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Jona Lammert

Joined: 29 Jun 2015

Posts: 3

PostPosted: Mon 29 Jun, 2015 5:42 pm    Post subject: ''Iconic" Teutonic order helmet (crest)         Reply with quote

Hi, first of all I would like to thank myArmoury for helping me out in the past. I have always found the answers I needed in this forum whenever all my other sources failed. Today I finally joined the forum because I need help once more. Hope I can repay the favor by helping others in the future.

Now on to my question,

Recently I´ve come across some Teutonic order helmets. I know these are Teutonic because movies and video games love to put them onto their iconic Teutonic order knight. But when I started looking for sources I couldn´t find any pictures nor effigies that resembled the exact same helmet crest. I hope someone can tell me if this crest has a good authentic source. Then the question remains what material is the crest made of and was it detachable.

A friend of mine sent me the 2 other pictures, they come close to what I´m looking for but not quite yet. And If these are the only sources I don't understand why it is so widely accepted as being a Teutonic helmet. There must be something I'm missing. Maybe someone knows a direct source or maybe you can point me in the right direction by naming a Teutonic order manuscript. Any help is welcome.

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this one comes close but it would make all the pictures and replica's look bad if this was their source

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Modern replica, many of these are made or depicted just google "Teutonic order helmet" and you will know why.
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Gregory J. Liebau

Location: Dinuba, CA
Joined: 27 Nov 2004

Posts: 669

PostPosted: Mon 29 Jun, 2015 6:47 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

What does the helmet crest that you're referring to look like exactly? It's important to recall that just because something is common in modern fiction does not mean it actually has an historical origin - oftentimes films and video games simply copy each other, without ever considering the original source material. Many inaccuracies become common because of such recycling, and even if someone knows better and is in a position to do something about it, for the sake and convenience of the masses it may be appropriate to continue perpetuating falsehoods!

In fact few Teutonic knights would have worn crests at all, as there were very particular rules against brothers of the military orders arming themselves flamboyantly. Crests or any sort and surcoats depicting personal heraldry were typically forbidden to all but the most elite members of the order (i.e. whose social influence put them above such pedantry).

There are the exact rules of the order, c. 1264 (right around the time when crested helms begin to become common on battlefields). Here is the portion regarding clothing:

"The brethren of this order are allowed to wear and use linen for undershirts, for drawers and hose, for sheets and for bed covers, and for other things, when suitable. Outer garments shall be of sober hue. The brother knights shall wear white mantles as a sign of knighthood, but their other garments shall not differ from those of the other brethren. We decree that each brother wear a black cross on mantle, cappen and armor surcoats to show outwardly that he is a special member of this Order. Furs, pelisses, and coverlets shall be of no material other than sheep or goat skins, yet goat shall be given to no one, unless he asks for it. The brethren shall have shoes without laces, or buckles, or rings. Likewise, those in charge of clothing or footwear shall take pains to supply the brethren in so religious and seemly a fashion that each one has the right size, not too long, nor too short, nor too tight, nor too wide, and that each one may without any help put on and off his clothes and shoes. As for bedding, let each brother be content with a sleeping bag, a rug, a sheet, a coverlet of linen or buckram and a pillow, unless the one in charge of such articles wishes to give more or less. It is fitting that upon receipt of new things, the old are returned, so that the one to whom the clothes are handed over may distribute them to the servants and to the poor. But should it happen, which God forbid, that a brother outrageously insists on arms or clothing or such things finer or better than those given him, then he deserves to be given worse. For this proves how much he is lacking in the clothing of the heart and in inner virtue, who bothers so much about the outer needs of the body. Since clerics living in the world should show their religion by their clothing, so it is all the more seemly that those in the Order use special clothing."
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Jona Lammert

Joined: 29 Jun 2015

Posts: 3

PostPosted: Mon 29 Jun, 2015 7:15 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Thanks for your reply Gregory.Yes, I am familiar with those rules but I can imagine crests were still in use in order to recognize ranks and striking fear into the enemy. Although it's not the safest gadget to a helmet. The crest I am looking for is the third photo I posted.
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Gregory J. Liebau

Location: Dinuba, CA
Joined: 27 Nov 2004

Posts: 669

PostPosted: Mon 29 Jun, 2015 7:52 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hi Jona,

I don't doubt that ranking members of the order were allowed to wear crests on their helms, but it seems more likely that they would wear those attached to their own feudal houses rather than a crest associated with the order. As far as I'm aware there were no crest officially recognized for members the Teutonic knights, at least not as early as the use of such great helms as your depictions are from (c. 1300). The black cross displayed on their white surcoats and shields is about as far as it got by then.

I am no expert on the order, but I know enough about helmet crests and heraldry to suspect that there was no style of crest that was commonly or particularly worn by Teutonic knights during that period. It would still be considered too much of an extravagance for many decades, especially with the Teutonic knights being known for their strict adherence to the rule and relative youth at that time (having only been established as a military order in 1198).

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Craig Peters

PostPosted: Mon 29 Jun, 2015 9:18 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I'm wondering if the crest on the helm shown in Jona's third picture is a modern, historically inaccurate impression of the great helm of Albert von Prankh. There are a fair number of similarities, and von Prankh's helm is one of the iconic great helms that everyone interested in medieval arms and armour is likely to have seen at one point.

Image from Wikipedia.

Edit: It seems equally likely that the crest seen in modern representations of the Teutonic Knights is indeed a corruption of the image of Tannhäuser found in Codex Manesse (the first image Jona posted). The shape and appearance of the crest in Codex Mannesse better matches the modern representations than von Prankh's helm. It's not that difficult to see a modern person looking at this picture of Tannhäuser and then deciding to revise it slightly so that the crest is made out of steel to make the helm look a little more "bad-ass".
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Mart Shearer

Location: Jackson, MS, USA
Joined: 18 Aug 2012

Posts: 1,302

PostPosted: Mon 29 Jun, 2015 9:43 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Your first example is from the Manesse Codex, CPg. 848, fo.264r, Der Tanhûser, 1305-1340.

The crest and arms on the shield are not those of the Order of the Hospital of St. Mary in Jerusalm of the Teutones, but those attributed to the minnesinger. Only the cloak identifies him as a member of the Order.
Tannhäuser was an active courtier at the court of Frederick II of Austria (1230–1246), and the Codex Manesse (1340) depicts him clad in the Teutonic Order habit, suggesting he might have fought the Fifth Crusade (1213–21).

Such crests are usually made of formed leather, not the metal seen in your third photograph. The horns with wings or fans on the edge is also seen in the surviving gilt-leather crest currently attached to the von Prankh helmet, though they are not a set.

In the Manesse Codex, we often see horns decorated with fans, feathers (including peacock eyes), or other items which might flutter in the wind when riding. The crest from the Vogt von Matsch is made of leather attached to a leather cap. The cap has sets of paired holes which match those in the helmet to which it was laced.

The few images I have from manuscripts showing members of the Order are either of unarmed men, or don't resemble the proper uniform and are without helmets.

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Cambridge MS Mm.5.31 fo139r (2).jpg
Cambridge MS Mm.5.31, fo.139r

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UBF Ms.Barth.115 fo037r.jpg
UBF Ms.Barth.115, fo.37r

ferrum ferro acuitur et homo exacuit faciem amici sui
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Ralph Grinly

Joined: 19 Jan 2011

Posts: 330

PostPosted: Tue 30 Jun, 2015 4:05 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

While flamboyant crests obviously did exist..(we have many surviving examples that prove this) these were most likely for either displays or jousts, not actual battle-field combat. Imagine risking your life in battle with helmets so adorned. Helmets are awkward enough without added encumbrances. Where decorated helmets were worn in battle, it was most likely a simple cloth mantling or a crown/coronet for royalty. The religious Orders fought as a unit, so, apart from the colours of the order, they needed no individual identification. Yes..there are many very good contemporary illustrations of big crested helmets in battles..but remember, most artists of the period were not "war correspondants"..they illustrated their scenes with what they were most familiar with..jousting armours and parade harnesses, .not actual battle armours. If a prominent figure needed to be shown, then he might be shown with his crests so as to be recognisable in the illustration.
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Niels Just Rasmussen

Location: Nykøbing Falster, Denmark
Joined: 03 Sep 2014

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PostPosted: Tue 30 Jun, 2015 4:47 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Another factor is that nobles from around Europe could participate in the "hunting sport for pagans" - Winterreise and Sommerreise - while being guests at the Ordensstaat. In fact it was Crusader Tourism (Reise = Journey/Expedition). It started in the winter 1304-05 and continued for a century. The Reisen all started and/or ended (uncertain) with a big banquet for the participants [called Ehrentisch = Honour-table] all hosted and paid by the Teutonic Order .
Source: Jonathan Riley Smith (eds): A History of the Crusades.

So people would likely have elaborate helmets to be recognizable to their peers as you massacred villagers in Lithuania for sport and chivalric virtues. They were officially crusaders for the duration of the "Reisen" [Papal privilege from 1245 by Innocens IV].

Whether some were in fact time limited members (for a Reise) and allowed to keep their extravagant helmets, AND perhaps the leaders in the Teutonic Order felt they had to be equally dazzling to awe enough to make more people come in the future is an interesting question.

It is some coincidence that the "Teutonic Great Helms" seem to first appear around 1300 - which is when the "Reisen" starts!
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Jona Lammert

Joined: 29 Jun 2015

Posts: 3

PostPosted: Tue 30 Jun, 2015 7:28 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Thanks for all the replies. The crest of Ulrich von Matsch his helmet is quite nice design. Easy to get it on and off your helmet. I always thought this one was made out of wood or real horns maybe. Is it more common to make it out of something like rawhide then?

Ralph and Niels, you guys make interesting points on why it´s showing in the pictures and why some of them were allowed to wear such extravagance. Whether or not some knights were crazy enough to wear a crest during combat is debatable. They could have also just detached it just before riding into battle. Guess we will never know. But it is still historically correct to wear horns. Maybe not as a true Teutonic order member but it could work as a crusader under the banner of Teutonic order then?
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Timm Radt

Location: Germany
Joined: 12 Sep 2011

Posts: 21

PostPosted: Tue 30 Jun, 2015 10:05 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote


I think the whole thing about the wing-crests of Teutonic knights is just based on/became popular because of Sergej Eisenstein´s movie "Alexander Newski" in which almost every Teutonic Knight wears such a crest only to make him look more impressive (and evil). Obviously they are based on the Tannhäuser-miniature in the Codex Manesse. However, in this codex there are more depiction of `wing-crests´ without any connection to the Teutonic Order. Also on effigies of the 14th century you can see many of these crests. Therefore I want to say that such crest just as ones with horns were generally common, especially in Germany (from the mid of the 13th century onwards).
Crests were were made of hardened rawhide/leather, sometimes enforced with wood.

Here is a replica of a helm and crest (crest of the counts of Hirschberg) made for the Museum of Dollnstein Castle in Bavaria. The helmet was made by Christian Wiedner and the crest by Andreas Petitjean.

Cheers, Timm

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Mart Shearer

Location: Jackson, MS, USA
Joined: 18 Aug 2012

Posts: 1,302

PostPosted: Tue 30 Jun, 2015 10:38 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The materials used in the few surviving examples
(leather, glue, gesso, paint and -occasionally- gold) support
this assessment, with the Churburg crest (Figure 9)
representing an ordinary specimen, while all-gilt examples
such as the one among the Black Prince's achievements in
Canterbury Cathedral or another, preserved in the Real
Armeria in Madrid, are of a much richer variety. The same
is true for the only contemporary instruction for making
crests, given in Cennini’s Libro dell’Arte, even if some
exceptions may have existed, e.g. examples that were
apparently adorned with costly materials such as mirrors.

FWIW, the second manuscript illustration is The Emperor fights Gog and Magog, from Die Apokalypse of Heinrich von Hesler, Biblioteka Glowna Umk, Rps 44 / III, fol. 168r., 1334-1366.

ferrum ferro acuitur et homo exacuit faciem amici sui
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