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Great bascinet

 

Height: 42.000 cm
Width: 22.200 cm

Gift of Henry Christy

M&ME OA 2190

Prehistory and Europe

    Great bascinet

    Medieval, around AD 1430-40
    Probably made in France; Found in Kordofan, Sudan

    European armour underwent important changes in the fourteenth century. Two of these, closely linked, were the change from mail to plate armour and the introduction of the 'glancing surface', smooth and sometimes pointed parts of plate armour intended to deflect the opponent's weapon away from vital parts of the body.

    Great bascinets like this were the first helmets to be worn with complete suits of plate armour, and were used in battle up until the last decades of the Hundred Years War (1337-1453) between England and France.

    They developed from the bascinet, a shorter, egg-shaped helmet, with the earlier mail protection for the throat and neck replaced with plates; the throat now being protected by an additional plate, while the back of the helmet's skull was extended to cover the neck. The face would have been protected by a detachable, rounded visor pierced with numerous holes for sight and ventilation. The visor is lost, but the helmet still retains the hinges at either side, to which it was once attached by pins.

    The thinness of the front plate can be explained by the fact that it would originally have been covered by the visor.

    This bascinet was found at Kordofan in Sudan, which may indicate a French origin. In the early 1450s, Jacques Coeur, silversmith to Charles VII of France (reigned 1422-61) and an important merchant, was tried for selling armour to the Khalif of Egypt (among other charges). It is possible that this bascinet may have been among the armour exported from France and thus found its way to the shores of the Nile.

    G.F. Laking, A record of European arms and, 7 vols. (London, G. Bell & Sons, 1920)

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