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The Spangenhelm was the most common type of helmet in late antiquity and the early Middle Ages in Europe .

Spangenhelm von Baldenheim in the Musée archéologique de Strasbourg
Relief on the Traian's Column (around 110 AD): The helmets of these Sarmatian cataphracts (right) appear to be clasp helmets.

Spangenhelme consist of a metal forehead band on which 4-6 or more metal strips (clasps) are attached, which converge in a conical curvature in a skull plate, helmet tip or helmet spigot. Between the strips there are metal plates ( segments ), which can also be plated with silver or bronze sheet . The browband sometimes has arched brow cutouts or even a nose guard ( nasal ). Spangle helmets with nasals are sometimes referred to as nasal helmets , although strictly speaking one understands a different type of helmet. Buckle helmets are typically provided with cheek flaps and a neck guard made of chain mesh.


The Spangenhelm is probably an invention of the Sarmatians in the steppe of northern Iran . In the 1st and 2nd centuries AD, such helmets seem to have been widespread among these equestrian people. Sarmatian cataphracts with spangenhelm-like head protection are depicted on the Roman Trajan column . However, no finds of buckle helmets are known from these early centuries. From the Sarmatians who lived in southern Russia , the Ukraine and southeastern Europe , it probably first came to the Romans (and later also the Byzantines ), then to neighboring Germanic tribes. The Roman helmet that had been common up to that point was no longer used in the later 3rd century. While crested helmets were widespread in Europe in the 4th century, buckled helmets in particular took their place from the turn of the 5th century. In the 6th century AD, the Spangenhelm had spread among all Germanic peoples . It was also used by the Eastern Romans and the Iranian Sassanids and found its way to Central Asia in the opposite direction via the Turkic peoples ( Huns , Avars , Khazars , Pechenegs ) residing in the steppe .

The lamellar helmet appeared later than the Spangenhelm in the early Middle Ages of Europe . It is particularly widespread in the East and, under the influence of the Lombards, also appears in Italy. Another type of European helmet from the early Middle Ages are the Nordic comb helmets (also Vendel helmets or spectacle helmets), which appear from the 6th century and are only known from Scandinavia and England.

In the High Middle Ages , the Spangenhelm was increasingly replaced in Europe by helmets made from a single sheet of iron (see nasal helmet ). Nevertheless, spangenhelme can also be found in Central Europe up to the end of the High Middle Ages. In the Maciejowski Bible made around 1250 , for example, fighters with buckle helmets are depicted alongside those with typical high-medieval helmet shapes, such as pot helmets or iron hats .

The helmet type, referred to in heraldry as the Spangenhelm , is not identical to the historical Spangenhelm, but represents the piston tournament helmet that was common in the 15th and early 16th centuries .

Spangenhelme of the type Baldenheim

Two Baldenheim type helmets in the Kunsthistorisches Museum Vienna (St. Vid / Narona I, Steinbrunn)
Golden Spangenhelm from the grave of the Franconian Prince Arpvar (around 500 AD) in Krefeld-Gellep

Typical clasp helmets of the Baldenheim type (named after a place where they were found near Baldenheim ) consist of four or six gold-plated or silver-plated copper clasps, between which oval iron plates are riveted. The iron headband is covered with gold-plated copper sheet. The clasps show quite simple, geometric stamping patterns, the headband high-quality stamping patterns. The motifs shown are mostly Christian symbols, such as cross, fish, deer, eagle or vine leaves and birds picking grapes, as symbols of paradise.

A total of 40 such helmets have been found across Europe, dating from around 460 to the beginning of the 7th century. The oldest datable Spangenhelm of the Baldenheim type is from Validlingen and is likely to date between 450 and 480 AD.

The sometimes very great similarity between them suggests that they were made in Ostrogothic, Byzantine or Franconian workshops in the decades around 500 and were often passed on for a long time.

In Germany, this type of helmet was found in several princely graves during the migration period , for example in Planig , Gellep , Gammertingen , Stoß and Morken . Other well-known sites of this helmet type in Europe are St. Vid / Narona in Croatia, Steinbrunn in Austria, Dolnie Semerovce in Slovakia ( Levice district ), Chalon-sur-Saône in France and Giulianova (Montepagano) in Italy. Based on the distribution of the finds, one can conclude that the Goths in Italy and the Balkans, the Gepids in Hungary, the Burgundians on Lake Geneva, the Alemanni , Franks , Thuringians and Lombards in northern Italy used this type of helmet. A helmet comes from North Africa ( Libya ) and a fragmentary find is even known from Gotland .

While most of these helmets come from treasure, sacrifice and river finds, they are mainly known from grave finds from the Merovingian Empire. According to estimates, which assume that only a maximum of 1% of the particularly splendidly outstanding burials (for simple ones it should be only 1 per thousand) are known, the originally 29 known specimens are compared to around 3000 pieces that were once made.

Due to the splendid features, it is occasionally speculated that the Baldenheim Spangenhelmen were simply splendid helmets that were not primarily used for fighting. However, this is refuted by visible battle marks on several of these helmets. In 1962, a grave was uncovered on a burial ground a little south of the Roman fort Gelduba ( Krefeld-Gellep ), which, based on an inscription, could be assigned to a local Franconian prince named Arpvar . The grave was undamaged and richly furnished with personal and military additions, including a golden Byzantine-style buckled helmet. The find dates from around AD 500.

Other Spangenhelm types

The Spangenhelm (Nineveh III) from today's Iraq
The iron spangenhelm from Sinj

If the term Spangenhelm is used strictly, it is only understood to mean helmets whose structure actually (not only visually) consists of clasps that unite at the apex. Accordingly, in addition to the Baldenheim type helmets, only five other real helmets are known. Two of them come from Egypt, two from Croatia St. Vid / Narona and Sinj (Croatia) and one from Iraq ( Ninive III). With the exception of the Iraqi specimen, which also contains bronze, all of these helmets are pure iron helmets.

The two specimens found in Egypt and the one from St. Vid / Narona (V.) are very similar to one another and belong to the Deir el-Medina / Leiden type . One of the Egyptian helmets is kept in Leiden, the other (from Deir el-Medina) is in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo. In the iron spangle helmets of the Deir el-Medina / Leiden type, the cheek flaps and the neck protection, all of which are made of sheet iron, are attached to the calotte with iron hinges. The helmet shell itself is held together by four to six iron clasps with straight sides. The increased susceptibility of iron helmets to rust compared to bronze parts could explain the relative frequency of finding this type of helmet in the arid regions of North Africa compared to the more humid climates of Central Europe, where clasp helmets with bronze parts (Baldenheim type) dominate. However, the helmets of this type cannot be dated in any more detail. The iron spar helmet from Sinj (Croatia), which was found in a grave inside a Roman military fort in 1964 and is probably of late antique origin, is a single form . The helmet was only in fragments and has been partially reconstructed in the Archaeological Museum in Zagreb . It consists of a narrow, iron forehead band, four iron, narrow clasps, which only widen slightly towards the forehead ring, and the riveted iron interleaves that form the helmet shell. At the top at the intersection of the clasps there is an iron ornamental disc with a flat rivet or a broken ornamental structure in the middle. The cheek flaps and neck protection are missing. In the reconstruction, however, the helmet has hinged cheek flaps.

Clip-on lamellar helmets

Spangen lamellar helmet from the boy's grave under Cologne Cathedral

A special form are three so-called clasp lamellar helmets from Cologne (boys' grave under Cologne Cathedral ), Kerch (Ukraine) and Mezöband (Hungary). Comparable forms are also known from the North Caucasus . The Cologne helmet was made around 540 AD for a six-year-old boy and consists of 12 horn lamellas, which are held together by sewn copper clasps. Additional stability is provided by a horn circlet, which is covered with a gold-plated bronze circlet. The Kerch helmet is dated to shortly before AD 600.

Band helmets and band helmets

Replica of the band helmet from Narona in the Split Archaeological Museum

Externally similar helmets, the structure of which is characterized by at least one closed crown band, are strictly speaking not referred to as clasp helmets, but rather as band helmets (two crossed iron bands) or band helmets (one iron band and two clasps). All of these helmets are made of iron. Band helmets are only known from St. Vid / Narona (Croatia), Bretzenheim (Mainz) and Schumen , band helmets are known in five specimens from Iranian-Iraqi sites (type Amlash) and a single specimen from Trivières (Belgium). Of all these helmets, only the helmets from Bretzenheim (around 500 AD), St. Vid / Narona (like Spangenhelme of the Baldenheim type) and those of the Amlash type (late 6th to early 7th century AD) are known. BC) can be dated more precisely.

Band helmets of this type (St. Vid / Narona) are sometimes also dated to the 10th century. Various illustrations in the Leiden Maccabees Codex from the early 10th century, for example, show warriors who are depicted with very similar helmets.


  • Ulrich Sieblis: The gilded Spangenhelm von Stössen, Kr. Hohenmölsen. In: Astrid Pasch: Reconstruction of a sheet gold disc fibula and investigations into the production techniques (= restoration and museum technology. Vol. 6, ISSN  0232-2609 ). Museum for Ur- u. Early history of Thuringia, Weimar 1985.
  • Frauke Stein : The Spangenhelme from Pfeffingen and Gammertingen - considerations for determining their production space . Acta Praehistorica et Archaeologica 35, 2003, pp. 41–61, 14 fig.
  • Mahand Vogt: Spangenhelme. Baldenheim and related types (= catalogs of prehistoric antiquities. Vol. 39). Römisch-Germanisches Zentralmuseum et al., Mainz et al. 2006, ISBN 3-88467-100-6 (At the same time: Munich, Univ., Diss., 2000).

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Heiko Steuer: Helmet and ring sword. Splendid armament and insignia of rank Germanic warriors. In: Studies on Saxony Research. Vol. 6, 1987, ISSN  0933-4734 = publications of the prehistoric collections of the State Museum in Hanover. Vol. 34, pp. 190-236, PDF, 7 MB .
  2. David Nicolle: Carolingian Cavalryman AD 768-987. Osprey, Paperback; March 2005; 64 pages; ISBN 9781841766454

Web links

Commons : Spangenhelm  - album with pictures, videos and audio files