Cleandungeon.com -- Great Helm
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Great Helm (also known as a Heaume, Barrel Helm and Sugarloaf Helm)
Time Period: 12th-14th century
Location: Europe
Construction: Steel

The great helm is the stereotypical helm of knights and crusaders of the 12th century. It is cylindrical with a flat top and holes were cut for vision and breathing. The helmet weighed in excess of 12 pounds and its weight rested completely on the shoulders. Sometimes it was bolted down onto the breastplate or hauberk to prevent it from getting knocked off the wearer during a cavalry charge.

Head protection changed significantly between the 12th and 14th century. The greatest weakness in the original design was the inability to deflect a direct blow to the head. The great helm itself was modified from a flat top to a more cylindrical design that deflected blows more frequently. This is known as a sugarloaf helm, and the original design a barrel helm.

The peripherals associated with the great helm also changed. Under the helmet there was a cervelliere, which was either a padded arming cap or a steel cap that was a precursor to the basinet. The great helm's incredible weight and sensory deprivation made it a poor helmet for fighting on foot, so the cervelliere was eventually developed into the basinet. This allowed the wearer to discard the great helm once the battle was joined and visibility became more important than protection.

In the early 14th century, the basinet supplanted the great helm as the helmet of choice for both foot soldiers and cavalry. It was lighter and provided superior protection when worn with a visor.

Armor, CE 12th Century, CE 13th Century, CE 14th Century, Helmet, History, Medieval Europe


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Comment From: David --

I have a very old helmet. My guess it is pre 16th century. I have been looking like crazy on line to figure out exactly what it is. It is in fairly good shape. it has chain mail held together by leather. some of the leather is broken but all the steele plates are still there. could I send someone a couple of pictures of it and maybe get some info about it. Thanks, David

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