Submitted by HDH2506 t3_y0cnkm in history

In other word: Has anyone tried slapping some metal plates in their castle walls, whether permanently or temporarily?

Or has metal been used in other ways for that purpose?

I’ve heard that as the Mongol expanded and incorporated new technologies from annexed populations, they came to possess many new artillery engines, such as counterweight trebuchets, that can defeat any defensive walls, including some that utilized metal plates as wall reinforcement.

However I can’t seem to find anything that mention such practice, whether common or rare, permanent or temporal/desperate.



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Agreeable-Western-25 t1_irrj2mm wrote

Castles have some iron fittings e.g. portcullis spikes, sconces etc. In order to plate wall with metal that could withstand e.g. a trebuchet or ballista you're talking battleship thickness. Stone and timber were much cheaper and easier to transport for repairs. Considering as well a suit of armour would have cost $100,000 in today's money because metal wasn't mass produced it wouldn't have been economically viable to plate a building and good luck finding enough ore without modern mining methods.


Abba_Fiskbullar t1_irs7s0v wrote

Even though there's almost no way of determining equivalent cost between the middle ages and the modern day, I thought that equipping a knight was equivalent to $1m in terms of materials and skilled labor.


stuzz74 t1_irsppry wrote

Knights would be rich as to be a knight, a king/queen will have given the knight or much more likely their family in the past the title and land which they would lease out to farmers. Lots of armour was passed down and refitted the knight would generally do 40 days service to the king/queen per year (gaining favour would come with the possible chance of new titles and land etc) The knight would also need a horse, squire (knight in training) and various other staff to fulfil his duties. There was also sports events that would bring in cash, popularity and maybe a rich bride with a dowry too


Napotad t1_irspcyz wrote

I'm not sure the exact numbers, but yes, very expensive. There's a reason run-of-the-mill soldiers used at most chain-mail, because it was easier and cheaper to produce than plate armor. The Samurai were also similar in that regard; they would serve a lord and they were elite warriors, and being elite the lord would invest in equipping them with expensive gear. Even so, they still didn't wear full plate, because A. It's expensive and B. Wasn't practical, as it was cumbersome. They would wear some interleaved plating and some leather pieces, all bound together with cordage.


BrevityIsTheSoul t1_irt98pv wrote

>Even so, they still didn't wear full plate, because A. It's expensive and B. Wasn't practical, as it was cumbersome. They would wear some interleaved plating and some leather pieces, all bound together with cordage.

Iron was also scarcer and lower-quality in Japan. It required more skilled labor to turn their poor raw materials into serviceable armor plates. Chain links were right out.


ajaxfetish t1_irtazs7 wrote

The big issue with plate armor wasn't cost, so much as technology and infrastructure limitations. Once the necessary industry and skilled labor force was in place, it actually became more affordable than mail, and in later periods you'll find mass-produced munitions-grade plate armor (e.g., during the English civil war).

The limiting factor for mail is that it requires lots of manual labor to make, rivet, and weave together the rings, along with the tailoring to get it fit properly. It can be made even in a low-tech setting, but it'll always take a lot of time and effort.

Of course, for the medieval period, plate never fully replaced mail, either. There's plenty of places you just can't enclose in metal plates and still be able to move and fight, so mail voiders, skirts, standards, etc. remained a part of full plate harnesses.


War_Hymn t1_irya13x wrote

>The big issue with plate armor wasn't cost, so much as technology and infrastructure limitations.

Well yeah, better technology and infrastructure meant you can produce said things more cheaply - so the issue is COST.


ajaxfetish t1_iryg94v wrote

I was replying to this:

> There's a reason run-of-the-mill soldiers used at most chain-mail, because it was easier and cheaper to produce than plate armor

It's not like they weren't producing plate armor in the early middle ages because it cost too much. They weren't producing it because they couldn't. The necessary infrastructure just didn't exist yet. And then once it was developed, the resulting armor ended up becoming more affordable than chainmail. One type of armor requires a certain level of industrialization to build, the other requires lots of skill, patience, and time.


War_Hymn t1_iryjk7s wrote

>It's not like they weren't producing plate armor in the early middle ages because it cost too much. They weren't producing it because they couldn't.

Not really, they could had taken smaller plates and forge welded them together into a larger plate by hand. At the extreme, you have smiths in 5th century India hand forging smaller pieces of iron into a 6 tonne iron pillar (see Iron Pillar of Delhi). But of course, doing it this way cost a premium in labour and fuel.


HDH2506 OP t1_ispkm2e wrote

I’m sorry what’s “standard”? Like as an armor part


ajaxfetish t1_ispnpyk wrote

Neck protection:

A gorget and/or bevor would be comparable pieces of plate armor.


HDH2506 OP t1_isppa7j wrote

So, I saw in movies depictions, they sometimes use plate for the part shown in those pictures (e.g. game of thrones, most might have been leather, but the kings guard were clearly wearing steel)

Would that be practical?


ajaxfetish t1_ispr4i7 wrote

Those would be the aforementioned gorgets, so not only practical, but also historical. The relative benefits to a standard are gonna be a less impeded range of motion and less chance of unprotected gaps.


morosis1982 t1_irt75ug wrote

Not unlike modern soldiers. The US military has ~1.4m enlisted and spends about half a million a year per capita of enlisted members.


funkmachine7 t1_isug3ep wrote

We can do price comparisons of how many hours/ days skilled labour an armour costs.
In 1540 a plain Greenwich armour cost 160 days' wages, but a princely garniture might cost twenty times that.


Treczoks t1_irt5at7 wrote

Don't forget metal-plated castle gates and portcullis.

And the comparison with armor is a bit unfair, as making armor is all about strength at low weight and mobility. A knights gauntlet was bleeding edge technology back then. Something a static thing like a wall would not require.


Submarine65 t1_irsqrjv wrote

>同样考虑到一套盔甲在今天的价格中会花费 100,000 美元,因为金属不是大

Not so exaggerated, we calculate a set of armor according to the price of the Tang Dynasty about 30K


2Mike2022 t1_irtemtu wrote

Besides most castle walls were brought down by undermining.


grambell789 t1_irt8i0a wrote

> good luck finding enough ore without modern mining methods.

I don't think the finding ore was the big problem back then. it was moving it. a whole transportation system had to be invented to get the industrial revolution running. first it was riverboats and canals, then railroads.


MeSmeshFruit t1_isl35dy wrote

What are you talking about, ballistas were not meant to pierce stone walls, they can't even pierce wooden ships... Stone fortifications were used up to the late medieval times, even with canons its not that simple.


2Mike2022 t1_irrua4y wrote

You have to consider that all metals at the time were produced by hand and forging large sheets would have been next to impossible. Much cheaper just to go thicker.


Reddituser45005 t1_irrzy3l wrote

The Bessemer steel making process was developed in the mid 1800’s. Prior to that metal working was a specialized task suitable for individual weapons and armor but didn’t scale up to the volume needed to fortify a castle or other structure.


fiendishrabbit t1_irs3kdq wrote

Steel no. Bronze and copper were frequently used to plate gates. Partially decorative, partially to make it harder to cut through or burn down the gate.


2Mike2022 t1_irssm17 wrote

It still has to be smelted and forged and at the time in pieces small enough to be man handled. Even during the American civil war when metals were easier to source no one tried that because it had far more value used in other places in the fight. What would you rather have a four foot by 8 foot sheet of metal or an extra thousand arrows.


Viewfromthe31stfloor t1_irt2pe9 wrote

We had two ironclad ships in the US civil war. Plus many cannons. I’m not sure what you mean.


drschwen t1_irt97ng wrote

The US Civil War famously happened after the industrial revolution took place.


BenRandomNameHere t1_irt4os4 wrote

I think they crossed multiple thoughts...

A sheet of metal in the civil war has nothing to do with arrows...


Viewfromthe31stfloor t1_irtdjkl wrote

They were saying no one made big sheets of metal during the civil war. No clue about why they said arrows


flukz t1_irtecqb wrote

Bruh, the Union had over 40 and the Confederates over 20. Both sides had plans and began construction on many more when the war ended. Two, you got me laughing on a history sub.


2Mike2022 t1_irtdxem wrote

This post is about covering castle walls with metal to make them stronger they had arrows.


JazzlikeScarcity248 t1_irtbkfp wrote

The athlit ram was a single cast copper and that thing weight 1,000 pounds. Hell I think most roman naval rams were single cast. If they could fortify ships that way, why not doors and buildings?


BobTheAverage t1_irtekpe wrote

From: >The Athlit ram consists of a single bronze casting weighing 465 kilograms (1,025 lb). It is 226 centimetres (89 in) long with a maximum width of 76 centimetres (30 in) and a maximum height of 96 centimetres (38 in).  ... The casting of an object as large as the Athlit ram was a complicated operation at the time, and would have been a considerable expense in the construction of a war galley.

The ram was MUCH smaller than castle walls. It was 7' long by 2.5' around. A castle wall could easily be 10' tall and several feet thick. A 10' section of wall would need maybe 6 times that much metal and castle walls are far longer than 10'. Metal walls would get wildly expensive very quickly.


JazzlikeScarcity248 t1_irtfbt0 wrote

Parts of the walls and doors could have been reinforced too.

Honestly I was just fighting back at the idea that large single cast objects did not exist till the industrial revolution.


BobTheAverage t1_irth3dj wrote

Your example isn't that big though, not compared to a castle. Doors were sometimes made of metal. Portcullis


Yeangster t1_irtidiz wrote

Bronze was easier (as in actually possible, given technologies at the time) to form into large homogenous pieces like that, but let’s not forget that bronze was really expensive. One of the incentives for developing him iron casting technology in the 18th century was that while bronze cannons were better than iron cannons, bronze was way more expensive.


2Mike2022 t1_irte8xg wrote

Did you even read the original post. Its about covering the walls not just the doors.


JazzlikeScarcity248 t1_irteysk wrote

How are large, single cast objects not relevant to this conversation?

>Did you even read the original post.

You forget a question mark. Did you even reread your comment before posting it?


skoomski t1_irtdqaa wrote

You can cast bronze and copper which is not nearly as difficult as forging. You can see long pieces of metal here


War_Hymn t1_iryagcr wrote

Yeah, but copper and tin are much less common (hence, more expensive) metals than iron. That's why most cannons were cast iron instead of bronze, despite the latter being a safer material to make cannon tubes out of.


DirkBabypunch t1_irtjze0 wrote

You don't usually forge bronze and copper, and making plates out of them is just a matter of casting one, which should be trivial to do.

And by the time period OP is asking about, arrowheads are iron or steel, so copper cladding a gate is irrelevant to their production, except maybe for the guys it takes to pour the casting.


War_Hymn t1_iryaoms wrote

Actually, cast bronze would be pretty weak as is - some forging or hammering was usually done to strengthen and harden bronze tools and items.


DirkBabypunch t1_iryb4qg wrote

That can be easily done once the plate is formed, and they obviously knew about the need to do it.


Nulovka t1_irtlxm3 wrote

Doesn't the Parthenon have two huge bronze doors? At least the one in Nashville does. I can't seem to find reference to whether the original had them.


fiendishrabbit t1_irs3bz0 wrote

There are two uses of metal in fortifications prior to the invention of large scale steel smelting in the 19th century.

  1. Iron cramps were sometimes used to hold stones together more solidly (or as reinforcement while the mortar dried. Medieval mortar was wetter and dried more slowly than modern mortar, so this could take a lot of time). Especially in arches like at the top of gates, in bridges etc.
  2. Gates and portcullises were frequently ether reinforced by metal or plated with metal. Sometimes this was purely defensively, but often it was decorative as well (displaying the wealth of the city or lord that owned the gate). The gates of Indian fortresses were also frequently studded with metal spikes to prevent an attacker from using elephants to bash down the gate.

theartificialkid t1_irtl1qk wrote

> The gates of Indian fortresses were also frequently studded with metal spikes to prevent an attacker from using elephants to bash down the gate.

Also sometimes built on a corner at the top of a narrow ramp for the same reason.


fiendishrabbit t1_irtqdjr wrote

If you're talking about ramps like the one at the Gwailor fort (or the inner gate at Bhangarh fort), then that's not so much for preventing elephants but battering rams.

Elephants are pretty agile. Protected battering rams, not so much.


theartificialkid t1_irtvxhx wrote

According to the guides it was also to stop elephants, because it’s hard for them to charge in a confined space. Made sense to me at the time.


Ferengi_Earwax t1_irrzk7a wrote

Siege engines were routinely covered in metal to prevent the enemy setting them alight. The colossus of Rhodes was said to be built from the metal from captured siege engines.


Onetap1 t1_irsz76m wrote

No, metal was too expensive. Having a metal pot was a status symbol, like having a Mercedes now.

Trebuchets and cannons weren't accurate, it would take days or weeks of bombardment to breach the walls of a masonry fort.

All that changed at Fort Pulaski in 1862. The new rifled cannons were accurate enough to hit the fort at the same point repeatedly. The walls were breached within 30 hours, the fort surrendered (very sensible). Masonry forts became obsolete.


HDH2506 OP t1_irx095d wrote

If a metal pot was a status symbol, what would a 10 ton cauldron be?


MeSmeshFruit t1_isl3he3 wrote


Onetap1 t1_isngh58 wrote

Yes, quite.

Pulaski was under direct, line-of-sight, fire with rifled artillery, which was the big game changer. There was no accurate counter battery fire from the fort, they didn't have rifled artillery.

The Prezmy fort could not be engaged with direct fire because of the earthworks, trenches and barbed wire defending it. You could lob shells at it with howitzers and mortars, from behind earthworks, but they're nowhere near as accurate. If you breach the walls, you can't easily assault it because of the earthworks, barbed wire, trenches, machine guns, etc.. The defenders would be mostly underground, no-one would be relying on a masonry fort for protection from artillery.


Actaeon_II t1_irstpuc wrote

Walls no. Gates and doors with various metal fittings yes. As well as windows, drains, bridges.


Lemmonjello t1_irsypjp wrote

Completely off topic but instead of razor wire in India the put big shards of glass in the tops of their walls.


AndyTheSane t1_irt4b66 wrote

Also some of the older walls in Cambridge, to stop students sneaking out.


GuyD427 t1_irt3kmc wrote

They do it in Europe and the Caribbean as well from what I’ve seen.


HDH2506 OP t1_irx0fn6 wrote

Not just in India, also in many countries AND in Game of Throne where they put dragon glass on walls to hold back the undead


Pudding_Hero t1_irt6hiy wrote

Too drunk and I thought you were talking about the music. Started thinking too hard about how maybe


KaimeiJay t1_irtsgui wrote

The very first lines of the oldest story in human history—the Epic of Gilgamesh—describe the walls of the city of Uruk as gleaming like copper. Take from that what you will.


HDH2506 OP t1_irx3d4q wrote

Since it’s not historical, I’d take that as a wall of solid copper


YourOverlords t1_irrqtqo wrote

Metal staples were used in masonry as well to hold casing stones tight and in place.


HDH2506 OP t1_irx0ksh wrote

Like a rod that goes through the walls to hold bricks or walls together?


YourOverlords t1_iryn17r wrote

more like two pieces of stone were placed together, then an impression cut that spans part of the top pf both or more than one side. Then, molten metal is poured into the cast and a staple is made.



5tatic55 t1_irtakk3 wrote

I do know that various siege towers would have metal plates...

Remember the siege towers from "LOTR: The Return Of The King"? They would look similar to this, but not as cool.

The metal plates would provide protection from fire, and arrows.

I'm not exactly sure they would use this method on stone walls as they already provide adequate protection from both..


HDH2506 OP t1_irx16ek wrote

Exactly like LOTR. My brother played Shadow of War and there’s metal clad walls.

I thought: “This is the second reference to this method, why haven’t I seen it in fictions, ever? Maybe it’s actually an extremely rare historical thing?”


5tatic55 t1_irx6k3l wrote

I believe it was somewhat rare. Most were made up of wood, as metal plates were exceedingly hard to produce in that era, but not impossible..

If you look into "The army that moved a mountain", otherwise know as "The Siege of Masada" (that's the Wiki), they used the metal plate tactics there, I know there are some good YouTube videos of it too.


Razial22 t1_irtcqza wrote

Ehh fire can still destroy stones. It makes them very brittle


5tatic55 t1_irtdzzs wrote

It can also cause some rocks to explode.. But that wasn't really something that was happening in that period.. They didn't really have fire weapons that burned hot enough to destroy stone walls. They still used catapults, and trebuchets for that purpose. (Depending on the era of coarse)


Bear4224 t1_irtlp32 wrote

Sometimes castle roofs were covered in lead sheets to keep fire off.


HDH2506 OP t1_irx1e2z wrote

Isn’t lead very heavy and easily melted?


drkpnthr t1_iru9wbv wrote

There was some use of copper sheeting to plate temporary fortifications as a means of reducing the ability to light it on fire with projectiles (drawbridges, gatehouse embattlements, etc), but only during the siege itself. However sheet metal would be thin and unlikely to stop any kind of significant projectile. As others have commented, this is either anecdotal history or referring to the use against common metal fixtures. In history siege engines rarely decided sieges, they were weapons of reducing fixed defenses and terrorizing your enemy to move them into a position of surrender. Most sieges that were not surrenders were won by betrayals with someone opening a gate or lowering a rope, not the Hollywood drama of the besiegers knocking a hole and gaining the wall.


socialcommentary2000 t1_irvhzb2 wrote

Armoring up a castle that could withstand artillery of the time period would require the mass production of iron plate. The problem with this, beyond the obvious, would be there's no way to roll it effectively until the first legitimate rolling mills that could work iron came about in the 1600s...and even then it only really took off in the 1700s when James Watt came up with the steam engine.

Short answer : Fabricating iron plate at scale was unobtainable until later.


HDH2506 OP t1_irx1xdp wrote

This is fictional but: in a game they use plated to armor only the corners of important towers, which are polygonal - have weakness at corners?

I suppose a defender might do that and recycle the metal after reinforcements defeat the attacker


Dismal_Contest_5833 t1_is7qfey wrote

there was a siege tower covered in iron plates called the helopolis. it was used during the siege of Rhodes in 305 BC.


HDH2506 OP t1_isfvyep wrote

It’s actually bronze base on the era and the other comments. I think they recycled enemy’s equipment


kyle_irl t1_irtodb1 wrote

Nothing protects an establishment from the filthy horde of hippies than Slayer.


madpiratebippy t1_iru05np wrote

Not really.

Metal was very expensive and used sparingly and only where absolutely needed. Nails were all hand forged and expensive as well so lots of other joinery was used instead. In most castles the only metal/locking door was for the pantry where spices were stored since they were small and easy to steal and resell.

Metal plates weren’t a thing until well after industrialization and frankly aren’t much use vs cannons, which is what made your standard fortified castles obsolete.


HDH2506 OP t1_irx1kem wrote

Ofc, I was wondering if there were some extremely rare case

Maybe after they’re relieved, all the metal were recycled into tools and weapons, for example


enfiel t1_itx6eoe wrote

Port cities would often use giant chains to close their harbors.


SolomonBlack t1_irtrfss wrote

To get a sense of the sort of resource/labor limits pre-industrial societies had to work around consider that it was by no means uncommon for the curtain walls of a castle to NOT be solid stone but a contain hollow space filled in with whatever debris and dirt was handy. An architectural 'trick' that goes back thousands of years to Egypt where the swap from solid stone is why there are only like six proper pyramids because the dozens made after the switch all collapsed over the millennia.

Next technologically speaking the heyday of castles didn't even have the technology to put plate on a man. Plate was developed in response to early firearms making earlier mail worthless. And never that common, what you'd spend armoring a single wall could outfit an sizable unit of troops instead.


Tableau t1_irtsrw9 wrote

“ Plate was developed in response to early firearms making earlier mail worthless.”

That doesn’t sound quite right. Plate got going in earnest by the late 13th century, and was highly developed by the end of the 14th. Firearms show up around the mid 14th century, but don’t develop a serious battlefield presence until the 15th.


Thanatikos t1_iru2r1p wrote

It was always my understanding that plate armor was made obsolete by firearms, not because of them. If anything made earlier mail “worthless” it was the advents of the longbow and crossbow. Also, the other claim that they didn’t have plate armor during the “heyday” of castles is inaccurate.


SolomonBlack t1_iru72l6 wrote

I should probably have said something about crossbows and of course plate is great against a lot of other things on the battle field so clearly would be invented anyways. However while the timeline is not super clear we can find potential use of gunpowder in Europe as early as 1241 by the Mongols and guns by the 1320s. For plate armor, well technically it is ancient so gets into "define plate armor" with things like old Roman lorica to brigadines and coats of plates but I don't think I've ever seen the classic "full" plate sourced before 1400s.


Tableau t1_iruic4s wrote

Yes, gunpowder may have been hanging around for a while, but it didn’t become a significant force on the battle field until the 1400s.

On the other hand, Europeans knights were routinely covering their entire bodies with plate armour by the 1340s. And that’s after a half century or so of gradually adding more renforcements to the traditional maille. The 14th century is a wild time for the development of armour but by the 1380s, it starts to settle into the standard arrangement that you would think of for “classic full plate”.

That’s at least a solid century of rapid development without gunpowder as a main driver.


SolomonBlack t1_irup8ft wrote

You hardly need massed lines of matchlock infantry to start taking precautions against all the new hotness that's been flying around the post-Crusades battlefields. Also consider that we're still in a period of history where having records at all suggests they were not all that rare. Or that this race for the beginning is a bit besides the point for technologies that would go on to exist and therefore continue developing side by side for another few centuries.

Also that this is all getting a far from the actual point since none of this leave much of a medieval castle period or getting anywhere near enough good metal production to start armoring a curtain wall.


Tableau t1_irw2eav wrote

I guess so, it’s just that references to guns in that time span are so rare while references to armour are so ubiquitous. Like we have mountains of references to armour from that time period, and several for guns.


Thanatikos t1_iry3iej wrote

I’m sorry, but I think your understanding of the advent of firearms is off by two hundred years or so. A few examples of early use does not constitute evidence that they were widely used or that armor was initially a response to them. Their design and use was limited. Gunpowder was not readily available. Crossbows we’re still the preferred ranged weapon of Conquistadors through most of the 16th century. Gunpowder use prior to the 15th century would have been unreliable and usually uncompetitive with bows unless conditions were ideal. There just isn’t anywhere enough evidence to support your position. From 1000-1400 AD the chances of being killed on a European by a gunpowder weapon versus edged weapons or bows would have been minute.


HDH2506 OP t1_irx212c wrote

I mean…dirt and debris is much better anyway