When looking at the many helmets throughout the ages, one of the most interesting is the morion. Prominent during the 16th and 17th centuries, the morion helmet was an open helmet with a flat brim and a crest from front to back. They have been the subject of several book illustrations and films, and it is likely that they were used by explorers such as De Soto and Coronado for their foot soldiers. Inspired by the Chapel de Fer or “Kettle hat”, the morion found its shape, which was round in nature. Other associations for this head protection come from Moorish armor and several Spanish roots.
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Most commonly connected with early Spanish explorers conquistadors, the morion can be traced back to the Incas in South America or the conquest of Mexico. These helmets were primarily worn by the Spanish, but their fame also spread to other European cultures including the English. In fact, this head gear was first issued by Edward VI of England. The popularity of the morion was due in large part of the inexpensive production cost and was heightened by elaborate decorations seen on the helmets of guards and officers, flaunting their wealth and elevating this piece to a status symbol. The crest or comb on the helmet was put in place to strengthen it and as time went by, these helmets were improved upon with cheek guards and detachable faceplates, offering protection against sword cuts.
Morion Officer Helmet:
In England, this helmet gained association with the New Model Army, one of the first professional militaries. In this army, it was worn by pikemen to protect unarmored musketeers as they stood and shot in a phalanx formation. It served as protection for the push of pike maneuvers which frequently had a high number of casualties. The morion was issued mainly to Cromwell’s troops, but cavaliers also wore it, which caused chaos on the battlefield in trying to identify fighting sides. As a result, allies being shot was not unheard of. For this reason, army uniforms were developed to help eliminate confusion. These uniforms began as colored sashes and later red coats were introduced.
Comb Morion Helmet:
After the middle of the 17th century, morion helmets went out of style. However their influence has seeped into modern times. For example, the morion may have been responsible for bringing about the Adrian helmet, which has a similar shape and a comb for reinforcement on the top. These helmets were worn by French and Italian troops during World War I. The comb morion, featuring a red crest, is a piece of the uniform for the Pope’s Swiss Guard and a Swiss guardsman wearing a morion is seen on the commemorative 2 Euro coin of the Vatican city. The morion can also be spotted on the seal of the city of Cupertino, California. These are only a few instances of the lasting legacy of the morion, but there are many more.
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