SHOWCASE 3. ARMS AND ARMOUR FROM THE 12TH-17TH CENTURIESClose
This section of the exposition incorporates pieces of arms and armour discovered during archaeological excavations in the territory of the Moscow Kremlin. These historical artefacts give a vivid picture of a rich military history of the fortress as well as reveal tragic pages of the past – when feuds between Russian princes and foreign invasions induced the practice of burying in ground the most valuable goods, i.e. arms, jewels, coins and ingots.
For example, such a treasure-trove from the turn of the 15th-16th centuries was found in the well of the Arsenalnaya (literally Arsenal) Tower of the Kremlin in 1975. It consisted of two helmets and four stirrups, wrapped in a chain mail and covered with white-stone blocks. The archeological finds were badly damaged in the result of staying in water for a long time. Only several fragments of the chain mail remained, but helmets and stirrups were much better preserved.
Helmets (spiked ones) forged from a single iron sheet are finished with a detachable rifled spike and have a partially preserved rim of red copper. Russian horsemen wore such Moscow helmets as a usual protection already at the end of the 15th century. The unique style of the headpieces’ ornamentation indicates that they belonged to noble warriors. Four massive arched stirrups are fitted with straight plated steps.
The exposition also incorporates a battle-axe, a unique thumb ring for archery made from elk antler, intended for keeping a finger safe when shooting a bow, iron arrowheads and spearheads, a caltrop, used as a protection from the enemy’s cavalry, and other military equipment and pieces of armour.
An exceptional item for Moscow is a 12th-century West European sword with a Latin inscription inlaid on it, translated by experts as follows: "In the name of God Etzelin made me". According to the master's mark, he worked from around 1130 to 1170 and his workshop was located in the Rhine region. It is known, that in 1177 Gleb Rostislavich of Ryazan, abetted by his brother-in-law Mstislav, went against Vsevolod the Big Nest, who occupied the grand princely throne in Vladimir, and burned down Moscow. It is possible that the sword belonged to one of the defenders of Moscow or someone of the attackers who was defeated during the invasion.
Russian experts have established that the arms of the townspeople who died defending Russian towns during the Horde's invasion of 1237-1240 allow us to imagine a soldier on foot with a spear, an axe, a bow and arrows, and a warrior on horseback with a slashing, stabbing, and defensive arm.
Testifying the value of armament supplies is one spiritual charter of 1525, where a horse is valued at three rubles, "marten caftan" at four rubles, "marten coat" at two rubles, "calabar coat" at twenty altyns, helmet at twenty altyns, chain armour at seventy altyns, and "ruby earrings" at ten rubles. If we recall that one altyn at that time comprised six Moscow dengas, and the weight of each was about 0.4 g, the calculations show that the helmet was valued at about 50 g of pure silver, and the chain mail was valued at more than three times the price – 170 g of silver.