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Reconstruction: Norman & Anglo-Saxon Shields

The almond-shaped shield, commonly known as the Norman Kite Shield, has achieved an iconic status as a symbol of the Norman Knights, despite its probable origin in the East. The Bayeux Tapestry, in particular, depicts a staggering number of kite shields, however despite the historical significance of this shield, no actual archaeological discovery of a Norman Kite Shield has been made to date.

Bayeux Tapestry

In reconstructing these kite shields, heavy reliance was placed on the Bayeux Tapestry designs, which provide interesting insights into the shield paintings and the enarmes in particular (the enarmes being the strap configurations on the backside used to wield and carry the shield).

Manuscript artwork from Cotton MS Titus D XVI or Msc.Bibl.59 was used as well to aid in reconstructing aspects of the shield, such as the curvature.

Research from sword fighting instructor Roland Warzecha on the kite shields of Szczecin also provided many additional insights.

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Shield Paintings img01
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Shield Paintings

The Bayeux Tapestry shows a relatively limited range of designs. The most prevalent motif is the spiral-based design, which appears in a multitude of color combinations. The “tapestry” also features dragon/serpent motifs, which can be argued have their origins in Britain’s Roman history. Additionally, it includes a few crosses, as well as some other more unusual designs.

The Ovoid Type

Aside from the almond shaped shields, an ovoid shield also features in the Bayuex Tapestry. A similar type might as well be depicted on an Ivory Situla of the Aachen Cathedral. This type of shield was more likely an older type and like the round shields, would at that point have been mostly replaced with the more modern kite shield.