Medieval Shields Symbols of Protection

Medieval shields served a dual role for knights and soldiers of Europe in the early Middle Ages.

They held the purpose of protecting fighters. In addition to being an element of protection against hand-to-hand combat, these shields also protected foot soldiers and knights from the barrage of arrows and other projectiles in an attack.

Several soldiers together could use their shields to box out protection from three sides, allowing an advance of men while minimizing the risks of being hit in battle by sword or arrow.

The second role served by these shields was that of identification. With similar styles in battle armor, it became increasingly difficult to know who was on what side. The only way to be sure if a soldier was friend or foe was to rely on his shield’s design.

Symbols of recognition and family representation were painted on the shields to alleviate the confusion in battle over who your allies were. This was called “coat of arms”. An army’s coat of arms created a distinction between them and any other royal force. Back then shields were the symbolic representation of the royal families and what they stood for.

The design of these shields consisted of the “field” which is the shield background. Middle Age shields generally had a “base color” on the field with a ‘charge” overlay. The charge was often the picture of an animal or other object that served as the symbol for the coat of arms.

The charge on medieval shields was pictured in a position, or posture that was considered traditional in accordance with the symbolism for the royal house that it represented. They were a source of pride and “logo” for a royal family marking ownership and parading images that represented the power and authority of a kingdom.

Click here to download free software for you to make your own medieval shields.

Return to the Medieval Armor | Medieval Shields main page

Return to Medieval Castles | Medieval Siege Weapons home page