Camail with triangle ventail (mail flap) on a bascinet (ca. 1360) at the German Historical Museum.

An aventail (/ˈævəntl/)[1] or camail (/kəˈml, ˈkæml/)[2][3] is a flexible curtain of mail attached to the skull of a helmet that extends to cover at least the neck, but often also the throat and shoulders. Part or all of the face, with spaces to allow vision, could also be covered. Some featured a ventail (a mail flap next to the mouth) which could be folded over the bottom face and vice versa, much in the same manner as a visor.

European history

Early and High Middle Ages

Aventail of chain mail started appearing on Northern European helmets as early as the 6th century, as seen on several Vendel Era helmets, most notably the Valsgärde 8 helmet (580630 AD)[4] from Uppsala, Sweden, but also the well preserved Coppergate Helmet (ca. 750800 AD) from York, England. These early appearances varried greatly in configuration, the Valsgärde 8 helmet featuring a aventail which enclosed the entire lower face, throat and neck, versus the Coppergate Helmet, which combines hanging cheek guards with a aventail for the neck (a configuration likely also used on the similar 7th century Anglo-Saxon Pioneer Helmet).

The enclosed Vendel style aventail came to be the most conventional type going forward into the High Middle Ages. Some configurations fixed the frontal aventail to a spectacle visor (upper face mask) like the Vendel 8 helmet or a nasal guard, notably seen on several Rus' and Kievan Rus' high medieval helmets. Other configurations let the aventail hang loose infront of or under the face like a veil, most likely with an inner liner against chafing or padding against blows. A reason to not connect the frontal chain mail to a spectacle visor or nasal guard might have been to allow for a ventail, a flap of mail which allowed the user to open and close the mail over the mouth for added flexibility. Archeological finds of complete aventails from the early medieval period are however sparse and more than often only a few perforated attachment holes remain.

Late Middle Ages

Detachable aventail on a hounskull bascinet

Early aventail were riveted or otherwise fixed directly to the edge of the helmet, however, beginning in the 1320s in Western Europe, a detachable version replaced this type.[5] The detachable aventail was attached to a leather band, which was in turn attached to the lower border of the helmet by a series of pierced rivets, called vervelles.[6] Holes in the leather band were passed over the vervelles, and a waxed cord was passed through the holes in the vervelles to secure it.[7]

Historic depiction of a bascinet with aventail on the tomb of Edward, the Black Prince (1376)

Aventails were commonly seen on bascinets in the 14th century and served as a replacement for a complete mail hood (coif). Some aventails were decorated with edging in brass or bronze links (sometimes gilded), or with a zig-zag lower edge (vandyked). By the mid 14th century, the aventail had replaced the mail coif completely. By the dawn of the 15th century, the plate armored neck guard of the Great Bascinet replaced the aventail.[6]


  1. ^ "aventail". Dictionary. Retrieved 2021-10-21.
  2. ^ "camail". Dictionary. Retrieved 2021-10-21.
  3. ^ "camail". Lexico UK English Dictionary. Oxford University Press. Archived from the original on 2021-10-21.
  4. ^ a b "Hjälmen under Yngre Järnåldern, Härkomst, förekomst och bruk" (PDF). University of Gotland. Retrieved 2023-10-23.
  5. ^ Gravett 2008, p. 116.
  6. ^ a b DeVries, Kelly (2012). Medieval military technology. Smith, Kay Douglas (2nd ed.). North York, Ont.: University of Toronto Press. pp. 77, 88. ISBN 978-1-4426-0497-1. OCLC 782101074.
  7. ^ Bradbury, Jim (2004). 14 Medieval Armor Items. New York: Routledge. pp. 261–262.