Great Helm based on Maciejowski Bible picture.
- 2mm (14g) mild steel
- brass decoration
- linen liner
- leather straps
The great helm or heaume, also called pot helm, bucket helm and barrel helm, of the High Middle Ages arose in the late twelfth century in the context of the crusades and remained in use until the fourteenth century. They were used by knights and heavy infantry in most European armies between about 1220 to 1540 AD, however they were used widely throughout Christian armies in the Third Crusade (1189?1192).
Great helms were worn with cloth and fiber padding on the inside, here shown removed from the helmet.
In its simplest form, the great helm was a flat-topped cylinder of steel that completely covered the head and had only very small openings for the eyes and mouth. Later designs gained more of a curved design, particularly on the top, to deflect or lessen the impact of blows.
The style is sometimes referred to as a 'crusader helmet', but also as a 'pot helm', and a later variant with a more conical top is known as a 'sugarloaf helm'. In Spanish they are called yelmo de Zaragoza, referring to Zaragoza where they were introduced for the first time in the Iberian peninsula.
Although the great helm offered vastly superior protection than previous helmets, such as the nasal helm and spangenhelm, it limited the wearer's peripheral vision, and in addition to being heavy, the mass-produced form (flat-topped without ventilation holes) provided little ventilation and could quickly overheat in hot weather. Knights often wore the close-fitting steel skull cap known as a cervelliere, or its later development the bascinet beneath the great helm, and would remove the great helm once close combat ensued. A great helm (especially smaller varieties lacking side and back head protection) may have also an attached mail collar, or camail, to protect the neck, throat, and shoulders. Varieties such as these were made obsolete as more intricate armour was designed, like the gorget.
The bascinet evolved from its early skull cap form to supersede the great helm for combat. The great helm fell into disuse during the 15th century, however it was used commonly in tournaments where a version of the great helm, the frog-mouthed tilting helm, evolved.
The Great Helm was often blackened, lacquered or painted, and frequently bore decorations such as:
Ventilation decoration (crosses and symbols)
Visor (horizontal and vertical "cross") decorations
Attached decorations, such as crowns, feathers, metal wings (found on helmets belonging to Teutonic Knights).