The Basics Of The Bascinet: One Of The Greats Of Medieval Helmets

For knights of the Middle Ages, head gear was key

To deflect sharp weapons and to make arrows flee.

A blow to an unprotected head was all it took

To end a warrior’s fight without a second look.

Thus, many medieval helmets came and went,

Each with their own style until their time was spent.

The Great Helm, Barbuta, and Norman Nasal –these medieval helmets who could forget?

Still there’s another, which brings us to the topic of today, which is the Bascinet.

 

In the mid-fourteenth century, the bascinet became widespread,

One of the most popular medieval helmets to hit the head.

Emerging from a steel or iron type cap, it featured a more pointed apex at the skull

With downward extensions in the rear and sides to guard the neck, ensuring protection full.

Further enhancement came from a bottom helmet mail curtain called an “aventail”

Which offered valiant protection for the neck, the shoulders, and throat to great avail.

In addition, a visor was often put in place

To maximize security for the exposed face.

The bascinet was not initially worn on its own.

Being worn under or over a mail coif set the tone.

It was also accompanied by a padded arming cap

Making a knight’s head look swollen and unnaturally fat.

These medieval helmets had three common shapes before they reached their peak.

A round skull covering just below the ears was one of which to speak.

A conical apex reaching all the way to the base of the neck was another to mention.

And a tall conical skull with an elegant point, reaching below the ears, got attention.

By mid-fourteenth century, the tall form extended its protection to the neck base

With either a smooth skull or central ridge in front, running from the apex to the face.

From a single metal piece, these medieval helmets were typically raised

Sometimes another metal piece was added, which, which decorated and amazed.

As time passed, bascinets became more than just common head wear.

They became status symbols causing others to stop and stare.

Adorning the skull with an ornate band,

It displayed which rank and class one did stand.

 

The visor also underwent some changes over time.

It began as a triangle piece keeping the nose in line.

With hooks or studs, the nose guard attached to the head gear.

And the piece was padded, making comfort not a fear.

The “klappvisor” was the first piece to cover the whole face.

Made of oval, metal plates, two strong studs held it in place.

It was thus suspended by a single, vertical bar

With breathing holes and eye slits, though vision didn’t go far.

The next advancement was a removable visor,

Which offered convenience and this choice was wiser.

Due to the fact this piece had a protruding nose,

The name “Pig face” was given, as the story goes.

 

The bascinet remained prominent until the mid-fifteenth century where it began its decline.

They were replaced by the armet and sallet which were now the more common medieval helmets to find.

However, a cage-like visored bascinet stuck around for a substantial time more

Being used for foot combat in tournaments until the sixteenth century did soar.

 

Though the glory days of bascinets have come and gone,

The legacy of these medieval helmets lives on.

This head gear can be spotted on knights in media and art

Showcasing their effective design, which was indeed quite smart.

Credit: Lee Pugsley

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