War hammer

Italian armourer

Northern Italy 16° century

Material: Iron forged

Size: 57 cm long

review by gherardo turchi

This hammer is an ancient and rare forged iron hammer, made in one of those flourishing workshops of master gunsmiths active in 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 it to break on foot opponents’ helmets during the cavalry charges. With medieval origins, it reached its full development at the end of the fifteenth century only. This weapon 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 the heavy cavalry forces still used it in the second half of the sixteenth century. At the height of its evolution, the 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 “pen” while on the other side its head, which could be equipped with small pointed extensions in order to increase the pressure blow exerted on the target. The war 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 in fact great resemblence with the so called “pike arm” being this last often called raven’s – beak like war hammer.

With a head bearing a quadrangular baluster pen on one side and a hammer on the other side, it ends with a blunt closing cusp (brocco).  

The handle, made of iron, has a small metal lip at the top of the body, usually used as a blade cutter, capable of engaging the enemy weapon in a possible direct confrontation

From its head, in a single block of forge, a hook, called “teniere”, unravels laterally to put the weapon back on the belt when it was transported.

The central body of the weapon has some baluster and flank decorations, typical of the Italian production of such weapons. An important detail of this work appears to be the dimensions of the thicknesses, reduced whether compared to common hammers; this detail places its production right in the Italian workshops, as both its height and the relative strength of the Italian warriors in the sixteenth century, did not allow them, in case, to use too heavy weapons or difficult to handle.

At the height of its evolution, this weapon had a long and reinforced handle, often entirely made of metal like the mace. The upper pole of a hammer had the raven’s beak “peen” on one side, while on the other side there was the head, which could have small pointed extensions, to increase the pressure strikes on the target. With the beginning of the 17th century and the definitive affirmation of portable firearms, as the new heavy cavalry’s distinctive weapons, the war hammer disappeared from the western battlefields.

Weapons of such dimensions and weight are in fact very rare to find in the antiques market, as well as rather difficult to view inside museums, as their production was really on a small-scale.

This work is in a very good conservative condition and is an important addition to the catalog of    blowing arms made in Italy during the sixteenth century.

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