Saturday, 30 November 2013

The Crosby Garrett Roman Helmet at Tullie House Art Gallery

Crosby Garrett Helmet, Photo: PA
Yesterday I went to Tullie House Museum to see the famous Crosby Garrett Helmet which is currently on display there. The Roman helmet was discovered by amateur metal-detector enthusiasts in the small village of Crosby Garrett in south Cumbria in May 2010. It is not a military helmet, but a Roman cavalry sports helmet which was worn for special displays, a bit like the modern day tattoos. These events were called the Hippika Gymnasia - Horse Games - and probably consisted of battle re-enactments from mythology. The helmet covers the whole head with openings for the eyes and dates from the first to third centuries AD. It is one of only three helmets of this type found in this country.

The helmet was in a glass cabinet in the middle of the darkened room, kind of glowing in the twilight, it looked stunning. Up close it is very intricate, with the hair in tight curls and a handsome, youthful face. I felt that feeling of awe I only feel when in the presence of some historical item like this, almost two thousand years old, that is truly amazing and unique and also very beautiful. It's such a treat to be able to see such a treasure in person like this. 

Tullie House Museum started a fund to try and buy the helmet when it was put up for sale in Christies in October 2010, but it stood no chance, as the helmet eventually sold to an anonymous UK buyer for £2.3 million. So it's good that the helmet has come home to Cumbria for this exhibition (only the second time the helmet has been on public display) so that local people can see it in all its restored glory.

The exhibition continues at Tullie House until January 26th 2014.

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