A Horseman’s Hammer or Streithammer, the Haft Entirely Encased in Iron, c. 1500-1525

5061 3
5061 2
5061 1

Item ref: 5061

  • Western Europe, possibly Germany
  • steel, wood


Private collection, Europe

Short-hafted hammers of this type, together with maces, were used as secondary weapons in knightly field combat, these weapons being carried hung from the saddle. They were also used in a specific form of the foot tournament which involved the use of the relatively compact form of shield today referred to as the hand-pavise. Long-hafted hammers were used in the foot tournament fought without a shield.

Two fine illustrations of this early 16th century use of hammers and pavises in mock field combat is included in Freydal, the pictorial allegorical narrative of the Habsburg Court Tournaments commissioned by the Emperor Maximilian I; (the 256 illuminated miniatures completed over the period 1512-15). One of these miniatures shows a combat fought against the Burgundian nobleman Claude de Vaudry (d. 1515), liegeman of Charles the Bold. In the other combat, ‘Freydal’(Maximilian’s alter ego) fights his old childhood companion, Andre Ramung.

A feature of the head is the series of decorative recesses which are file-cut behind the striking face and over the neck of the rear fluke. These would seem to have become a fashion by about 1510, one which continued over the remainder of the 16th century. Perhaps as a notion of aesthetic balance, the four iron straps reinforcing the haft are cut with scalloped edges at their grip end.

The form of the head compares with that of a hammer in the historic von Matsch and von Trapp armoury at Schloss Churburg, in the south Tyrol (inv. CH S 285). In that example, only the upper portion of the haft is fully encased by its reinforcing straps, these then narrow and separate over its remaining length.