A History of Medieval Helmets

When it comes to your medieval hobbies and armor collection, historical accuracy is just as important as functionality. Check out this historical guide to medieval helmets from the costume experts at Armor Venue.

10th Century

One of the first helmet designs to come out of the medieval era was known as the Norman or “nasal” helmet. It was so named because it had a distinctive piece of metal attached to the forehead section that came down over the nose. While not completely effective, it did help decrease accidents during hand-to-hand combat. The top of the helmet was usually tapered to a point like a bullet. This design helped deflect downward blows and protect the head.

12th Century

In the 12th century, helmets became more cylindrical in nature and offered more protection for the face and neck. Holes were made in the front of the helm that allowed the wearer to see and breathe but the scope of these functions was still very limited. In the heat of battle, breathing was severely restricted and the holes for the eyes limited the field of view. The Great helm and Sugarloaf helm are classic examples of a 12th-century headpiece. The angular or conical top, similar to the Norman helmet, helped deflect blows.

14th Century

It wasn’t until the 14th century that moving parts were incorporated into the helmet design. A hinged visor allowed the wearer to lift the face plate of the helmet up, increasing visibility and ventilation when needed.

Late Middle Ages

The addition of movable parts to the basic helmet design allowed for more complexity in future models. The Bascinet, also known as the “pigface” helmet, was the first of a more ornate line of protective armor. Advanced smithing skills allowed the metal to be better shaped and fit the skull more securely. The visor was attached at pivot points on either side of the head and it was either pointed like a pig’s snout or caged. Crests and feathered plumes were often attached to the top of the helm. The complexity of the helm naturally made it more expensive and therefore it was a piece more commonly worn by royal knights at tourneys and ceremoniously by the nobility.

No matter what time period, medieval helmets are great additions to any collection and fun to wear to local events.

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