Maille face ventail

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Maille face ventails and the "Norman bib"

In the eleventh century, Norman and Frankish elites may wear a maille face-covering (ventail) which only leaves the eyes visible. This may be tied to their maille coif and should be removable. It may have a fabric ‘backing’ for comfort.

There is evidence for a square flap of mail (probably with fabric on the ‘in’ side) being attached to coifs in the late eleventh century and early twelfth. This flap could be untied for comfort, forming the ‘Norman bib’ seen in several depictions. It appears to be a square of mail attached to the hauberk, covering the chest. It has a coloured border similar to those at the cuffs and hem of the hauberk. This feature is prominent in the Bayeux Tapestry and also appears in the Italian Hrabanus Maurus and the Catalan "Bible of Rhodes", among others.

From the Bible of Rhodes, Catalan, 11th century.

In the Bayeux tapestry the "bib" is almost never shown on someone actually involved in combat. However, further scrutiny shows that many engaged in combat do have one horizontal border showing at the base of the neck, and the neck itself is covered by mail.

William and Harold in armour

Norman knights charging

The eleventh-century poem, "The Song of Roland" includes the following lines:

"He goes to strike Escremis of Valterne / Shatters and shivers the shield at his neck / Rends from his hauberk the ventail away . . ."

Credits: with thanks to Steven Lowe (Egfroth). Further information can be found in his discussion of the evidence.