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Exploring the Royal Army Museum, Brussels (Part 1)

Wednesday, May 21st, 2014 | Posted by Sean McLachlan

The collection includes many rare items, such as this bone jousting shield.

The collection includes many rare items, such as this bone jousting shield.

Europe is filled with many fine museums showcasing medieval arms and armor. Famous collections such as the Tower of London or the Hofburg in Vienna get top billing, but there are dozens more. One interesting collection can be found at The Royal Museum of the Armed Forces and of Military History in Brussels, Belgium.

The medieval section is well laid out with displays running chronologically. Armor and weapons from the same half-century are displayed together, giving the visitor a good overall idea of the military technology of that time.

This suit of Gothic armor is made up of elements from several suits, a common practice in many armories throughout Europe. All the pieces are mid-15th century German. On the lower right are two rondel daggers (Netherlands, 15th century) and some caltrops (late 15th century).

This suit of Gothic armor is made up of elements from several suits, a common practice in many armories throughout Europe. All the pieces are mid-15th century German. On the lower right are two rondel daggers (Netherlands, 15th century) and some caltrops (late 15th century).

Arms and armor from the 16th century, mostly of German manufacture. The "Maximilian" style suit in the center was made in Germany c. 1510-1530.

Arms and armor from the 16th century, mostly of German manufacture. The “Maximilian” style suit in the center was made in Germany c. 1510-1530.

A collection of 17th century arms and armor. The blued steel breastplate in the front dates to the Thirty Years War (1618-1648). Bluing is done by heating the metal to 300°C, polishing it, and reheating it to the same temperature. While it looks nice, it's not very practical because rust can form under the blue exterior layer.

A collection of 17th century arms and armor. The blued steel breastplate in the front dates to the Thirty Years War (1618-1648). Bluing is done by heating the metal to 300°C, polishing it, and reheating it to the same temperature. While it looks nice, it’s not very practical because rust can form under the blue exterior layer.

A collection of ornate powder horns. The one on the left is German dates to around 1600. It shows St. George and the dragon. The one in the back in the shape of a wild boar was made in Nuremberg in the first half of the 18th century. The other two are also German, from the end of the 18th century.

A collection of ornate powder horns. The one on the left is German c.1600. It shows St. George and the dragon. The one in the back in the shape of a wild boar was made in Nuremberg in the first half of the 18th century. The other two are also German, from the end of the 18th century.

One minor problem is that the signage is only in French and Dutch. To my surprise, I discovered that I had an easier time reading the Dutch. I studied both German and French many years ago, but my German was always better than my French and so the Dutch was easier to read!

A few displays had no signage at all, such as the case for this rare studded jerkin.

Studded cloth jerkin.

Studded cloth jerkin.

Despite this minor problem, anyone interested in the Middle Ages should not skip Belgium. The country has some 400 castles and several good museums covering the period. The Brussels museum is especially strong in medieval polearms and early black powder weapons. You’ll be seeing some of those in later posts. And their gift shop is to die for. Any Black Gate reader could easily drop huge wads of cash on their fine selection of books (including many in English), model soldiers, scale models, calendars, posters, etc.

In my next post, I’ll be giving you a look at the museum’s other galleries.


Sean McLachlan is a freelance travel and history writer. He is the author of the historical fantasy novel A Fine Likeness, set in Civil War Missouri, and the post-apocalyptic thriller Radio Hope. His historical fantasy novella The Quintessence of Absence, was published by Black Gate. Find out more about him on his blog and Amazon author’s page.

All photos copyright Sean McLachlan. This trip was supported by Visit Belgium. All opinions are my own.

3 Comments »

  1. If you ever find yourself in Graz, Austria, make sure you don’t miss the Landeszeughaus. http://www.museum-joanneum.at/en/landeszeughaus/zeughaus

    Mostly later stuff — 16th-19th Century — but it’s a fine collection, and the building itself is the actual armory from back in the day, so much of the collection is displayed as it would have been when it was in use.

    Comment by Joe H. - May 21, 2014 3:04 pm

  2. Your create gotta see posts. I loved it.

    Comment by Wild Ape - May 22, 2014 5:27 pm

  3. […] my last post, we looked at some of the medieval arms and armor at The Royal Museum of the Armed Forces and of Military History in Brussels, Belgium. The […]

    Pingback by Black Gate » Blog Archive » Exploring the Royal Army Museum, Brussels (Part 2) - May 28, 2014 2:50 pm


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