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The Hussar half-armour was completed in the beginning of the 17th century, and it survived, in an almost unchanged form, up to the middle of the next century. It harmoniously combines both Western European and Eastern traditions. The presented half-armour consists of a breastplate, a backplate with wings, a bevor, a pair of brassards, and a bascinet. All elements are decorated with brass trim and small stamped circles.

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The Hussar half-armour consists of a breastplate, a backplate with wings, a bevor, a pair of brassards, and a bascinet. All elements are decorated with brass trims and small stamped circles.
In the lower part, the breastplate with an axis in the centre which consists of four movable segments with semicircular teeth cut out in the edges and which are joined by rivets. In the upper part, there are brass circular plates containing the figure of the Madonna of the Immaculate Conception surrounded by rays of light, and also with a commander cross. The backplate consisting of four segments in the lower part has a pair of wing fastenings. The two-parted bevor is connected by a rivet on the right shoulder, and a press stud on the left one. On the front and rear axis, hinges are used to fix the bevor to the cuirass (the part of the armour consisting of a breastplate and a backplate). On the neck, there are fragments of trim made of red velvet. The brassards consist of six segments with semicircular teeth cut out in the edges. The wings are made of S-shaped strips of wood, rectangular in cross section, covered with velvet. At the front and rear, there are brass ferrules cut in the shape of triangular teeth, with stamped rings. In the lower part, there is a pair of steel ferrules with tangs used to fix the wings on the backplate. Along the edges, feathers are fastened. The armour is rounded off by a semicircular bascinet with grooves branching off from the top, a neck guard with five segments, as well as a triangular peak with a nasal bar. The cheekpieces with ear openings hang from leather straps.
The Polish national heavy cavalry, the Hussars, enjoyed great successes on battlefields in the 17th century, from the victory over the Swedish in the Battle of Kircholm (1605) to the victory over the Turks in the Battle of Vienna (1683). The Hussars were equipped with half-armour, lances, sabres, koncerz sabres and pistols. The Hussar half-armour was fully developed at the beginning of the 17th century, and it survived, in an almost unchanged form, until the middle of the next century. It harmoniously combined both Western European and Eastern traditions. The lower parts of the Hussar cuirass are made of segments joined with rivets. The bevor is laid on top of the cuirass. The bracers, derived from oriental weaponry, were used for forearm protection. The Hussar bascinet, resembling the helmet called pappenheimer, in some cases was decorated with a high crest. The original feature of this armour is a decoration made of brass trimmings, decorated with a geometrical ornament, as well as appliqués in the form of commander crosses and sanctimonious depictions, most often of the Madonna of the Immaculate Conception. Some Hussaria troops had armours fitted with huge wings created of bird feathers fastened to wooden frames. Their armours were also decorated with wild animal skins.
Originally, the presented half-armour sat in the armoury of the Radziwiłł family in Nieśwież, then with the Kossakowski family in Wojtkuszki, in the district of Wiłkomierz (probably in the armoury of General Józef Kossakowski), from there it was bought by Janusz Uniechowski of Rusinow in the Minsk region. It was transported to Canada, and returned to Poland in 1961.

Elaborated by Krzysztof Czyżewski (Wawel Royal Castle), editorial team of Małopolska’s Virtual Museums, © all rights reserved

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Legendary hussar wings

The legendary wings that stimulated the imagination of film-makers, painters and many others were characteristic decorations of the hussar armour.

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The legendary wings that stimulated the imagination of film-makers, painters and many others were characteristic decorations of the hussar armour.
What were they actually used for? Historians proved that they were not used in battles. They neither protected a hussar from being taken down from a horse with a Tatar lariat (a long rope with a loop) nor did they serve to frighten the horses of their opponents. Who would hear the sound of wings in the heat of a battle, with clashing weapons? The use of wings in battle would have prevented the famous sword cut “from above the head.” Hussar wings were usually used during parades and funerals of grand figures, perhaps, also shortly before the battle as a psychological weapon.
Irrespective of their actual function, they became a symbol of grand Polish victories and are frequent motifs in art and military signs and badges, especially in the Polish Air Force. From 1936, in the aviation of the Republic of Poland, a new pattern of an eagle supplemented with a pair of hussar wings was introduced. This pattern can be seen on our website from the collection of the Home Army Museum: aviation cap Eagle of war veterans.

Elaborated by Kinga Kołodziejska (Editorial team of Małopolska’s Virtual Museums),
Licencja Creative Commons

 This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Poland License.

Also worth seeing are the remaining elements of a hussar’s equipment from the collection of the National Museum in Kraków:
Hussar half-armour
Hussar sabre

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Hussar half-armour

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