The medieval helmet which was known as the helm in medieval times has stood the test of time and has evolved throughout history. although, the materials used to make medieval helmets and designs have changed over time, the evolution of medieval helmets during the lengthy period of the Middle ages underwent these changes gradually and were needed to keep up with the the improvements made in medieval weaponry and fighting methods.
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Although the Spangenhelm and the nasal helmet were the only medieval helmets that were popular during this period, the latter began to lose popularity with the knights and royalty as newer medieval helmets with more protection began to emerge in the Late Middle Ages.
Before better medieval helmets were available, these helmets were used for almost seven centuries by soldiers of all ranks. The nasal helmets were called so because they protected the nose and were also referred to as the Norman Casque.
Being ‘open’ helmets, a number of disadvantages that came with closed helmets weren’t a problem while being easy to produce in large numbers due to its simple design. That said, since it protected the head only partially, these helmets put soldiers at a disadvantage and which ultimately led to development of closed helmets much later.
Among a host of helmets that were in use during this time, the early great helm was the first to replace the helmets in the Early Middle Ages after which a number of improvements were made in the form of the great helm (worn over a cervelliere), Templar’s helm, kettle hat and the horned helmet.
While a number of them were used by knights, as they offered greater protection, the kettle hat was primarily used by foot soldiers and infantry while the others were used by royalty and knights.
In line with developments with better weapons, a number of medieval helmets were developed during this time which offered better protection in comparison to those from the Late Middle Ages.
While both the knights and infantry used the bascinet (with and without a visor), sallet, close and frog-mouth helm, the armet, which was popular in Italy, was used exclusively by men-at-arms. The barbute, although simpler, was used widely by infantry.
An important feature of helmets during this period was the presence of crests on helmets that identified their ancestry and were considered rather fanciful in design. In some cases, simple feather plumes were used to denote the same.
Regardless, there was no one design throughout the Middle Ages considering how helmet styles evolved during those times. Yet it was clear that there were two distinct types of medieval helmets namely helms and helmets where the former were of the closed type while the other was open.
Prominent examples of these types of helmets included the nasal helmet and the great helm which were used for an extended period of time during the Middle Ages.
As mentioned earlier, a number of metals were used to create these of helms and helmets whether it was iron, steel and bronze among other types of metals. Since combat was prevalent during the Middle Ages, both the creation of weaponry and armory went hand in hand as the need for stronger weapons and armor became a pressing need with the passing of each century.
Simply put, dedicated blacksmiths and craftsmen were responsible for making swords, spear and shields but also armor such as helmets, chain mail as well as other parts of body armour too. It can be safely said that this need to make continual improvements to armour and medieval helmets turned out to be a race against the weapons makers which led to improvements that lasted for almost 10 centuries.
Among a number of medieval helmet designs, there were a few that lasted for a number of centuries. However the bascinet is considered the best of all not only sophisticated in terms of the technology used but also in the way it was used to as a piece of decorative armour as well.
It was for this reason that these helmets were used primarily by royalty and knights too. With the Spangenhelm, kettle hat and Barbute used extensively by infantry, a number of other helms and helmets that were used by soldiers in the higher ranks. Yet without a doubt, the great helm is still considered to be the best medieval helmet for war.
A number of medieval helms and helmets came with a lot of problems such as being too stuffy and heavy and having poor visibility. In some cases, it was difficult to breathe in them.
With every new helmet design, protection was sacrificed for less weight apart from addressing other aspects as mentioned above.
As for the worst helmet design, it was clear that the ones in the Early Middle Ages did not perform as they should have due to the lack of protection despite being lighter than the later helms and helmets that were designed.
For this reason, it would suffice to say that the nasal helmets and the Spangenhelm could be considered to be the least effective, if not the worst, of all helmet designs.
It goes without saying that medieval helmets were important for the simple reason that they protected the head from attack and which is why a number of models of these helmets evolved during the Middle Ages.
Consisting of both simple as well as complex models for both royalty and infantry, a number of these medieval helmets were designed specifically for the function that its wearer performed and their importance in rank. That said, and with the invention of gunpowder, helmets were rendered obsolete in future wars even if a variation of the kettle hat was still used up until as recently as World War II.
Yet even though combat headgear has changed drastically since then, there are a number of practical daily uses that meet the same purpose: to prevent injury to the head.