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Helmet from a boat grave in Uppland

The Vendelhelm or eyeglass helmet , even Nordic comb helmet called, is a helmet shape of Vendelzeit (550 to 800 n. Chr.). The spectacle helmet appears after the Spangenhelmen and was common in Scandinavia and the British Isles during the Vendel era . The Gjermundbu helmet from Buskerud in Norway is known from around the year 900, i.e. the actual Viking Age .


The basic structure of the spectacle helmet consists of three iron bands riveted together, each of which forms a headband, a crown band and a band from ear to ear. A face mask and sometimes cheek flaps as well as a neck or neck shield made of chain mesh or sheet iron are attached to it. The spaces between the iron bands are filled with iron plates. The helmets are studded with a comb and characteristic eyebrow fittings, each ending in animal heads. The entire surface of the helmet is also covered with sheet metal or bronze and is often decorated. The much younger Gjermundbu helmet sometimes differs greatly from this typical design.

Finds and distribution

In total, over 30 of these helmets were found in Scandinavia and England. The best preserved spectacle helmets come from the rich boat graves of Valsgärde , Vendel and the royal necropolis of Uppsala in Uppland . Less well-preserved such helmets are known from cremation graves on Gotland and other parts of Scandinavia.

In addition to some fragments, there are three well-preserved specimens from England , which do not have the typical eye glasses, but correspond in their basic construction to the Nordic comb helmets. The oldest, the helmet of Sutton Hoo , comes from the grave of Sutton Hoo , which is attributed to King Rædwald († around 625). However, the helmet could also be significantly older and is said to date from the early 6th century or around 500. The other two are composed York native Coppergate Helmet and benty grange helmet from Derbyshire , which is adorned by a Eberfigur at the crest. Such boar helmets are also mentioned in the Beowulf .

Due to similarities in construction, it is assumed that the helmet type can be derived from Roman imperial guard helmets ( late antique comb helmets ) from around AD 400. Only the three helmets from England can be put into a Christian context, for example the one from Benty Grange's grave has a silver cross on its nose plate. All others are associated with pagan symbols.


Horned helmet

Leif Eriksson with a horned Viking helmet (drawing from a book from 1908)

The glasses helmet is commonly referred to as a Viking helmet.

The once popular image of the Viking with a horned helmet is not historical, but a modern legend. It goes back to Richard Wagner , who put them on their helmets because of the beautiful stage effect. In his " The Ring of the Nibelung ", especially with the Valkyries , his horned helmet appeared for the first time. A helmet with horns, however, could not fulfill its primary protective function, since it would deflect the opponent's sword strike towards the head instead of away from the head.

The few finds of horned helmets and statuettes with horned helmets from the Nordic Bronze Age show that they were more of a ritualistic object. Horn helmets have already been handed down figuratively for the seafaring Schardana . In contrast to the other Sea Peoples , the Shardana have been attested by written sources since the 18th Egyptian dynasty , i.e. before the so-called Sea Peoples storm around 1200 BC. Bronze Age statuettes with corresponding horned helmets were found in Sardinia and Cyprus . However, these finds have nothing to do with the Viking Age, which lies between 800 and 1050 AD, around two millennia later.


  • 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 .

Web links

Commons : Nordic Comb helmet  - album with pictures, videos and audio files