The Journey of Medieval Helmets

When it comes to helmets, it is easy to assume that they are all the same.  However, this is simply not true.  One helmet is not always like another.  In highlighting the different types of medieval helmets, you will see further evidence of this laid out.

Medieval Helmets:

The Middle Ages brought about great innovation in helmets, shifting from the simple ones of ancient Rome and the Viking era.  Up until the medieval period, helmet design consisted of a few pieces of steel assembled together into a round or cone-like shape and were known as “spangenhelms”.  These helmets also featured nose protection and cheek guards, but were pretty standard and uniform across the board.

Great Helm:

Great Helm

As knights raced onto the scene in the Middle Ages, they brought about advancements in armor, as well as helmets.  One of the first helmet changes happened during the Crusades where they grew much bigger in size, covering the entire head.  These helmets were known as “great helms” and were barrel shaped with ventilation and openings for visibility.  In the 13th century, they were flat tops, but the 14th century brought about a more conical helmet shape.

In addition to the changing shape of the great helm, the 14th century took helmets to the next level by adding hinges to the section covering the face or sometimes doing away with it completely.  And thus came the basinet helmet, which covered the top and back of the head quite nicely.  On some versions of this helmet, the face was exposed, while other came complete with face protection that could be raised and lowered.  One of the variations was called a “pig-faced basinet” because the face covering looked similar to a pig snout or on occasion, a bird’s beak.

The basinet enjoyed a good ride through the majority of the 14th century, but helmets took another turn at the end of the period.  At this time, knightly fighting was shifting and dependency on gunpowder and longbows was becoming the norm.  To protect their heads, knights began to wear helmets called “sallets” with thick domes to protect the top of the head and back of the neck.  Less concern was paid to frontal face protection, as breathing and vision were more crucial in combat.

Medieval Burgonet:

Medieval Burgonet

As the Middle Ages came to a close, one last helmet was developed, the “burgonet”.  The style of this helmet was close-fitting with hinges that could be catered intricately to each facial structure.  Two types of burgonets were utilized-one for combat and another solely for tournaments.  When these helmets were first developed, they were worn with suits of armor.  And even after suits of armor exited, the burgonet lived on for military use.

And thus concludes the survey of medieval helmets.  It is interesting to see how similar this headgear appears, but also how different it can be, with each detail of it playing a part.  For our collection of medieval helmets, go to:

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