Medieval Knight Helmet
The medieval knight helmet was considered extremely important in every warrior’s armory. Without these helmets, a knight would not survive in any battle they faced.
There were a plethora of differently designed and crafted helmets used for various purposes in the Middle Ages. Most of them were worn during battles; hence, they provided extra protection and security during wars.
As time passed, there were great advancements and enhancements made to these helmets. Their design and build improved, which allowed for better protection. This change was due to the growing skills of the craftsmen and blacksmiths of that time.
Aside from that, new metals and better techniques in manufacturing medieval helmets were discovered.
What Were Medieval Knights Helmets Made from?
Different types of metals were utilized to create the medieval knight helmet. These include iron, steel, and bronze. The reason for using these was that they served as excellent materials to increase the helmet’s protective functions. Thus, the medieval knight helmet became an ideal gear against metal-made weapons.
There were even times when a couple of knights utilized helmets made from rarer metals. These included silver and gold that had velvet or precious stones.
Early Medieval Knights Helmets
Aside from the Coppergate and Spangenhelm helmets, a knight from the early Middle Ages could only use one other helmet. This piece was the nasal helm.
During this period, the Spangenhelm, an open-faced helmet, was the most commonly utilized piece for battle. Unfortunately, the helmets did not protect the wearer’s face well.
In history, the sallet and great helm were likely the most popular helmets of all time. That’s because of how they kept the user protected and secure even during intense battles. Plus, they were an enhanced form of the bascinet and other earlier helmet versions.
Because of their efficiency and effectiveness, these were helmets used for a long period.
The Coppergate helmet or York Helmet is an 8th-century piece acquired in York, England. It was dug out for the Jorvik Viking Center’s excavation in May 1982. Specifically, it was seen at the bottom of a pit that may have once been a well.
The Coppergate helmet is one of the most preserved pieces of the six Anglo-Saxon helmets that have survived history. It has the standard form of a helm acquired from Wollaston, Northamptonshire. It’s also similar to those found well in Sutton Hoo, Benty Grange, and more.
This surviving helmet is among the crested helms that was popular in Scandinavia and England. Although it’s kept today in a museum, it was mostly used throughout the 6th to the 11th century.
Another medieval knight helmet is the Spangenhelm. It was one of the well-known combat helms designed during Late Antiquity and the Early Middle Ages.
Spangenhelm is a German term that means metal strips completing the helmet’s framework. It can be translated as braces, while helm means helmet.
These strips link about 3 to 6 bronze or steel plates, while the frame has a cone-like shape.
Its design arches with the form of the helmet’s head and culminate at a certain point. For the helmet’s front, it can sometimes feature a nose protector.
More ancient versions of the Spangenhelm usually have metal or leather cheek flaps. These helmets may use mail for neck protection, which forms a semi-aventail.
There are even a couple of these helmets that feature eye protection shaped like modern eyeglasses frames.
At times, these types are called the “spectacle helms”. Other spangenhelm feature full face masks too.
For protection, this helmet was an effective piece that was somewhat easy to create. The issue with its design is semi-head protection and joint construction.
As time passed, it was then replaced by similarly-shaped helmets like the nasal helms. These also included the kettle hats and then the great helm or the casque.
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The nasal helmet is another medieval knight helmet for combat that had a projecting bar concealing the nose. It worked to protect the center of the user’s face.
This helm was of Western-European origins and was utilized during the battle to protect the user’s face and head.
The helmet was described as having a nose guard made up of one strip of metal. It went all the way down from the skull over one’s nose to protect the user’s face.
This medieval knight helmet appeared in the entire Western European area during the late 9th century. It was the most used helmet for protection. This piece even replaced earlier types of helmets that were based on the late Roman helms, like the ridge helmet.
The early nasal pieces universally featured a conical shape, wherein the skull could be elevated from a single iron sheet. Or, it could be made via segmented composite construction.
High Period Medieval Knights Helmets
Numerous helmets were created during the High era of the Middle Ages. Some of these were the Cervelliere, Bascinet, the early great helm, the great helm, kettle hat, and a horned helmet.
All of these helmets were utilized by the ancient knights, except for the kettle hat. Instead, it was mostly worn by the infantry.
The Cervelliere is a close-fitting hemisphere-shaped skull cap crafted using iron or steel. It was among the helmets worn by the knights during the medieval period.
It was a helmet that first appeared during the late 12th century and was mainly worn by the Crusaders. The Cervelliere could be worn as is or under/over a mail coif. Not only that, but a great helm could be placed over it for added protection.
This style of wearing the helmet was a common practice by the late 13th century. Over time, this helmet received several upgrades and enhancements.
Many helms became more pointy, while the rear of the skull cap was elongated to conceal the neck. These changes eventually led to the development of the bascinet.
The Cerveillieres were utilized through the medieval era, as well as during the Renaissance period. These pieces were easy to produce and cheaper than most helmets. Hence, they were used by non-commercial soldiers and commoners.
The bascinet or bassinet was often an open-faced helm. However, some soldiers used it together with a conical visor. Because of this, the helmet ended up looking like a beak or snout.
Due to the appearance, this medieval knight helmet was called the hounskull. It was a medieval term that meant dog-faced. In this day and age, some people call this helmet pig-faced as well.
In the past, the bascinet was widely utilized by the infantry and knights. Hence, making it a popular piece during that period.
There were two different ways to link a visor to the bascinet. It’s klappvisor featured a hinge on the top-front area of the helmet. It’s where the user could attach the visor.
If not, the user can set an aventail to the helmet using leather straps. The aventail is specifically chainmail for protecting the wearer’s shoulders and neck. However, do note that it isn’t the same as a chainmail coif.
During the 14th century, the bascinet took over the popularity of the great helm. Yet in the beginning, this helmet was worn beneath the great helm.
When worn, soldiers often removed the great helm to be able to move more freely and easily. Plus, doing so decreased the weight they had to carry.
Every soldier needed to move swiftly and should always be mobile. They were also required to have a clear view and sense of their surroundings. Plus, they should not ‘overheat’ while wearing their protective gear.
That’s one reason why the infantrymen avoided utilizing the bascinet. These warriors were better off using the kettle helm, which was lighter and featured an open-face design.
After around the 1440’s, the bascinet was left out, and warriors discontinued wielding it. It was the time when most knights and noblemen went for the open-faced pieces.
Great helmets, or the great helm, was the most common type of helmet used in history. In the beginning, the helmet sported a squared top, yet this design ended up becoming a target of hammer-wielding enemies.
As time passed, its design evolved to a more conical and pointed top. This style aided in decreasing the impact of swords and hammers.
The great helm was one of the very first helmets that fully safeguarded the face. It also featured slits for the eyes, as well as perforations for the user’s mouth.
The kettle hat is also called the war hat. It’s a specific type of helm that’s created out of steel or iron. This piece is shaped like a brimmed hat, yet there were various designs that appeared in history.
One of the most efficient aspects of the kettle hat is its wide brim. It provides additional protection to the user. This helmet got its name due to its appearance that resembled a cooking pot.
These pieces weren’t only efficient in battle since they were effective for other tasks as well. One of these tasks includes mining since the brim protected the users from sand and falling stones.
The earlier periods were crafted using several steel plates like with the spangenhelm. Yet came the 13th century, they began producing the kettle hat using a single piece of steel.
Late Medieval Period Knights Helmet
During the late medieval period, the knights utilized other helmets like the Barbute, sallet, closed helm, and the frog-mouthed helm. These helms mentioned were also worn by the heavy infantry.
A number of these pieces were enhancements from the High Period where most were utilized for warfare. These were often worn for jousting and various religious ritualistic and ceremonial purposes as well.
The armet is a helmet developed during the 15th century. It was heavily utilized in England, Italy, France, Spain, and the Low Countries.
This helmet was distinguished as the first helmet to entirely conceal the head while keeping things light and compact.
It was a highly favored piece since the user was able to move freely and easily without too much weight.
Characteristics of the Armet
The armet was almost entirely concealed. It was also narrowed to go along the throat and neck contours. With that, the helmet was given a mechanical way of opening and closing to allow proper wear.
The typical armed had different parts: the skull, a visor with a double pivot, and two huge hinged cheek pieces that locked over the chin.
These cheek pieces opened via horizontal hinges. And at times, a wrapper was added along the bottom half of the helmet’s face.
The straps were secured via a metal disc found at the bottom of the skull piece. This section was called the rondel.
The visor was then linked to the pivot using hinges with detachable pins. It was a method that remained until c.1520. This was the time after the hinge disappeared, then the pivot started featuring a solid link to the pivot.
Armets of earlier times usually had small aventails. These were pieces of metal linked to the bottom edge of each cheek piece.
The barbute is a medieval knight helmet that’s called barbuta in Italy. It’s a tall visorless type of helmet that sports a narrot T or Y-shaped facial opening.
These helmets were exclusively worn by the Italian soldiers and knights during the 15th century. The barbute is a medieval knight helmet that’s crafted using one plate of steel. Its top elevates to a sharp comb and drops along its sides and rear.
This specific piece is described by having a formal type of beauty due to functional efficiency. Its defining aspects include its protruding extension of the helmet’s sides towards its midline. The design specifically provides added protection to the user’s face below their eyes.
Despite the form of the combined mouth and eyes opening, the characteristic is always present in barbute helmets.
The close helm was once a military piece utilized by warriors and knights of the late medieval and Renaissance period. The cuirassiers who wielded pistols and were heavily armored also utilized the close helm for protection into the mid-17th century.
This specific medieval knight helmet was based on the later versions of the sallet and the similar armet from the late 15th century. It was sometimes called the armet in a few modern sources, yet modern scholars draw a distinction between these types.
While it’s greatly similar to the armet, the close helmet features a completely different opening process. Like the armet, this helmet follows the head and neck’s contours closely. It narrowed along the throat, thus, required a mechanical way to open/close it.
While the armet laterally opened via two huge hinged cheek pieces, the close helmet opened vertically. Opening the helmet required using an integral rotating bevor linked to the same pivot as the visor. Also, the bevor was held close using a strap.
Uses of the Close Helm
The close helmet was often used on the battlefield, yet it was just as popular for tournaments. Wealthy noblemen possessed garnitures, which were pieces of armor that had interchangeable parts. These were necessary to suit light or heavy field use and the different types of tournament battles.
Garnitures often had elements for reinforcing the helmet’s left side for jousting. These reinforcing pieces were named the double pieces or pieces of advantage.
The frog-mouth helmet was a variation of the great helm that appeared from around1400 AD. Its use lasted until the early 16th century.
This helmet is also known as Stechhelm, a term that means “jousting helmet” in German. It was not used for battles but was mainly utilized by the medieval knights for tournaments or jousting.
The reason why the frog-mouth helm became a popular jousting headgear is its improved eye protection.
By the late 15th century, it became a standard for this helmet to have rivets or screws. These are utilized for mounting on the user’s cuirass. However, it limited movements and only allowed the wearer to face forward, making it suitable only for jousting charges.
In jousting tournaments, the frog-mouth helmet provides more protection from lances that could splinter upon hitting the opponent’s body armor.
Early examples of this type of helmet were made from one piece of metal. Later versions were constructed with hinges that could be disassembled.
The sallet is another form of a medieval knight helmet. It replaced the bascinet in Italy, Hungary, Western and Northern Europe in the mid-5th century. While the armet was popular in England, France, and Italy, the sallet was the universal headgear in Germany.
Eventually, regional styles of the sallet were developed. In the later Italian sallets, the integral face protection was removed. These became open-faced helmets with elegantly curved surfaces.
The late Italian sallets were more preferred by the lightly armed soldiers, specifically the crossbowmen and archers. They were in favor of this style since having an uninterrupted vision was vital for them.
Heavily armored troops, on the other hand, needed additional protection. With that, they attached a plate to the helmet’s brow and a deep visor with many slits for ventilation.