KNIGHT c.1250

An extract from Armies of Feudal Europe 1066-1300
by Ian Heath

10.      KNIGHT c.1250

This figure is based on Matthew Paris’ depiction of the mercenary commander Hugues de Boves at the Battle of Bouvines, from the ‘Historia Majora’ of c.1245-53. His equipment shows little real change from that of figures 6 and 7 except that the convex shield is smaller and the helmet has now developed into the all-enclosing barrel-helm, an evolution that was complete by about 1230. Usually called a heaume or casque, or in Germany a Topfhelm, this had a padded lining plus laces used to secure it under the chin. The weakest point of such helmets was clearly the eye-slit, called the ocularium, and this was consequently nearly always reinforced by a cruciform-shaped strengthener. Even so, various sources mention men being killed by a chance thrust entering the heaume through this opening (the Comte de Perche was killed in this way at the ‘Fair of Lincoln’ in 1217, for example). The other principal hazard was that the heaume might be knocked askew so that the wearers eyes were no longer in line with the eye-slits, in which case he was totally unable to see.

Detail 10a shows an iron skull-cap usually called a cervelličre, worn over the arming-cap but (usually) under the coif. Its date of introduction is uncertain since in illustrations it would obviously be concealed by a mail hood or helmet; in fact for the same reason it is not even known whether or nor a proper helmet was always worn with it. Its existence, however, could certainly explain why many knightly figures are shown in 13th century illustrations wearing a coif but no helmet. 10b is an arming cap of c.1230-40 from a statue on the west front of Wells Cathedral. This type was probably designed to help support the heaume, which implies that at this early date it may not have had the padded lining with which it was later normally fitted.


[Based on the Battle of Bouvines, 1214, in Chronica Majora by Matthew Paris, 1240–53]
[See a cervelličre on the Relief of the Betrayal and Arrest of Jesus, Amiens, France, 1264–88AD]



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