//“Frankish” helmets vs. Artistic license

“Frankish” helmets vs. Artistic license

"Frankish" helmets vs. Artistic license  Hello all the people intoxicated by aroma of history and faint smell of reenactment!

I would like to start with the repeating of description of difference between “reenactment” and “reconstruction”. There is a difference in lead-up. Wikipedia says: Historical reenactment (or re-enactment) is an educational or entertainment activity in which people follow a plan to recreate aspects of a historical event or period. This may be as narrow as a specific moment from a battle, such as the reenactment of Pickett’s Charge presented during the Great Reunion of 1913, or as broad as an entire period, such as Regency reenactment.

Maybe I am wrong but what I have seen many times and still see often – that reenactors may just “have a general look” of a person from the epoch. From a distance of 10 meters (and even 5) such outfit may look satisfactory for lowbrow taste despite of that the costume may be taken from a theater props. With a factory-made braids or galoons and other elements simply bought at the tailor’s shop. Same story about the armouring and etc.

The term “reconstruction” implies re-building the artefacts, re-constructing them using the systemic knowledge and remnants found by archeologists. In fact the synonym used sometimes in Russia is “experimental archeology” and means nearly same as “living history” but more focused on museum items, original finds, academic sources where the possibilities of interpreting are strongly limited.

This was a short foreword which says that original finds and systemic knowledge play the main role in re-creating “thingish” history. Various finds (artefacts) give us examples how the things were developing during centuries and epochs while the systemic knowledge ensure us from making silly conclusions caused by the lack of facts, finds, analogues or the tunnel vision.

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Many of my friends would like to get the simple and clear answers – what were the Viking helmets or as here the Frankish helmets. Also would be nice to have a choice, several helmets in assortment, he-he. And this is a great success that we have pictural sources from the Epoch of Frankish State. Vikings have much much less of them and they are absolutelly not so beautifully detailed. Please look at this pair of illustrations taken of the First Bible of Charles the Bald, Vivian Bible, 845 AD.

"Frankish" helmets vs. Artistic license       "Frankish" helmets vs. Artistic license

Splendid drawings! Wonderful helmets that seem to be very protective aspecially against raining. And decorated in such a special, original way that anyone may say directly – this is something French, at least Frankish! And thanks to the efforts of some creative armourers of modern times we can pleasure such a helmets.

What does the systemic knowledge tell us? That no any thing appears suddenly from nowhere. Every helmet is the result of developing of the long line of similar examples. Do we know anything like the picture 1 before? Emmmm… I am not sure. So we know any helmet looking like the kettle at the second photo? Surely we do but they belonged to the antiquity (for instance some types of brimmed helmets of VII-I centuries B.C.). And they appear again in the war equpment only in XIII century under the names of eisenhut, chapel de fer, capellina. But in VIII-IX A.D.? Hm… Archeology and Source studies do not give us such material.

"Frankish" helmets vs. Artistic license         "Frankish" helmets vs. Artistic license

"Frankish" helmets vs. Artistic license       "Frankish" helmets vs. Artistic license

I must say that the literalness is a big sin in this case. This reminds me an anekdote when a lad tryed to have sex with a fence because of the graffity “c..nt” on it. Look at the sculptures below.

The problem is that the most European illuminated books are liturgical – this means that drawings were regulated by the church kanon. They mostly tell us the Bible stories and describe lives of saint guys. The dangerous thing ambushing the reenactors is that these books didn’t 100% mirror the simultaneous reality – they usually were copied from earlier sources. Dosens of industrious monks in 8th-9th century were sitting in roomles cells copying the Bibles from same Bibles of 5th century. Which were maybe same way copied from Bubles of 3rd century. And all they were depicting the realms of Jesus times – so the warriors depicted there were Romans! Those who crucified Jesus.

"Frankish" helmets vs. Artistic license     "Frankish" helmets vs. Artistic license
1. A Parthian Soldier circa 2nd c. BC.;   2. Praetorians of Augustus, 1st century AD.

These books were copied not only close to the Christianity’s places of origin (Mideast countries, Italia, Byzantium), they were also re-published manually in European monasteries. And the futher away the more schematic (poetic, abstract, estimated) the elements of equipment became. Sure, after all the detailed illustrating of armour was not the main aim for the artists. But watch how the helmets and the plumes have changed during centuries.

"Frankish" helmets vs. Artistic license      "Frankish" helmets vs. Artistic license
3. Fresco of an ancient Macedonian soldier (thorakitai), II century BC.;     4. Roman Virgil, Vatican, MS Vat. lat. 3867, fol. 74v, 5th century.

"Frankish" helmets vs. Artistic license5. The Rabbula Gospels folio 4r, detail with Joshua, Syria, 6th Century.

"Frankish" helmets vs. Artistic license       "Frankish" helmets vs. Artistic license
6. Prudentius’ Psychomachia ‘Conflict Of The Soul’ BnF Ms. Latin 8085, France (Reims), 870-899 AD.

"Frankish" helmets vs. Artistic license         "Frankish" helmets vs. Artistic license
7. Prudentius’ Psychomachia ‘Conflict Of The Soul’ BnF Ms. Latin 8085, France (Reims), 870-899 AD.

"Frankish" helmets vs. Artistic license
8. Prudentius’ Psychomachia ‘Conflict Of The Soul’ BnF Ms. Latin 8085, France (Reims), 870-899 AD.

"Frankish" helmets vs. Artistic license        "Frankish" helmets vs. Artistic license
9. Leyden, Universitatsbibliothek, Cod. Burmanni Q 3, 9th century.

   "Frankish" helmets vs. Artistic license      "Frankish" helmets vs. Artistic license
10. Brussels, KBR, Ms. 9987-91, c. 890 AD. Northern France, Abbey of Saint-Amand.

 

First of all, you can see it from space that at least these 3 different manuscripts had one common source, right? Sure, because Prudentius were copied from the manuscript of 5th century. Next please pay attention to these drawings originated from V-IV century BC to II-V century AD.

"Frankish" helmets vs. Artistic licensef

 

And look at these original helmets – they all have that characteristical triangled forehead.

"Frankish" helmets vs. Artistic license

 

I am not a specialist and maybe I am simply not aware of some kind of helmet. But it seems to me that this is not a brimmed kettle cap worn by soldiers in Holy Books – this is a artistical mixture, a try to make a reference to some ancient times and the Roman neck protection has been mixed with some characteristical Greek helmets’ features. Pardon my English, it’s obviously too poor to talk on complicated topics.

"Frankish" helmets vs. Artistic license

 

The page FRANKHELM will also tell us a story of the bad attempt to hold off the reconstruction of the unexisting helmet. The author of the page began from a healthy claims same as you may read here above, but… The will to build something was too strong. As they say “strated to pray for health and finished for the repose”… Could better build a dog kennel. But let’s turn back from lyric to facts.

Sometimes the ridge/crest /plume turns into a toying plumelet. And the helmets themselves look like later kabasset/morion helmets. Sometimes I think that I can’t exclude the possibility of an admiring process taking place – once the reality was mirrored distorted in art and then several centuries later this art gave somebody a fresh though: “Hm, these old helmets from manuscripts… they look like a brimmed kettles… let’s try this form!”… Something like… we have built the space ships because we gazed at the stars.

"Frankish" helmets vs. Artistic license     "Frankish" helmets vs. Artistic license
11. Bern, Burgerbibliothek, Cod. 264, Lake Constance, c.900AD.

 

Going futher and futher we meet more and more illogical constructions on warriors’ heads. Plumelets turn into pigtails, brims turn into some strange twiglets.  Sometimes helmets even look like turbans…

"Frankish" helmets vs. Artistic license      "Frankish" helmets vs. Artistic license
12. Manuscript – KBR Ms. 10066-77 Miscellany, Abbey of St Remaclus, Stavelot, Belgium, 900-1000 AD.

 

…sometimes helmets look like upside down fannies with tassels, excuse me for being so direct.
I will not criticise the whole outfit, I am not a specialist in Frankish equpment. But… pteruges?!

"Frankish" helmets vs. Artistic license13. Prudentius’ Psychomachia ‘Conflict Of The Soul’ Lyon,
Bibliotheque du Palais des Arts, Ms. 22, 11th century.

 

And finally the similarity between Roman helmets and their depictions vanishes at all…

"Frankish" helmets vs. Artistic license14. Harley Psalter, f 72, 2nd quarter, 11th cent.

 

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Interesting thing… There are also many helmets without any crests.

"Frankish" helmets vs. Artistic license       "Frankish" helmets vs. Artistic license
15. Bern, Burgerbibliothek, Cod. 264, Lake Constance, c.900 AD.

        "Frankish" helmets vs. Artistic license       "Frankish" helmets vs. Artistic license
16. Prudentius’ Psychomachia ‘Conflict Of The Soul’ BnF Ms. Latin 8085, France (Reims), 870-899 AD.

"Frankish" helmets vs. Artistic license17. Golden Psalter of St. Gall (Psalterium Aureum, Cod. Sang. 22), 9th century AD.

"Frankish" helmets vs. Artistic license    "Frankish" helmets vs. Artistic license
18. Brussels, KBR, Ms. 9987-91, c. 890 AD. Northern France, Abbey of Saint-Amand.

 

In 12th-13th century they still depict the soldiers in a kind of same “artistically re-defined” pro-Roman helmets. Maybe exactly these pictures became the inspiration for armoures who were looking for new engineering solutions and forms?!

"Frankish" helmets vs. Artistic license21. San Marco Cathedral, Venice, XII-XIII century.

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But what could become a result of this essay? Any advice for reenactors of Frankish empire of VIII-IX century – what helmet they could use? Hm… I have the group of miniatures which for my taste are not stupidly copied from Roman/Byzantine origins. Some guys wear konical or sphere-conical  helmets with protective aventails and (?) mail coifs. Some – spherical. But they all have a central band.

"Frankish" helmets vs. Artistic license       "Frankish" helmets vs. Artistic license
22. MS CLXV, Biblioteca Capitolare, Vercelli, a compendium of canon law produced in northern Italy c.825 AD.

"Frankish" helmets vs. Artistic license       "Frankish" helmets vs. Artistic license
23. Sacra Parallela by Saint John of Damascus, Byzantine, 9th century.

"Frankish" helmets vs. Artistic license25. XI century copy of the Encyclopedia of Maurus Hrabanus Also known as De Universo or De rerum naturis.

 

Generally the helmets on pictures 22 and 23 look like some segmental “norman” conical helmets. The reconstruction may be seen HERE and HERE. With attached aventails (pic.23, right) they finally do not remind Roman helmets at all.

"Frankish" helmets vs. Artistic license    "Frankish" helmets vs. Artistic license     "Frankish" helmets vs. Artistic license

 

With the helmets that have spheric shape we may also try to find some analogues. Just hold in mind that these Stuttgard Psalter illustrations are also copied from Roman/Byzantine sources but… main thing in this game is to hold the archeological finds and reconcile the fantasy with reality, he-he.

"Frankish" helmets vs. Artistic license      "Frankish" helmets vs. Artistic license
19. WLB Cod.bibl.fol.23 Stuttgart Psalter, 801-850 AD.

"Frankish" helmets vs. Artistic license       "Frankish" helmets vs. Artistic license
20. WLB Cod.bibl.fol.23 Stuttgart Psalter, 801-850 AD.

"Frankish" helmets vs. Artistic license
24. Sacramentarium Fuldense Saeculi X Cod. Theol. 231, 10th century.

"Frankish" helmets vs. Artistic license26. Ivory Situlae (Holy water basin), Lotharingia, after 1000 AD.

 

Because of lack of the archeological finds we only may suggest… and propose. Such a simple “iron cap” looks very similar to the last ivory basin of 11th century same as it looks like pictures of 9th century, right? Also what I can imagine is a famous Gjermundby helmet… without it’s mask. Many say that Gejermunby is a remake or a local version of Late Roman helmet – why not for its part? Just look at it from this upper point and compare.

"Frankish" helmets vs. Artistic license      "Frankish" helmets vs. Artistic license
Some helmet of “Bremen style” from an auction, 8th-9th AD.             Gjermundby helmet, view from above, Norway. 10th century.

 

Same version may become the really existing helmet from Broa (reconstructed). The presence of a nosal or mask is not neccessary, most important is the tradition of constructure – bandhelm.

"Frankish" helmets vs. Artistic license  "Frankish" helmets vs. Artistic license   "Frankish" helmets vs. Artistic license

 

Not sure if we can regard 2 spiked helmets as Frankish – they both seem to be dated by 6th century. Found in Groningen and Brema respectively.

"Frankish" helmets vs. Artistic license

 

Same with the spangenhelmets – they are mainly from 5th-7th centuries and their use in 8th-9th is a thing to be prooved.

"Frankish" helmets vs. Artistic license

 

And the last theory. To be honest, all those illustrations are looking more as this wondering find from “Verden an der Aller”. The helmet strongly appeal to the Tibetian / Chinese helmets. But maybe it appeared in Europe together with some Eastern migrating nation? Avars… ??? etc.

"Frankish" helmets vs. Artistic license

To my taste reconstructing such helmet as Frankish is more sensible than inventing fantasy pots. At least we have a find and a remarkable similarity with illustrations.

 

P.S.  Just a note how funny a revival may be. The helmet of Greek general Theodoros Kolokotronis, 19th century and the reproduction of Joshua Roll, dating by 10th century, copied from the source of 5th century that was copied from source of 3th century.

"Frankish" helmets vs. Artistic license   "Frankish" helmets vs. Artistic license

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THE END

 

November 22 2019|Column|