pommel, grip, and quillons.

TASSET.  One of several shaped plates that normally hang from the front of the skirt, but also sometimes from the sides and rear (hind tassets).

VENTAIL.  A flap of mail on the coif,drawn across the lower part of the face-opening and secured to the side of the temples.

VERVELLES.  Staples along the edges of the bacinet.  Over which a leather band with corresponding holes attached to the upper edge of the mail aventail was secured by means of a lace passed through them.


ABACUS: the flat slab on the top of a capital

ACANTHUS: decoration based on a Mediterranean plant. Stylisation of the acanthus leaf began in Greek and Roman decoration, especially on the Corinthian capital.

AEDICULE: the frames surrounding a classical doorway or window flanked by a pair of columns and topped by a pediment, but which has its origins in the architectural treatment of the shrines of the classical period.

APRON: panel at the bottom of a hanging wall monument, often with decorative carving.

ARCH: the spanning of an opening by reasons other than that of a lintel

ARCHITRAVE: the lintel extending from one column to another.

ALTAR TOMB: Monument with a tomb chest. They were never actually used as altars.

ARCHIVOLTS: bands or mouldings surrounding an arched opening.

BALLFLOWER: a globular motif often usedin concave moldings on tombs in the first half of the 14th century. It looks like a flower with three (or sometimes four) petals nearly closed over a central ball.

BARBED QUATREFOIL: a four-lobed geometrical motif with a triangular projection at the intersection of two adjacent foils.

BALDACCHINO: a type of early l7th century English tomb featuring acentral stage-like area, revealed behind curtains that are pulled openat each side either by being tied to columns  or else manually bystanding (and occasionally seated) figures.  These include angels, putti, and allegorical figures, as well as armed servants and soldiers.

BAS-RELIEF or LOW RELIEF: sculpture in which the carved forms project only slightly from the background.

BASE: the architectural element on which a column or pier rests.

BATTLEMENT or CRENELLATION: a parapet with alternating openings(embrasures) and raised sections (merlons).

BEAD AND REEL: a decorative motif consisting of oval motifs alternating with round or elongated bead-shaped motifs. Much used in the ancient world and copied in the Middle Ages.

BILLET MOULDING: a molding composed wholly or in part of a series of billets: small cubes, cylinders or prisms placed at regular intervals,so that their axis and that of the entire series is parallel to the general direction of the molding.

BLIND ARCADE: a row of decorative arches applied to a wall.

BROKEN PEDIMENT: a pediment with the raking cornice interrupted at the apex, the outline of which usually consists of a pair of S-curvest angent to the cornice level at the ends of the pediment, rising to a pair of scrolls on either side of the centre, where a finial often rises between the scrolls.

CANOPY: the architectural roof-like projection over a monument.

CARTOUCHE: Ornamental or inscribed wall tablet, with an elaboratescroll-like frame resembling curling pieces of parchment, common in Baroque work.

CHEVRON: a zig-zag motif.

CIBORIUM: a canopy resting on columns over the tomb chest.

CINQUEFOIL: a five-lobed ornamental shape.

COADE STONE: an artificial stone manufactured in London in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, used for figure sculpture, monuments,architectural dressings, and decorative work. Essentially a type of clay, fired in a kiln at high temperature, it was named after Eleanor Coade (1733–1821), who set up in business in Lambeth in 1769.

COLONNADE: a row of columns carrying an entablature or arches.

COLUMN: an upright pillar or post.

CORBEL: a supporting architectural bracket or block projecting from a wall.

CORINTHIAN CAPITAL: A capital used originally by the Greeks and used often in the medieval period in a system of supports called the Corinthian order. It is decorated with 3 superimposed rows of carved foliage (acanthus leaves) around the capital. At the comers of the capital there are small volutes.

CORNICE: the uppermost section of moldings along the top of a monument.

CROCKET CAPITAL: A simplified adaptation of the Corinthian capital commonly used in the Gothic period.

CROSS SLAB: a stone monument which has an incised or relief cross as the main feature. They were especially common in the period to 1300.

CUSP: a curved, triangular-shaped projection from the inner curve of anarch or circle.

DENTIL: one of a series of closely spaced,rectangular blocks that form a molding. Dentil molding usually projects below the cornice.

DEPRESSED ARCH: a flattened arch, slightly pointed on top. It appears in Late Gothic tombs of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries.

DIAGONAL RIBS diagonal ribs: the moldings which mark the diagonals in a rib vault in a tomb canopy.

DIAPER: a pattern formed by small, repeated geometrical motifs set adjacent to one another, used to decorate stone surfaces on monuments.

DOG TOOTH: an ornamental motif consisting of a square, four-leafed figure, the centre of which projects in a point.

DORIC ORDER: the earliest of the Greek orders also adapted by the Romans.

EFFIGY: the carved figure representing the person commemorated by the monument.

EGG AND DART: a repetitive decorative motif often used in classical antiquity and copied in the Middle Ages. It consisted of oval(egg-shaped) motifs alternating with dart-like motifs.

ENTABLATURE: superstructure which lies horizontally upon the columns and constituting the architrave, frieze, and cornice.

EVANGELIST SYMBOLSE  symbols for the authors of the four New Testament books which are narratives of the life of Christ. These symbols were often seen on incised slabs and brasses. The symbols were:Matthew: angel (man); Mark: lion; Luke: ox; John: eagle.

FAN VAULT: a vault of a tomb canopy which consists of fan-shaped half cones which usually meet at the centre of avault.

FLEUR-DE-LYS: stylised lily which served as symbol for the French monarchy.

FINIAL: a formal ornament at the top of a canopy, gable, or pinnacle.

FLUTING: shallow, concave grooves running vertically on the shaft of a column, pilaster, or other surface.

FOLIATE CAPITAL: a capital decorated with foliage elements.

FRIEZE: a horizontal band that runs below the cornice. The frieze maybe decorated with designs or carvings.

GESSO: raised decoration made from calcium sulphate or calcium carbonate and animal glue.

GREEK KEY: an ornamental motif consisting of continuous bands arranged in rectilinear forms.

HANGING ARCH: an arch which has, or seems to have, no vertical supports.

HANGING WALL MONUMENT: Mural monument mounting some distance above theground.

HOOD MOULDING: a projecting molding on the wall above an arch.

INCISED SLAB: a monument with the design cut into the stone slab.

INTERLACE: a decorative motif consisting of threads passing aver and under each other like threads in lace.

IONIC CAPITAL: a capital used originally by the Greeks in a system of supports called the Ionic order. An Ionic capital has a volute, or a spiral scroll-like carving, on each side as its major decoration.

IONIC ORDER: an order that originated in Asia Minor in the mid-sixth century B.C.

JAMB: the vertical face of an arch.

LEDGER SLAB: a floor monument with inscription, often below an achievement or shield of arms.

LIERNE: a minor rib in a complex rib vault. Liernes do not spring from the main springers.

LINENFOLD: decorative motif in the form of a folded piece of linen cloth, usually carved in low relief.

LOZENGE: a diamond shape.

MANDORLA: an almond-shaped motif in which Christ sits; sometimes used also for the Virgin.

MONUMENTAL BRASS: brass: an engraved copper-alloy plate used as a commemorative monument. Sometimes these were set murally or in the backwall of a tomb recess, but usually they were set horizontally, flush with the pavement of a church.

MOSAIC: decoration created by setting small pieces of glass, stone, or marble in a matrix. This was most popular for monuments in the Victorian period.

NAIL-HEAD: an ornamental motif of small pyramids, said to represent the heads of nails, very popular in the 12th century.

NICHE: a vertical recess in a wall monument or tomb chest, usuall yarched and containing a ‘weeper' figure or saint.

OBELISK: a tall, tapering shaft of stone,usually monolithic, of square or rectangle section and ending pyramidally.

OCULUS: a circular opening in a canopy.

OGEE ARCH: an arch with a pointed apex, formed by the intersection of two S curves usually confined to decoration and not used in arcade arches.

PASTIGALIA: raised decoration made from calcium sulphate or calcium carbonate and animal glue, commonly termedgesso.

PEDIMENT: a low-pitched triangular gable on the front of a monument.

PENDANT: a hanging architectural member formed by ribs. They often appear in conjunction with fan vaults.

PILASTER: a rectangular support that resembles a flat column. The pilaster projects only slightly from the wall, and has a base, a shaft,and a capital.

PLINTH: the base of a monument.

POLYCHROMY: the painted decoration applied to medieval stone tombs. The stone was initially sealed by a layer of size, perhaps animal glue;next a thin layer of lead white was applied to form a ground; and finally a thin layer of oil sealant added to prevent absorption into the porous ground of binding media from subsequent paint layers, andt hus to ensure that the translucency of the polychromy was not compromised. The complex and sophisticated applied decoration involved,as well as the layering of pigments, the use of raised decoration and gold and silver leaf beneath translucent glazes.

PUTTI: chubby angel-like figures seen on post-Reformation monuments.

QUATREFOIL: a decorative moulding often seen on tomb chests composed of four equal lobes, like a four-petalled flower.

RIB: an arch of masonry, often molded, which forms part of the framework on which a vault rests. Ribs generally project from the undersurface of the vault.

ROUNDEL: a circular ornament or moulding.

RUSTICATION: masonry cut in massive blocks, sometimes in a crude state to give a rich and bold texture.

sarcophagus: a stone coffin, often bearing sculpture, inscriptions, etc.

SEMI-EFFIGIAL MONUMENT: a monument with a figure of the person commemorated shown only in part,such as a bust or the head and feet, usually shown in apertures in the slab.

SHAFT: the trunk of a column between the base and the capital.

SOFFIT: the underside of an arch, opening, or projecting architectural element.

SPANDREL: the triangular space between the side of an arch, the horizontal above its apex, and the vertical of its springing; the surface between two arches in an arcade.

SPIRE: a tall, pyramidal, polygonal, or conical structure terminating  in a point.

SPRINGER: the lowest voussoir on each side of an arch. It is where the vertical support for the arch terminates and the curve of the arch begins.

STRAPWORK:  a kind of ornament consisting of a narrow fillet or band folded, crossed, and interlaced.

TERRACOTTA: fired but unglazed clay, used mainly for monuments in sixteenth century.

TIERCERON a major rib in a complex ribvault Tiercerons spring from the main springers.

TRACERY: the ornamental work in canopies and on tomb chests, often used decoratively in blank arches.

TUSCAN ORDER: a Roman order that resembles the Doric order but without a fluted shaft. In the Tuscan order, the column had a simpler base and was unfluted.

VOLUTE: a spiral scroll on an Ionic capital.

VOUSSOIR: a brick or wedge-shaped stone forming one of the units of an arch.

WEBBING OR INFILLING: the vault surface between the ribs of a rib vault.

WEEPER: a figure in a recess in a tomb chest, often representing a relative or associate of the person commemorated.




With many thanks to Mark Downing FSA for allowing use of these illustrations

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