Northern Italy - XVIth Century
Material: Forged Iron and leather
Size: cm 52 long
review by gherardo turchi
This hammer is an ancient and rare forged iron war hammer, made in one of those flourishing workshops of master armorers active in Northern Italy during the sixteenth century.
The hammer also called war hammer and battle hammer was an ancient blunt steel weapon, used mainly by infantry but not despised by cavalry, allowing to break on foot opponents’ helmets during the cavalry charges. This weapon, dating its roots back to Middle Ages, reached its full development only at the end of the fifteenth century.
Mainly thanks to iconographic sources, we know that in Western Europe the hammer was still in use by the heavy cavalry forces in the second half of the sixteenth century. At the height of its evolution, this weapon had a long, reinforced handle, often entirely of metal like a mace. The upper pole of a hammer had, on one side, a raven’s beak end called a “pen” while on the other side, its head could be equipped with small pointed extensions to increase the pressure blow exerted on the target. The hammer was often surmounted by a cusp, called “brocco”, used as a needle to pierce chain mails or strike the crevices of knights’ full armors.
Compared to the war club and the battle axe, the hammer gave rise to different variants which, as of today, make it difficult to find out its archetypal shape. This weapon has great resemblance with the so-called “pike arm,” being this last often called raven’s – beak-like war hammer.
This hammer belongs to the fifteenth-century blow weapons, in Northern Italy.
With a head bearing a quadrangular baluster pen on one side and a hammer baluster crafted on the other side, it ends with a semispherical closing cusp (brocco), with a crafted iron hook, used generally to fasten the weapon to the belt, during marches.
The central body has a torchon manufacture, ending on a large metal lip, bent to reverse to get a greater usage match to the opponent’s blade in a direct fight.
Finally, its handle is lined in leather, which was used mainly to grant a better hand grip while using it; this weapon ends with a spherical pommel having in its half a crease engraving.
An important detail of this work is the dimension of the thickness, reduced whether compared to common war hammers; this detail places the production of this weapon right in the Italian workshops as, both the height and relative strength of the Italian warriors in the sixteenth-century, did not allow them to use such weapons easily, being too heavy or difficult to handle.
Weapons with such dimensions and weight are in effect quite rare to find in the antique market, as well as difficult to view inside museums, due to their reduced production. This work is in excellent conservative condition and is an important addition to the catalog of blowing weapons made in Northern Italy during the sixteenth century.