The Strangest Medieval Weapon Ever Created: The Lantern Shield

After the Dark Ages the world was thrust into a two hundred year period of incredible creativity and growth called “The Renaissance”. This creative force of time brought about some wonderful masterpieces. It also brought us some really quirky and odd ideas. One of these ideas was the lantern shield.

The Lantern Shield originated in sixteenth century Italy. This was a time of the late Renaissance when creativity was at its maximum and a lot of things were being created. One of the basic tenets of creativity is that of fusion where things are added together to make a new thing. The Lantern shield is a good example of this fusion – taken too far. It attempts to create something that has defensive characteristics, offensive characteristics and even a bit of psychological warfare!

What is a Lantern Shield?

It is a small shield in the shape of a buckler and generally about a foot in diameter. And this basic shield was turned into a veritable swiss army knife of a weapon by the addition of a variety of other things such as a gauntlet with serrated blades. These serrated blades were theoretically used to break an opponent’s blade. There was also a long blade attached to the shield that ran parallel to the users shield arm. This could be used to thrust at an opponent. The shield also often had spikes protruding from it which could be used as piercing weapons. But the most unusual thing about this weapon, and the thing that gives it its name, is the lantern. It had a hook in the middle of the shield where a lantern could be attached and often times there was a leather flap covering this lantern. The theory was that if attacked the wielder could throw open the flap and the light from the lantern would dazzle and confuse the attacker. It was a bit of psychological warfare thrown in to the mix.

The use of the Lantern Shield

Generally, the lantern shield is believed to have been used not for combat but for walking around Italian cities at night. It was protection against ruffians and robbers more so than against combatants in battle.

How effective was it as a weapon?

The effectiveness of the Lantern Shield in real combat is questionable but in the context of walking around a dangerous city at night it does warrant some interesting conclusions. First off, it was probably very ominous looking and any would be robber was probably inclined to just move on to the next victim. And if a combative situation arose the whole contraption was probably reasonably effective at staving off injury much in the same way as a porcupine does! The addition of the lantern was also a strong deterrent against attack because any nighttime robber would just avoid the illumination and exposure. So as a real weapon it was probably not very good but as a deterrent it was probably reasonably effective. Any robber or ruffian seeing someone carrying this thing would probably just move on to the next victim.