(About): A Fantastic Viking Spangenhelm Nasal Helmet, Made To Be Worn
The Vikings were the inheritors of Roman multiculturalism. No really – their arms and armor were directly inherited from the forms that North Germanic peoples took from their interaction with the Roman armies in Late Antiquity. Of all Medieval European martial cultures, the Vikings arguably were most visibly influenced by Rome, and they retained Late Roman arms and armor well into the High Medieval Era – melded with their own fighting tactics and social structures. The Viking spangenhelm helmet is the perfect example of this. Well into the 11th century, Vikings and related Norse peoples across Europe were still wearing this helmet type – but unbeknownst to them, it was a direct import from the Middle Eastern Roman armies of Late Antiquity.
Our Viking Spangenhelm is an authentic historical reproduction of a Viking Age nasal helmet made with spangenhelm construction. The legendary Danish LARP equipment makers Epic Armory have gone to the highest possible efforts to ensure that their Viking Spangenhelm is a flawless piece. They’re re-enactors and roleplayers themselves, so you know it’s been designed with wearability and ruggedness in mind. Our is the best Viking Spangenhelm for sale designed for all-day wear and excellent authentic aesthetics.
Rugged Steel Construction
The construction of our Viking Spangenhelm is a fantastic aesthetic reproduction of the traditional spangenhelm technique that was the most popular helmet configuration throughout the Early Middle Ages. The master armorers at Epic Armoury have created this look in the traditional manner. Our Viking Spangenhelm consists of a frame made from steel bands encircling the brim and crossing the dome. Where some historical spangenhelm have extremely slender bands (likely to conserve materials), ours has generous, chunky proportions that more closely align to the later Viking spangenhelm from the 11th-century CE. The banded frame is then filled in with segmented plates which have been hand-riveted to the steel frame. Epic Armoury have chosen 19-gauge (1mm) steel for this helmet: this is actually a highly authentic thickness for Viking spangenhelm helmets – for example, the plates in the the late 10th-century helmet discovered at Gjermundbu are exactly this thickness, although the reinforcing bands are a little thicker at around 20-gauge (1.2mm). This is perhaps thinner than most people would assume, but medieval armor was a constant trade-off between mobility and protection. If a helmet was too thin, it would buckle or split under the impact of a fierce blow, but if it was too heavy it would strain the wearer, exhausting them and making them sluggish in combat, maneuver or retreat. We know from the sagas that Viking warriors would often spend prolonged periods wearing their armor, and so it seems likely that Viking armorers erred on the side of making helmets lighter and more wearable, at the minor cost of some protection. Our Viking Spangenhelm is available either in shining polished steel or blackened galvanized steel – perfect for night raids, or for depicting an evil warrior…
An All-Round Defense
The brim of our Viking Spangenhelm features a projecting nose defense. This means that this helmet is also a nasal helm. One might think of this as the classic ‘Norman’ helmet, like the ones depicted in the Bayeux Tapestry – made after the coronation of the first Norman King of England William I the Conqueror, commemorating his victory over the Anglo-Saxon army at Hastings. The nasal helm was particularly popular in Viking Scandinavia, and the Danish settlers who carved out a Duchy in Normandy in the 10th century CE brought their nasal helmets with them – hence why the Normans (literally, ‘north-men’) became so strongly associated with it. The nasal guard is wide and a good length, coming down to the tip of the nose on most wearers. This is somewhat smaller than the historical originals, which were often substantial enough to obscure the identity of its wearer – famously, the future William the Conqueror of England had to remove his helmet and identify himself in the midst of battle in order to prevent panic that he had been killed. The size of our nasal guard means that it still offers an authentic look without being impractical or restrictive.
At the back of our Viking Spangenhelm is an aventail or camail. This was an alternative to a mail coif which would protect the back of the neck and shoulders. Where a mail coif was a standalone maille hood which would be worn over an arming-cap and under a helmet, an aventail was a curtain of maille attached to the helmet itself. This was done either by small metal rivets called vervelles, by a sewn-on leather strip, or by closing the maille rings through holes pierced into the rim of the helmet. Epic Armory have chosen the latter method – and we know that this technique of attaching an aventail was used in the period. For example, the Gjermundbu helmet has several of these piercings surviving around the rim; several of them even still have maille rings looped into them. The aventail in our Viking Spangenhelm is reasonably short, enough to protect the back of the neck and upper shoulders without being obstructive.
Attention to Detail for Comfort and Practicality
In the medieval era, soldiers would have had to have suspended their Viking spangenhelm helmets away from their heads, otherwise the force of a blow would be transmitted straight through the helmet into their skulls. They did this in many creative ways, with grass, straw, moss or cloth. Fortunately our Viking Spangenhelm doesn’t require that you scrabble around for some comfy moss before suiting up for roleplay or re-enactment (unless you’re really committed to authenticity, be our guest). It is suspended by a comfortable foam insert for all-day comfort. Epic Armory have chosen the best quality top-grain leather for their fittings, so they’ll last you for years with a bit of basic leather maintenance. Our Viking spangenhelm helmet is fitted with a secure top-grain leather chin strap.
Overall, our Viking Spangenhelm is a triumph. At a reasonable price-point, it does a sterling job of depicting an authentic Viking raider’s helmet, fit for storming the beaches and carrying away loot from a fat defenseless monastery… You could match it with your authentic Viking re-enactment – but it is also perfect for depicting a fantasy character, from a stout man-at-arms to a proud Norman-inspired knight.
(History): Stylish Spangenhelms
The spangenhelm was probably the most popular kind of helmet construction all across Europe from the end of the Roman Empire in the 6th century CE, until the beginning of the High Medieval Era in the 11th century or so. It was cheap to make and effective at stopping the spears, axes and swords of its era, hence its widespread use for the best part of half a millennium. But it was not a European design – its spread and adoption is intensely bound up with the fall of Rome, and its continuing popularity speaks to the fragmented economies of Dark Ages Europe and the lack of better alternatives.
What is a Spangenhelm?
The defining characteristic of a spangenhelm is the metal frame consisting of a headband at the brim, with two or more bands going from brim to peak to create a hollow frame. A smith would construct this frame from strips of hammered metal called spangen in Old German, hence we can translate it roughly to ‘strip-helmet’. The gaps in between the spangen were then filled in with a number of small hammered metal plates – these were usually simple iron for most of the Early Middle Ages, but handsome bronze examples do exist, as do very effective steel types emerging later in the period. Most spangenhelms feature four of these segments, but some feature six. Some are stark and functional, likely the helmets of warriors, but some are spectacular works of art which represent the pinnacle of opulence for chieftains or kings, featuring sumptuous engraving and relief work. A fine example of this latter category is the 6th– or 7th– century Trévoux Helmet at the Metropolitan Museum, New York – its engraved bronze framework is augmented by a jaw-dropping gilded frieze around the brim, featuring winding plants and birds. Such a weapon must have conveyed the status of the wearer like a modern Rolex watch can only dream of.
Where did the Spangenhelm Come From?
It seems that the spangenhelm was far from a European invention. Rather, it probably arose first amongst the Iranian peoples. These were not ‘people from Iran’ in the modern sense; rather these were Eurasian steppe peoples who inhabited the enormous wide belt of wild land that is now southern Russia, Ukraine and Central Asia. The Late Roman army was staffed in large part by people such as this, who were contracted as foederati (federated peoples) to manage the security of Roman border provinces. Gradually, the helmets of these peoples were adopted more widely, with groups of Iranian Scythians or Sarmatians deployed to Western or Northern Europe. Once there, local peoples purchased or adopted (or probably stole) these highly effective helmets. Thus, Viking spangenhelms travelled across the known world before they became the archetype of Viking helmet design.
Why Was the Spangenhelm So Popular?
We might ask – isn’t the spangenhelm a needlessly complicated method of helmet construction? There are plenty of examples of Roman galea (Gallic helmets) that are beaten into a dome shape from a single large piece of metal, and single-piece domed helmet design became dominant again in the High Middle Ages; why did this style fall out of use for several hundred years? The answer is, predictably, society. It is becoming widely known that the Dark Ages of Europe were not so ‘dark’, in the sense that everyone didn’t simply forget what bathing was and went back to living in mud huts immediately after the Romans left. Highly complex societies that producing stunning art objects clearly existed in the Dark Ages – but what did wither is the interconnectedness of European trade, and therefore the ability for concentrated clusters of highly specialist work to take place. Where before, labour took place within a vast pan-European trade network, now, projects had to be undertaken with whatever and whoever was available locally, with distant trade largely restricted to luxury goods for elites. We see this in the withering of large-scale stone construction (few large stone projects or cities date from the Dark Ages), and, critically, in metalwork. Roman metal production was undertaken on a near-industrial scale, and in the production of iron in particular, scale means higher quality and consistency. Where in the Roman period, an entire manorial estate of workers could work exclusively on large-scale bloomeries and send their metal across Europe, with the fragmentation of European trade, metal production had to be done by individual metalworkers with one or two apprentices working small-scale furnaces. This tendency was not helped by the lack of availability of high quality ore. Whilst iron is common in the earth’s crust, deposits that produced high-quality iron from smelting were comparatively few, and if you had wanted a Viking spangenhelm, chances were the metalworker would have to scavenge for ‘bog iron’, low-grade iron oxide deposits that form in marshy areas. Thus, the iron produced in Dark Ages Europe was of generally poorer-quality – and, critically, poorer quality iron can only be made into smaller sheets. Whilst we still see single-piece helmet construction during the Dark Ages, the spangenhelm became much more common since it required only four or six smaller plates, rather than one large one. As well, the creation of single-piece shaped helmets was an immensely skilled task, requiring a careful balance between work-hardening and annealing (heat treatment) – whereas a simple spangenhelm could be hammered out by any horseshoe farrier.
Thus the spangenhelm was the perfect helmet of its age: a perfect adaptation to the post-Roman landscape of Europe, where the highly regularised Roman economy was broken up into far less connected individual kingdoms. This would only really begin to subside with the stimulation of international trade caused by the Viking expansion – they were voracious traders, creating a thriving silver-bullion economy that extended all the way to the Islamic kingdoms in North Africa and the Eastern Mediterranean. Hence, by the High Middle Ages, serious economic specialisation and scales of production approaching those of Rome began to return – hence the re-emergence of skilled single-piece helmets. Voila!
Think about these pressures when designing your outfit to go with your Viking spangenhelm. Would your character have been noble enough to afford their own suit of chainmail? Or would their helmet have been the only armor they could afford, wearing only stout ordinary clothes into battle? When we consider the kind of world that medieval people lived within, it gives us fantastic opportunities for authenticity.
Material: 19-gauge (1mm) mild steel
Secondary material: Top-grain leather ; foam padding
Medium: Fits a 23 to 26 Inch Head Circumference
Large: Fits a 24 to 28 Inch Head Circumference