Coat of armour
National Museum of Damascus
Hegira 7th–8th century / AD 13th–14th century
ع ر 6788
Iron rings woven into a chain-mail.
Height 1.30 m
Probably Damascus, Syria or Cairo, Egypt.
A suit of armour made from iron mail that would cover the body from the head to the knees. It has solid metal plates that cover the neck and the stomach – the latter being much larger in size than the former – to provide additional protection. A number of these chain-mail suits survive, often bearing signs of wear and tear from use in battle. One example reveals evidence of injury received on the left sleeve, where the metal chain is torn through.
The sword shows a curved-edged blade which was popular among Muslim fighters, while the Crusaders preferred straight swords. Decorative features on swords are usually found at the hilt near the handle.
The protective plates of the amour are decorated with geometric designs, a Mamluk blazon, and Arabic writing executed in gold thuluth script. Most of the decoration has worn away and it is possible to read only some of the words. These include: “made for … the exalted … the great … the lord”. From these words it is possible to conclude that this suit belonged to a ruler, military commander, or other high-ranking official.
Mamluk military suits of armour decorated with gilded emblems, such as this one, were worn in battle against the Crusaders.
The blazon and phrases mentioned on the abdominal plate of this suit of armour indicate that it is from the Mamluk period.
Purchased in 1952.
Although this armour is decorated with a Mamluk blazon and was found in Damascus, its provenance is not clear. The Mamluk period saw an increased regional mobility of people and goods, especially military. It was likely produced in Cairo or Damascus, since these were two major regional centres at this time.
Abu al-Faraj al-Ush, M., A Concise Guide to the National Museum of Damascus, Damascus, 1969, p.199.
Cluzan, S. et al (eds), Syrie: Mémoire et Civilisation, Paris, 1994, p.477.
Mona al-Moadin "Coat of armour" in Discover Islamic Art, Museum With No Frontiers, 2020. http://islamicart.museumwnf.org/database_item.php?id=object;ISL;sy;Mus01;37;en
Prepared by: Mona Al-Moadin
Translation by: Hilary Kalmbach (from the Arabic)
Translation copyedited by: Mandi GomezMandi Gomez
Amanda Gomez is a freelance copy-editor and proofreader working in London. She studied Art History and Literature at Essex University (1986–89) and received her MA (Area Studies Africa: Art, Literature, African Thought) from SOAS in 1990. She worked as an editorial assistant for the independent publisher Bellew Publishing (1991–94) and studied at Bookhouse and the London College of Printing on day release. She was publications officer at the Museum of London until 2000 and then took a role at Art Books International, where she worked on projects for independent publishers and arts institutions that included MWNF’s English-language editions of the books series Islamic Art in the Mediterranean. She was part of the editorial team for further MWNF iterations: Discover Islamic Art in the Mediterranean Virtual Museum and the illustrated volume Discover Islamic Art in the Mediterranean.
True to its ethos of connecting people through the arts, MWNF has provided Amanda with valuable opportunities for discovery and learning, increased her editorial experience, and connected her with publishers and institutions all over the world. More recently, the projects she has worked on include MWNF’s Sharing History Virtual Museum and Exhibition series, Vitra Design Museum’s Victor Papanek and Objects of Desire, and Haus der Kulturen der Welt’s online publication 2 or 3 Tigers and its volume Race, Nation, Class.
MWNF Working Number: SY 60
Islamic Dynasties / Period
On display in
Discover Islamic Art Exhibition(s)The Mamluks | The Mamluk System
Related MWNF Tour Related MWNF Travel Book
Virtual Visit Exhibition Trail
DownloadAs PDF (including images) As Word (text only)