Man Stumbles Upon A Nearly 1,000 Year Old Chainmail Vest

By: Lauren Wurth | Last updated: Sep 30, 2023

A man was invited to a local event in Granard County, Longford, Ireland. While trying to mingle with the costume-dorned crowd, he saw another man dressed in something strange, but familiar. It then dawned on him almost instantly that he had that kind of wear lying somewhere in his tool shed.

In an interesting turn of events, the vest in his shed turned out to be almost a thousand years old. Let’s break down how it all happened. 

Reviving Some Historical Heritage

Bartle D’Arcy was casually interacting with guests when a man in denim walked up to him and said, “I have a similar vest in my tool shed.” D’Arcy took the comment lightly, until the man returned some days later with chainmail.

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Source: KnightsConquest/Twitter

The event mentioned earlier was an effort by locals to revive the cultural heritage of that region. Granard has a history of occupation by Normans, and a visible evidence of this is the presence of the highest motte in Ireland. With seed funding from local volunteers, the Knights and Conquests Heritage Centre was formed.

Occasional Events Attracting Tourists to Granard

Since 2018, the Centre has thrown its doors open to the public, and visitors have been educated about the historic Norman culture. Resulting from the influx of tourists, the town has enjoyed economic revival.

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Source: KnightsConquest/Twitter

It was during one of such occasions that a man, name undisclosed, approached the Centre’s manager, D’Arcy. When this man returned with the chainmail he claimed to have, D’Arcy was taken by surprise.

Symbolism of Chainmail

Chainmail is a medieval armour worn by rich soldiers. However, it was not used as a status symbol, but for protection.

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Source: Needpix

The chain mail of medieval times is the equivalent of today’s kevlar vests. The chain links would protect knights and soldiers from the impact of arrowheads and sword tips. However, it was ineffective against larger weapons.

Why Chainmail Was Quite Expensive

Technological sophistication was lacking in the late middle ages. So, between about 1300 and 1485, blacksmiths made chainmail by linking rings of iron wire. Then links were then flattened with a hammer.

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Source: Wikimedia Commons

Chainmail could not stop large weapons. So, some soldiers preferred thicker armour. In some extreme cases, soldiers combined the two.

How the Middle Age Chainmail Was Found

The man explained to D’Arcy that he found the chainmail by chance. According to him, it surfaced during major construction on his property.

Source: Wallpaper Flare

The construction involved some earthmoving and a digger bucket had to be involved. It was during the digging that the iron chainmail caught the man’s attention. Albeit, he didn’t think much of the object. So, he brushed off the dirt, threw it in his shed, and went back to work.

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Ignorantly Possessing a Treasure

The man brought the chain mail to D’Arcy, at the Norman museum. After some detailed examination, it was discovered that the chainmail is well over 800 years old.

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Interestingly, the chainmail was established as being of Norman origin. A Norman knight must have gone into battle with that same iron vest.

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Questioning How the Artifact Survived So Long

Most of the historic chainmail that has been discovered before this one was usually in tatters. Large portions were either missing, or eaten away by rust.

Source: Wikimedia Commons

However, the chainmail discovered at Granard was largely intact. It turns out it had been in water for many years, preserving the integrity of the iron vest. It takes air and water to make metal rust, and this chainmail was surrounded with solely water during its many years in nature.

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The Chainmail's Historic Journey Begins

The old chainmail was doing no good in the man’s shed. So, after seeing something similar on D’Arcy, he decided to bequeath the artifact to the Norman Heritage Centre.

Source: National Museum of Ireland/Flickr

D’Arcy decided to display the 800-year-old chainmail at the next Heritage Week. Afterward, they sent the item to the National Museum of Ireland where the chainmail was given a professional restoration. There, the age and origins were equally verified.

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Verifying the Age of An Artifact

No, it’s not what you’re thinking. The National museum did not observe the chainmail casually. The verification process required expert involvement.

Source: Wikimedia Commons

What they did was x-ray the iron vest. Then they could compare the images to those of previously verified vests. Though they couldn’t provide the specific date of the vest’s production, the experts were able to give a rough estimate of the vest’s age.

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Testing Authenticity: Just Check the Weight

Iron was an expensive commodity during the middle ages. So were swords, shields, and chainmail. So, it took a very wealthy knight to own chainmail.

Source: Wikimedia Commons

However, in recent times, artists have taken a fancy to recreating historic artifacts. In the case of chainmail, they now use light aluminum in place of iron. So, if you’re wondering how to tell a replica apart from the real deal, just check the weight.

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Granard and Its Norman Heritage

History has it that the Norman invasion of Ireland occurred around 1170, and the attack predated the use of chainmail in the region. Likely many of the rampaging soldiers donned iron vests. After their departure, Irish forces must have copied the defensive wear.

Source: Look and Learn

However, there’s a better indicator of the Norman occupation of Ireland—it’s called the Norman Motte.

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Exerting Territorial Might

After the Normans invaded Ireland, they decided to exert their authority. Richard de Tuite, a Norman knight, had the Granard Motte built in 1199.

Source: Wikimedia Commons

The Normans probably used Tuite’s Castle and the Motte site as a military frontier. It was a clear message to the other powers in the Emerald Isle. The Motte is so high soldiers could see advancing forces from a great distance.

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An Advantageous Vantage Point

The Tuite Castle was erected on elevated grounds. So, it was likely the reason for having chosen the same altitude for the motte.

Source: Geograph.ie

It’s believed that an observer can see nine countries and five lakes from the motte’s top. Recent visitors to Granard have reported seeing a hole at the center of the mound. It is also rumoured that the motte was either used as a grain silo, or the castle is still encased in the motte.

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Knights and Their Mails

Richard de Tuite was the only knight recorded to have stayed in Granard, which led D’Arcy to believe that the discovered iron vest is from Tuite Castle.

Source: Pixabay

According to him, the chainmail vest may have belonged to Tuite himself. D’Arcy and other volunteers of the Knights and Conquests Heritage Centre were gladdened by this find.

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Prestige for A Young Initiative

The Knights and Conquests Heritage Centre officially launched in 2018. It was an initiative by local volunteers to once again put Granard on the tourist map of Europe.

Source: Knights & Conquests Heritage Centre/Facebook

The iron vest will soon become an added attraction to Granard. It is still at the National Museum of Ireland, but will be returned to Granard after the restoration and verification.

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