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Judas Maccabeus portrayed as a Polish knight in the
Plock Bible
second quarter of the 12th century


The Płock Bible is a medieval codex now in the possession of the Diocesan Museum in Płock. Rev. Ryszard Knapinski wrote that the text, the main initials and some illuminations were a product of the Meuse region in the second quarter of the 12th century and the codex came to Płock probably thanks to Bishop of Płock Alexander of Mallone (1129-1159) and that the rest of miniatures, especially those which show characters might have been painted in Płock.1 Among them is a marginal painting on folio 181r which presents Judas Maccabeus together with his arms and armour. His body is covered with long scale armour with a hood and sleeves. There is a helmet on his head. Judas holds a spear in his right hand and a kite-shaped shield in his left hand. A sword in a scabbard hangs at his left side. His armour is of considerable length and reaches the knees of Judas. It resembles a long tunic. It also has long sleeves and an added coif which covers Judas' head. The entire tunic is covered with small scales.

The earliest depiction of the early medieval scale armour comes from the 10th-11th century. Among them are, e.g.,: Goliath (?), Smyrna Octateuch, Byzantium - 10th-11th c.; Herod's Guards in the Golden Gospel of Echternach, Lower Lorraine - c. 1040; Pharaoh's Army in the Exultet Roll from Gaeta, southern Italy - 11th c.; Count Guy in The Bayeux Tapestry - the late 11th c.; folio 88v in The Atlantic Bible, southern France - late 11th c. Scale armour can also be found in 12th-13th c. sources, e. g.,: Defenders in the Siege of a city, carved reliefs in the Church of S. Nicola, Bari, Italy - the early 12th; a relief carving in the Church of St Gilles, St Gilles du Gard, France - c. 1145; Egyptians flee into Asqalon and Defeat of Turks outside Antakya - eighteenth century drawings of lost early or mid-12th century stained glass windows illustrating the First Crusade - St Denis, Paris, France; a carved relief from Porta Romana, Milan, Italy - 1167; a seal of Bogusław I Duke of Pomerania-Szczecin - 1170; a coin of Boleslaw I the Tall, Duke of Silesia - c. 1190; the Tapestry from Baldishol, Norway - c. 1200; relief carvings from the Church of St Trophime, Arles, France - the early 13th century; soldiers from the facade of the Reims Cathedral - the first quarter of the 13th century; a seal of Henryk I the Bearded, Duke of Silesia - 1230-34; Abraham, a wall-painting in a crypt of the Cathedral in Anagni, Italy - c. 1250-55; The arrest of Jesus, in an Armenian manuscript - c. 1270.

Apart from his armour, Judas also wears a conical helmet. Its construction is complex. Based on the miniature, we can say that it was made of four segments (2 are visible). Those parts are probably fully bounded with a circular rim and a few bands. The helmet is also equipped with a schematically depicted nasal. Examples from iconographic sources are: The Bayeux Tapestry - the late 11th c.; David and Goliath from the Worms Bible, Germany - 1148; the carved relief from Porta Romana, Milan, Italy - 1167; the seal of Bogusław I Duke of Pomerania-Szczecin - 1170; a seal of Kazimierz I Duke of Pomerania - c. 1180; a stained glass window from the Cathedral in Canterbury, England - the late 12th c.; Guards at the Holy Sepulchre - a wall painting from the Hermitage of San Baudelio de Berlanga, Spain - the late 12th c.; an armed man in the Release of St. Peter scene from the Płock Door - c. 1152-1154; a seal of Leszek I the White, Duke of Poland - 1229; the seal of Henryk I the Bearded, Duke of Silesia - 1230-34.

1 Knapinski R. 1993 Iluminacje romanskiej Biblii Płockiej, Lublin.

Source: Piotr Pudło, Arms and Armour Analysis of a Judas Maccabeus’ Miniature in the Płock Bible

See also an early medieval shield from Szczecin, Poland, 12th century
Other 12th Century Illustrations of Costume & Soldiers
Index of Illustrations of Costume & Soldiers

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