A Horseman's Hammer, Later Carried in the Swedish Service, c. 1525 - 50

2496 v2

Item ref: 2496

  • Germany
  • Steel and wood
  • 49 cm / 19.29 in


Private collection, Scandinavia

PAX. VO’ and ‘BIS. 1622. OLO HANKE

This short-hafted type of war hammer was intended for use by mounted troops and as such in German it is called a reiterhammer. The belt hook enabled the hammer to be suspended from the saddle. The type was popular throughout the 16th century, and this present example (evidently within the service of the Swedish crown) remained an expedient weapon in field use well into the age of military firearms. 

The kingdom of Sweden had since its civil war at end of the 16th century been engaged in a succession of armed conflicts with the Polish and Lithuanian Commonwealth, the latter under the deposed Swedish king Sigmund (III) Vasa, who remained  King of Poland, Grand-Duke of Lithuania and the elected monarch of the commonwealth. The Polish-Swedish War began in 1600, lasting on and off until the final phase of the war from 1626-29.  

This very lengthy period of warfare inevitably depleted not only the Swedish treasury but the Swedish domestic re-supply of military arms also. For this reason Sweden was compelled to buy in stocks of arms from Germanic sources. Surviving examples of these imported weapons include a proportion characterised by them pre-dating their renewed 17th century use, some considerably so, having been sourced from stocks of weapons considered anachronistic to current German military thinking. The present hammer provides a perfect illustration of this historical recycling, the proof of which provided by the inscriptions and the notable date 1622 from a Swedish hand.  The Latin inscription on the head is a truncated abbreviation of ‘Pax Vobiscum’ (‘Peace with you’), a salutation common to both the Catholic Mass and the Lutheran Divine Service. The continued parts of the inscription form a Swedish male name: ‘Olo Hanke’, almost certainly the name of the man armed with this hammer in 1622.