Top 10 Beautiful Helmet Types Used by Fearless European Soldiers

Tags: #Medieval ,   #Knights ,   #History

Mark Kirchman

Mark Kirchman

Last updated:  2023-05-09 18:00:09

For centuries wars and battles decided the course of history. Soldiers are the ones risking their lives, but they're not going there naked and unprepared. One of the critical things that established a soldier was his armor and helmet. By analyzing those pieces of war equipment, we can learn a lot about the history and individuals who wore them! Here's the list of the top 10 types of helmets that marked the Medieval ages!

10. Mail Coif

One of the most common ways soldiers protected their heads!

This is one of the most used and (maybe) the easiest "helmets" to make! Even though it's not as we would automatically imagine it, it provides good protection nevertheless! It's made of chainmail, a net of small metal rings connected to behave like a cloth.

This one was widely used all over the Euro-Asian territories from the early historical periods to the late Medieval times. Moreover, it's excellent against cutting, but not against the hits. However, people could heal a broken bone better than a cut back then!

9. Spangenhelm

Early Medieval classic helmet!

Next on our list is the helmet with a German name, meaning strip-helmet. It refers to the strips that would keep four or six triangle-shaped plates together in a conical shape. This helmet was used in the Late Antiquity and Early Medieval times. However, it could be longer because it's easy to make. 

The nasal helmet could have been very similar to this one, with an additional piece covering the nose. All of these helmets were conical in shape. However, soldiers would always have protection between the head and the helmet - some thick hoodie. Today we can see examples of this type of helmet in museums worldwide!

8. Enclosed Helm

An excellent overview

We continue our story with an enclosed helmet covering the whole face and part of the neck. Importantly, soldiers used the helmet during the 12th century, but it fell out of fashion by the end of the 13th century. Still, it was one of the most common helmets worn by the Crusaders when the wars in the Holy Land started.

The soldiers had a padding hoody, the chainmail, and helmet enclosing all of it. Urban myths say helmets and the whole armor were impractical and not user-friendly. Still, so many reconstructions today prove them wrong! 

7. Kettle Helm

One of the most widespread helmets ever is easy to make

You'll find this type of helmet all around Europe because it's cheap and easy to make! Not rarely is it out of one piece of steel or iron. The infantry used to wear it, and it provided good protection against any blows from the above and the sun. However, it doesn't include face protection.

Sometimes scholars call it the cooking hat (because it reminds people of the cooking pots) or simply an iron hat. Moreover, like a good fashion piece, a kettle helmet also showed up in WWI as solid and cheap protection! Just like the chainmail, we can see this type of helmet all around museum exhibitions!

6. Great Helm

Nice tutorial if you're a blacksmith!

We must admit that we would be scared if a knight with a flat top cylinder helmet, with a tiny vision and breathing holes, showed in front of us. Above all, this type of helmet gives excellent protection, and for someone who lived in Medieval times, the tiny vision holes were enough!

We can find these helmets from the beginning of the 13th century and for the following 150 years. Like the other helmets, soldiers wore cloth padding under them, which was the "absorption" zone when hit. Today it's popular among reenactment groups, but that's no wonder when considering its greatness!

5. Bascinet

If you were a knight, you had to have one of these

Now we have a fine example of how fashion changed over the years in the helmet industry! A bascinet or bassinet is an open-face helmet with a pointed apex on the skull. This helmet would have a "cavail," a curtain made of chainmail protecting the neck and shoulders. We can usually find it stripped to the helmet. After a while, a metal plate replaced it as the fashion proceeded towards full-plate armors. 

Later, during the 14th century, blacksmiths would add a visor to provide face protection. One of the finest examples preserved today comes from the Palazzo Ducale in Venice. Blacksmiths made it from one massive metal plate, unlike most bascinets from the beginning of the 15th century.

4. Sallet

This gives you complete protection

We have a proper jousting helmet now! Scholars believe that the sallet helmet came from Italy and later became widespread. This helmet comes from bascinet helmets, but it's prolonged in the neck area and has more face protection. 

During the jousting festivals, almost every knight in the 15th century would wear this one. The ingenuity of this helmet is that when you joust, you would raise your head and protect your eyes in the moment of the impact. You only had to stay on course and keep the joust in its place!

3. Barbute

Classic 15th century helmet!

This helmet was also widespread, especially in Italy, during the 15th century. It's a helmet without a visor but with a typical "T" or "Y" shape opening for vision and breathing. If we look at the Corinthian helmet from the ancient Greek world, we'll see a lot of similarities.

Yet, we don't know why the Corinthian type and barbute helmet have so much resemblance. The peak of using those two helmets is 2000 years apart! Written sources mention barbute the first time in Italy, and we wonder if some blacksmith found the Corinthian one and thought maybe it's time to make them again.

2. Burgonet

Helmets can be a piece of art

Burgonet is also one of the successor helmets to sallet. We can connect this helmet to the Renaissance period and early-Modern times. The part covering the skull with a large fixed peak from the face opening is typical for the burgonet helmet.

One of the finest examples of this type of helmet is now exhibited in the Metropolitan Museum. Most likely, the King of France, Henry II (1547-1559), ordered the item designed by Rosso Fiorentino. Many kings and influential people would mandate some artist or a talented blacksmith to make a custom-designed helmet and armor. Sometimes it's gilded and has mythological scenes depicted on it.

1. Turban Helmet

Turban helmet
A fine example of a turban helmet! Photo: metmuseum

For the last type of Medieval helmet, we have a turban helmet which originates from the Turkish and predominantly Islamic world. As the shape and the name tell us, this helmet represents the form of a turban. It would usually cover the upper part of the head, with cut-ins for eyes. The lower part of the head and the neck would have chainmail.

We already wrote about the European medieval helmets that primarily Christian soldiers had. But we shouldn't forget the Islamic influence and presence in Europe, especially during the Ottoman Empire. However, the whole armor consists of similar parts, with an evident influence of their place of origin. One of the most admirable collections of this type of helmet is in the Metropolitan Museum in New York.

Nobody likes fighting and wars, but they're an inevitable part of human history. However, thanks to many battles, we have a whole new range of items we can research, such as weapons and armor in the first place. Helmets come into that category, and there are so many of them. Today we can say much more about some societies from analyzing their war equipment. Regardless of the violent side of the armors and helmets, some represent an actual piece of art worth seeing and researching.

Do you know some other types of helmets? Have you ever worn one?

Photo: NadineDoerle/Pixabay



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