Headgear Fashioned for an Emperor

The impressive object that adorns the cover of the inaugural issue of Medieval World: Culture & Conflict is a combination sallet (for head) and bevor (for jaw and throat) created by the Augsburg armourer Lorenz Helmschmid (active 1467–1515) for emperor Maximilian I (r. 1486–1519). 

Fashioned out of steel, leather, copper alloy, and gold, the helmet is celebrated for its inventive design, mechanical features, and sumptuous details. Most notably, it consists of a bevor and a visor that pivot on the same point – an innovation for the time. 

The sophisticated design also consists of foliate and geometric decorations achieved through hammering and piercing, as well as gilding and etching around the edges. These elements add further detail, richness, and visual interest to this already impressive object.

Since 1898, Maximilian's helmet has been preserved in the Imperial Armoury Collection of the Kunsthistorisches Museum Vienna. Before that, the object was part of the collection of Ambras Castle, recorded in the archives as early as 1596.

This imperial headgear is one of the most technically innovative, elaborate, and useful pieces of armour from the late fifteenth century. On the cover of the magazine, this object highlights the advances in military armour, the wealth of the imperial courts, the extravagant desires of patrons, as well as the creativity and technical mastery of artists and artisans in the late Middle Ages.

The first issue of the magazine features the Holy Roman Empire during the fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries, fragmented yet culturally vibrant. Check out the following theme-related articles from this inaugural issue:

  • Duncan Hardy, "The Late Medieval Holy Roman Empire: Imperial Visions and Local Realities," 14-21.
  • Peter Konieczny, "The Last Knight: The Life and Legacy of Emperor Maximilian I," 22-25.
  • Alice Isabella Sullivan, "Imperial Splendour: Armour and Regalia of the Holy Roman Emperors," 26-27.
  • Albert Winkler, "The Battle of Dornach: Swiss Pike Put a Stop to the Swabian War," 28-37.
  • Stephen Lahey, "The Hussites: Warfare and Reform in Bohemia," 38-43.

We thank the Kunsthistorisches Museum Vienna for the generous permission to publish Maximilian's exquisite helmet on the cover of the first issue of Medieval World: Culture & Conflict

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