Heaving the Halberd

By: The Scribe on Wednesday, February 29, 2012



What’s one thing all humans throughout the centuries have in common?

Well, besides that.

halberdHow about the desire to save money? Or, to put it another way, to “get more stuff” for less cash?

In the 14th & 15th centuries, Medieval armies were looking for a way to supply weapons to their growing armies, but they needed a way to do it cheaply without compromising effectiveness in battle. The result? A new weapon commonly known as the halberd.

A halberd, also called a halbert or Swiss voulge, is a variety of “pole weapon” that requires two hands to wield. The blade of the weapon is mounted on a 5-6 foot shaft, with an additional long, pointed blade protruding from the top. The two-sided blade is axe-like on the front, and over time the design was refined in on order to better fend off approaching cavalry in battle.

On the opposite side of the axe-blade, a sharp hook was added that could be used to snare men on horseback and pull them to the ground. The top part of the weapon shaft was also reinforced with metal, to prevent the halberd from being easily sliced apart by swords.

As a result, the halberd became the weapon of choice for Swiss armies in the 14th & 15th centuries, and was quickly imitated by German armies as the weapon’s effectiveness became apparent. It was only when gunpowder warfare became more prominent in European armies—adding more musketeers and arquebuskiers to the front lines—that the halberd found use as a defensive weapon during reloads.

halberdsThough the halberd fell into disuse over time, low-ranking European infantrymen carried halberds from the 16th to 18th centuries—and while these Medieval weapons are of course not used in modern warfare, they can be seen in one place specifically… they’re still used as ceremonial weapons by the Vatican’s Swiss Guard!

One more interesting halberd fact? They were a highly effective means of execution…







 

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