Crusader Helmet - Know the History of High Middle Ages Warfare!

Posted by cutlerywholesaler on 10/17/2019

Crusader helmet, as the name suggests, has to be the helmet worn by the crusaders. It is also known as the Great Helm. It was worn during the High Middle Ages by the warriors. 

Whenever we explore the history of warfare, the focus goes on to the use of ancient weapons such as swords, spears, arrows. Though medieval armor and helmets were not the weapons, they were still a necessary part of a warrior’s arsenal. 


Also, while exploring the history of the Middle Ages, we talk about crusades. Crusades is a series of wars  between Christians and Muslims to capture the holy sites. Those who took part in these wars were called the Crusaders and they worn these crusader helmets. 

In this article, we are focusing on this helmet from the Middle Ages warfare. We shall explore the benefits of this helmet and why crusaders preferred wearing this. Also, we will describe this helmet, including the history and the way it is being used today. Here we go! 


What is a Crusader Helmet?

Crusader helmet, as mentioned above, was a specific helmet worn by the crusading knights who were engaged in the crusades. The crusades lasted from the 11th century to the 15th century. 

During this period, the crusaders used plenty of different helmets. Also, those helmets evolved in their design and shape to a great extent. 


However, the most popular and widely used helmet among the crusaders was the Great Helm. 


Great Helm proved to be greatly advantageous for the crusading knights. But, it offered a few drawbacks as well. 

It was typically designed in a way that it ensured a maximum protection of the wearer. It was made of iron and was heavily built. However, at times, steel was also used for manufacturing it. 

In any case the weight of the helmet did not exceed 10 pounds. This weight is not very comfortable, but was alright for warriors since it ensured their protection. 


A crusader helmet was generally flat-topped and there were a few tiny slots for mouth and eyes. Ocularium was the word used to describe these eye slots. 

A few variations to the crusader helmet also came with a curved shape. There was a curve at the top to protect from the heavy blows because the flat topped design of the helmet was vulnerable to heavy blows. 

The crusader helmet was also quite susceptible to heat. It could heat up quite quickly under the sun. Hence, the later versions of this helmet were altered by adding a piece of cloth. It assisted in saving its exterior from the direct heat under the sun. 


History & Evolution of Crusader Helmet

The crusader helmet, in the simple shape, was a flat-topped steel-made cylinder. It covered the head of the warriors completely. However, there were a few openings for mouth and the eyes. 

The designs manufactured later on were a little more curved specifically on the top. It assisted in lessening and deflecting the influence of the blows. 

Since there were plenty of variations and designs of crusader helmet, it is necessary to reveal the most popular and best ones. 


It is agreed that the Great Helm was the most spectacular crusader helmet. 


However, Great helm actually was considered the evolution of nasal helmet. It was manufactured in a flat-topped shape. This shape or design gained the attention of the warriors and they stick upon using it during warfare. 

However, this design eventually evolved into an intermediate type helmet known as enclosed helmet, better known as the primitive great helm. It was established towards the end of the 12th century. 


In this type of helmet, an expansion of the nasal helmet led to a full face plate, pierced for breathing and seeing. This variation was superseded by the most popular crusader helmet, known as a great helm. 

Another design with a conical top was known as the sugarloaf helm. They were known as Zaragoza in the Spanish language. This name referred to Zaragoza where these helmets were used for the very first time in the Iberian peninsula. 

Great helm provided better protection than the previous versions of crusader helmets including spangenhelm and the nasal helm. 

But, the previous designs of this helmet did not offer such disadvantages. It restricted the peripheral vision of the wearer in an attempt to offer more protection. In addition, it was heavier and offered less ventilation compared to previous variations. Most importantly, it quickly overheated in hotter circumstances.

The crusaders used to wear a great helm over the hood which was also called mail coif. It was often worn along with a skull cap made of iron and called the cervelliere. 


The cervilliere was later adopted as a bascinet, and worn beneath a great helm. 


The crusaders tended to remove a great helm right after an initial clash for a better vision and freedom to move during melee combat. 

The bascinet often had a mail curtain incorporated into it and an aventail or camail superseded the coif. Neck and mail throat defenses were considered obsolete after the introduction of plate gorgets during the 14th century.


The basicnet actually evolved from the traditional skull cap and superseded a great helm for warfare. 


The crusader helmets were not commonly being used during the 1500s. But, it was frequently used in different tournaments win which a popular design of great helm evolved, named frog-mouthed helm. 

The crusader helmets, such as a great helm were often decorated differently. They were painted, blackened and lacquered. 

Other decorations included ventilation in which symbols and crosses were added on the helmets. Visor decorations were also done on the helmets which included vertical and horizontal crosses. 


Finally, they were decorated with crests, including wings, lions, fathers, crowns and similar drawings. 


Why Did Crusaders Wear Helmets?

Crusaders wore helmets like great helm for many reasons. By the middle of the 13th century, crusader helmet gained a widespread usage among the crusading knights. 

Though the helmet was pretty effective in preventing blows, it was quite necessary to wear it during warfare. Hence, they often took off the helmets after the early clash in the combat. They continued fighting with a skull cap made of iron and coif they wore under the helmets. 


During warfare, the bascinet eventually became more advantageous than the crusader helmet. This led to the downfall of this helmet leading to the 15th century. 

Though the downfall became, but the helmet was still being used in the knight tournaments. But, why did crusaders keep on using the crusader helmet? Sure, there were plenty of advantages!


Crusader helmet was constructed pretty solidly because the basic purpose of wearing this was to protect the wearer. 


In fact, it was a solid helmet which was quite useful in warding off blows directly on the warrior’s head. Furthermore, the overall structure of this helmet had quite a few openings of a very small size. 

The small slots made it pretty impossible for the enemies to piece through it. Through protection of the wearer against heavy blows and piercing, the crusader helmet proved effective in securing the wearer. 


So, these were the reasons, crusaders were always wearing these helmets during warfare. 


Discomfort of Crusader Helmet for Warriors

Though crusader helmet was highly advantageous in several ways, it was not always effective. There were quite a few disadvantages associated with it. 


The most significant disadvantage of this helmet was the severe weight of this helmet along with its strange design. 


The helmet had two small slots at the front. At times, these slots were too tiny that they blocked the peripheral vision of the crusaders. Hence, it was difficult for them to get a complete view of the battlefield. 

Due to solid construction and scarce opening, the crusader helmet was quite vulnerable to overheating. Under the sun, it tended to overheat quite quickly. 


Crusades were mostly battled in hotter circumstances, wearing this helmet caused a great discomfort for the wearers. 


In addition, it was pretty difficult for the warriors to communicate with each other when the helmets were worn. Yes, there was a tiny slot at the front, but it only served in breathing. 

The slots were only used for breathing but communication was not possible in the battlefield which was massive disadvantage and discomfort for the wearers. 


Uses of Crusader Helmet Today!

Today, crusader helmet is not used in warfare. In fact, the warriors stopped using towards the end of the 15th century. 

It was then being used as a helmet for knights tournaments and for practice. However, today it is just considered a collectible. 


Enthusiasts love to add these helmets into their collections. It is also used for live action role play.


Cosplayers often purchase these helmets to wear them and look like crusaders. They are worn as a part of their costumes. 

There is a massive selection of crusader helmets available in the market today. If you are interested in getting one of these in your collection, go, explore the market and find your desired designs!

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