Medieval Helms – Headgear Could Mean the Difference Between Life and Death
Medieval helms could be made of metal or even leather. It’s a simple fact keeping one’s head in battle can mean the difference between success and failure. Taking this to a literal extreme, medieval helmets were designed to help combatants do just that.
Considering a single well-aimed arrow could kill a man if it penetrated softer parts of the head, the need for medieval head guards was evident. The types and styles of helms vary from place to place, but the basic purpose of each is simple – to protect from any devastating blows that might come in a man’s direction.
The choice between a leather helm and a steel helm was a no brainer with the metal helm preferred, but leather was often all a man could afford. Even so, a good leather medieval helm was better than nothing.
Medieval helms made from good steel or iron were hard to come by for the average man. The cost of iron was high and for steel it could be out of reach entirely for anyone less than the wealthiest of nobles. Even so, medieval helms made of metals took on many forms.
For those who could not afford full-head protection, there were partial medieval helms that would protect the top of the skull and the back of the head. When used in combination with chain mail sheeting over the head, these could be quite effective. Examples of these include the Spanish medieval helms and common crusader helms. While these medieval helmets did not protect the face, they did lessen the exposed area during hand-to-hand combat.
Those who could afford full head and full-face protection were sure to do so. Inasmuch, there are a variety of different styles of full medieval helms. It was a simple fact then as it is now, the less area exposed as a target, the better. Thus, full medieval head guards were highly desired even if they were difficult to obtain and afford.
The close helmet and the Burgonet Helm with buffe are two types of medieval helms commonly associated today with the knight class. These consisted of full helmets with eye slits and a moveable mouth/face guard that lifted up when a fighter wasn’t fighting. These medieval head guards provided the advantage of full head protection, leaving but the barest of slits for an arrow or sword to pierce the eyes, but they did not come without a price. The cost of these medieval helms for the wearer not only came in money, but in precious visibility.
The great crusader helm is another example of a full medieval helmet. This, too, cost a price in visibility, but is somewhat less elaborate than the other models. It simply looks like an upside down garbage can made of metal. A visor is included to give the wearer sight, but peripheral vision was greatly hampered by this medieval helm monstrosity.
Despite the shortcomings, medieval helms were necessary evils. This is especially true when it’s considered the greatest of warriors could be brought to a quick end by a single blow to the back of the head or a well placed arrow to the eye and is often thought to be the case in King Harold’s demise during the battle of Hastings.