The Spangenhelm was a type of battlefield helmet that was fairly common in the early Middle Ages. It was a fairly rudimentary form of the helmet which was essentially constructed from different metals and was used mainly to protect the head from any injuries during fighting.
The name “Spangenhelm” is a German word which simply means a helmet made from metal strips. This refers to the overall structure of the helmet which was often held together using a metal skeleton joining different pieces of metal. Although the helmet originated before the Middle Ages, its battlefield use continued at least as long as the 13th century.
The earliest instance of the use of the spangenhelm, as recorded in history, is by the nomadic Iranian tribes such as Scythians and Sarmatians who came down from the Eurasian steppes during Late Antiquity. By the medieval times, the helmet had become a regular part of battlefield armies.
During this period, different variants of the spangenhelm came into use and the helmet underwent significant changes in its design. Helmets closely evolved from the original spangenhelm design continued to be used in medieval Europe all the way until the 13th century. There is historical evidence that at the time of the Norman Conquest of England in the 11th century, the use of spangenhelm was common among both the Normans and the Anglo-Saxons.
The original design of the spangenhelm typically included a framework of metal strips which was used to join together pieces of metal. This then resulted in a helmet which covered the head and culminated in a slightly high and conic end above the wearer’s head. Some variants of the helmet came with attached cheek flaps partially protecting the face, while others were used in conjunction with chainmail to add protection for the neck as well. The main metal used in the construction of the helmet’s head-piece was usually steel or bronze.
Spangenhelm Advantages and Disadvantages
One of the major advantages of a spangenhelm was that it was easy and relatively inexpensive to produce in the medieval ages. And it served as a sufficient protection during battlefield, at least protecting the head from any major injuries. However, a key disadvantage of this type of helmet was the fact that it comprised of a joined network of metal pieces which could prove weak against the blows of a heavy weapon.
So the main flaw of the spangenhelm was its disjointed construction which could leave the head vulnerable to heavier blows in a battle. It was precisely for this reason that when spangenhelm eventually came to be replaced, a simpler helmet took its place which was constructed in a single-piece design and had a sturdier structure.
Spangenhelm and Vikings
The Spangenhelm was widely used by the Vikings during their raids on different European regions at the beginning of the 9th century. The type of spangenhelm typically used by Vikings came with a noseguard and often had a single-piece construction, making it a useful part of battlefield armour.