Museum brings the artistry of armor

Cleveland Museum of Art docent Erwin Edelman discusses the intricate workmanship of a 1500s knight’s helmet during the Mentor Public Library’s Art-to-Go: Cool Knights program held June 27. Twenty-nine participants were able to hold and examine the helmet during the program.

Thanks to the Cleveland Museum of Art and the Mentor Public Library, patrons were able to step back in time by touching artifacts used by the knights of medieval and High Renaissance times.

Twenty-nine participants of the MPL Art-to-Go: Cool Knights program were able to hold a helmet from the European Middle Ages and several patrons tried on a medieval gauntlet, as well as a replica of mesh armor.  During the June 27 program, docents of the Cleveland Museum of Art explained the technological development and artistry of each piece of armor and addressed misconceptions that armor was heavy and difficult to wear.

Docent Erwin Edelman said it would take an armor maker six months to construct a coat of mail and they gave each piece of armor its own name.

“These armorists were clever people. They were good engineers and technicians,” he said. “It took sheer force and a lot of labor to make armor that would protect against most swords and arrows,” he said.

Edelman said a full suit of armor would weigh about 60 pounds and over time some knights “sacrificed some of that weight for mobility.”

He said armor was a way to protect people against weapons, but “weapons and armor got better and it went on and on until armor was not needed.”

Participants were also able to examine a crossbow bolt from the 1500s, providing a better perspective of what the knights had to face during battle. Bullets and gunpowder eventually made armor ineffective during a battle and by the mid-17th century armor ceased to be worn, Edelman said.

MPL patron Don Lingafelter gave high marks for Edelman’s presentation.

“He put on a great program and it was very interesting and informative,” he said.

Jennifer Simmons said she attended the Art-to-Go: Cool Knights program with her daughters Cayla and Morgan because they were “medieval freaks.”  She said the program made them more determined to visit the armor exhibit at the museum.

Cayla described the program as a “great learning experience.” She said she particularly liked being able to try on the gauntlet.

“I was surprised by the technology of the gauntlet, especially the mobility of how it moved with your hand,” she said.

Jennifer said she was pleased the library invited the museum docents to conduct the historical presentation.

“I liked the accessibility and that it was free.  I would like the library to offer more of these types of programs,” she said. “I loved it.”

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