Yorkshire Museum

The York Helmet

The York Helmet was found by mechanical digger operator Andy Shaw in May 1982, as builders prepared to start work on a new York shopping centre.

He felt his machine strike something hard in the ground which turned out to be what is now known as The York Helmet. The helmet is one of six Anglo-Saxon helmets known to have survived to the present day, and is by far the best preserved.

The helmet was in a wood-lined pit with fragments of antler, stone, glass and iron, close to the site where archaeologists had earlier found the remains of Viking settlers.

It is made of iron and copper alloy and dates to the second half of the 8th century. The helmet is stylistically Northumbrian and has many unique details.

The helmet has two low crests of brass, one running from front to back, the other from side to side, forming a cross shape when viewed from above. The brass banding within the crests bears a Latin inscription:

IN NOMINE : DNI : NOSTRI : IHV : SCS : SPS : DI : ET : OMNIBVS : DECEMVS : AMEN: OSHERE : XPI

In the name of our Lord Jesus, the Holy Spirit, and God; and to all we say Amen / Oshere / Christ

An alternative interpretation suggests the following translation:

In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ and of the Spirit of God, let us offer up Oshere to All Saints. Amen.

Oshere is a male Anglian name and XPI are the first three letters of the word Christos Χριστός (khristos) in Greek.

The brass crest terminates in a decorative animal head at the base of the nasal. The brass eyebrow decorations that flank the nasal also terminate in animal heads. The decoration of the nasal consists of two intertwined beasts, whose bodies and limbs degenerate into interlace ornament.

After its discovery it was reconstructed to its original state by the British Museum. It is sometimes known as the Coppergate Helmet, after the area where it was found close to the Jorvik Centre.

Please note: The Yorkshire Museum is home to an extensive and varied collection of items and artefacts. Whilst we make every effort to display a broad spectrum of our collections it is not always possible for all our collections to be on display at once. Please check the latest exhibitions to find out what collections are currently on display or contact us on  01904 687687.