Crusader helmet refers to the type of helmet that was popularly worn by the European knights during the medieval Crusades. The Crusades began in the 11th century and continued until the 15th century.
During this period, the helmets used by the crusading knights evolved significantly in their shape and design. However, the most popular helmet that was used by the crusaders throughout this period was called the great helm. The great helm offered many advantages to the crusaders but also came with numerous disadvantages.
Crusader Helmet Design
The Crusader helmet was typically designed for maximum protection. For this purpose, it was heavily built and made from iron, weighing as much as 10 pounds. The helmet was usually flat-topped and had tiny slots for the eyes and mouth. These eye slots were called occularium.
Some variations of the crusader helmet came with a curved design at the top so as to mitigate the possibility of receiving heavy blows to which the flat-topped version was susceptible. Since the crusader helmet could quick heat up when directly under the sun, later pieces of cloth were added to help save its exterior from the direct heat of the sun.
Crusader Helmet Usage
The crusader helmet evolved sometime at the beginning of the 13th century. By the mid-13th century, this type of helmet had gained widespread usage among European knights. Although the helmet was very effective in warding off blows, it was cumbersome to wear. So crusading knights often took off the helmet after the initial clash in the battles and continued fighting with the coif or the iron skull cap they wore under it.
In combat, bascinet eventually became more useful than the crusader helmet. And so, the crusader helmet fell into disuse towards the 15th century. However, it continued to be used in non-combat situations such as knight tournaments.
Crusader Helmet Advantages
The crusader helmet was solidly constructed with the primary purpose of physically protecting the wearer. So its solid construction was very effective in warding off any blows directly to the head of the wearer. Moreover, the overall structure of a crusader helmet had few openings of small size, making it virtually impossible for the enemy to piece through it. By guarding the wearer against both piercings and heavy blows, the crusader helmet effective rendered the head of the wearer completely secure.
Crusader Helmet Disadvantages
Although it was quite useful in many ways, the crusader helmet also came with many disadvantages. The primary among these was the sheer weight of the helmet and its design. Since it had two tiny eye-slots to the front, the peripheral vision of the wearer was blocked. As a result, knights were such helmets could not adequately view the battlefield.
Due to such scarce openings and the solid build, the crusader helmet was also prone to overheating quite quickly. This was particularly a problem since many crusade battles were fought in hotter climes. It was also hard for knights to communicate with each other while wearing the helmet given the tiny mouth slot which served only to aid in breathing.