Great Helms

This page shows some of the results a quick browse through my personal archives and the internet came up with. The first part shows some existing examples dating from the 1250's to the 1320's. Then follow some examples from miniatures. And finally a few specific jousting helms dating from even later. The original focus of this quick throw together was the form and material of oculars on great helms, and more specifically on Manesse style helms. Modern reproductions seem to favor brass for these oculars. I wondered why...

The Dargen helm. The two helms in the line drawings seem to be very similar and that's because they ARE the same. The scans are from Nicolle's "Arms and Armour of the Crusading Era". He apparently confused two different sources for the same thing. Number 451 is a drawing of a mirror image. As you can see the helm has a flat top, riveted to the skull part. It has all steel added oculars without ornament (like fleur de lis shape or similar). I have found no immediate example of this helm in contemporary art. Now in Altes Zeughaus, Berlin.


This is one of the the Madeln helms (look further down for number 2). It should date from about the same time as the Dargen helm. The shape is similar, but the ocular design is quite different. No added ocular here. Now in Schweizerisches Landesmuseum, Zürich.


This helm is now probably in a private collection.

The seal of count Guy of Dampierre of Flanders. Dates from about 1275-1280ish. It shows this type of helm, or maybe even the style of the two next ones.

A supposedly shortened helm. I personally don't think it was. Now in the National Museum of Castle Saint Angelo in Rome. Look at the next one.

Very same appearance as the previous one. Possibly from the same workshop? This helmet was presented in an auction in Germany in 2002. Present location unknown. Probably in private collection?

Quite similar appearance as the previous ones. Only the top seems a different contruction. Again no added oculars. Now in the Statens Historiska Museum, Stockholm.

Another example of this type of helm, or what's left of it. From river Traun in Germany. It also seems to have a feature for crest attachment on the top. Maybe this one is rather of the same type as the Pembridge helm (see further down). Now in the Österreichisches Landesmuseum, Linz .


This is the second Madeln helm. A further development of the previous form. The crown is a bit more dome shaped and the top starts to taper more. Notice the appearance of the eye slits? They taper too! And they are only reinforced at the underside. Now in Kantonsmuseum Baselland, Liestal.


The seals of respectively John of Namur (circa 1300) and John of Brabant (circa 1290). They both wear similar helms as the Madeln2 type. Notice the antenna like crest on John of Brabant's helm!

And now for some examples from miniatures and other art :

A miniature from the Bibliothèque Nationale of France. Dating around 1275. Very interestingly and very rare : two types of helms are shown. Apparently oculars are present. None are brass.

A very well known miniature from the same library. Dated circa 1285. Here too aculars are present, but again no brass. This is most likely to be a Dargen type helm.





These are by far the most commenly depicted "Sugarloaf" type helms in miniatures. Dates of these examples range between 1295 and 1330. Most of them have oculars, with one central vertical ridge, apart from the rest, mostly with ornament (like fleur de lis). No clear distinction in material. Ocular and helmet are the same material, iron.

This one comes from an old book on armour, but I take it the artist followed the miniature it came from quite closely. Supposedly circa 1300.

From Norway, circa 1300. Not much detail, but quite cute. Brass helmets? I don't think so.

Another not-so-great in detail for the helm, but very nice detail for the coat of plates! Circa 1320.

And how would I possibly forget our own "Chest of Courtrai"? Defenitely around 1302.

On to the British Isles. Here's Roger de Trumpington. Circa 1300. Notice how his helm, upon which his head is resting, doesn't have a seperate top, apart from what can only be a fixation point for a crest?

Well, then look at this thing. The helm shown on the effigy of William de Staunton.

And this is a reconstruction of it. Nice!

Another proof for the Staunton model? I think it is. Circa 1290.

This picture made me decide to purchase my own sugarloaf helm, several years ago. Remove the horns and what do you get? Look at the point on top! This is actually the ONLY depiction I found of what might be a brass ocular. Circa 1330. I have sold this helmet in the mean time, for it not being historically correct enough.

These helms are the successors of the plain "sugarloaf" helm. It now features a moveable bevor. NO, it's not a visor! A small dished top seems to be standard. Circa 1320.

A line drawing from the Manesse codex, showing similar hinged bevors.

And almost the same from the Luttrell psalter. But here it is a hinged visor! Circa 1330.

And then some examples of helms for the tournament.

The Prankhe helm. Notice the reinforced cheek guard. Circa 1330? Now in Kunsthistorisches Museum, Wien


A very similar model as the Prankhe helm. In fact, it could very well be its twin brother. Notice the same reinforced cheek guard. From an auction in Germany.

The Pembridge helm. Circa 1370? Now in the Royal Scottish Museum, Edinburgh

A similar helm from Germany. Circa 1350.

Same in design, but very different in appearance. No, the oculars are not brass, they are painted. There is also some debate about the maille collar. Some think it was attached decades after the helm was used. Now in the Germanisches Nationalmuseum, Nürnberg.

An example in a miniature. Circa 1340.

The last one from Nicolle's book. Compare it with the next miniature. Now in the Schweizerisches Landesmuseum, Zürich

Now an important question. Is this the same as what is shown in the Manesse codex? These are no tournament helms, since they are used in real war in the miniature. It dates from about 1320 too.

These helms from the Manesse codex clearly have a flat top. It is my opinion that they are of the Madeln 1 type, or perhaps the Bolzano-Araneas type.

These are other helmet types shown in the Manesse codex on pages drawn at later years than the majority of the pages. Circa 1325? These helms are Madeln 2 style, with added oculars.

And this is a proposed reconstruction of it. Quite nice actually. Personally I wouldn't have used a brass ocular. The pictures from the Manesse clearly show oculars in the same colour, so in steel. And perhaps the crown should have tapered a bit more on the front.

Naar boven.
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