The shape of the shield worn by the knight in the Middle Ages varied according to the caprice of the wearer, but generally it was large at the top and gradually diminished to a point, being made of wood and covered with leather, and on the outside was seen the escutcheon or representation of the armorial bearings of the owner.
The shield, with all the other parts of the armor worn by the knights except the gauntlets, has been discontinued by the modern Masonic Knights. Doctor Oliver thinks that in some of the military initiations, as in those of the Scandinavian mysteries, the shield was substituted for the apron. An old heraldic writer, quoted by Sloane-Evans (Grammar of British Heraldry, page 153), thus gives the symbolic import of the shield: "Like as the shield served in the battle for a safeguard of the body of soldiers against wounds, even so in time of peace, the same being hanged up, did defend the owner against the malevolent detractions of the envious."
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