Our Burgundian Poleaxe is based on a piece in the Wallace Collection in London. It is designated item A925 in their collection and is from approximately 1430 and thought to be made in France. To produce this item we worked from molds of the original item from which we use a lost wax system to reproduce this piece with much of the hand made nature of the original axe. This style of polearm was used in the armoured knightly combat of the 15th and 16th centuries.
With an overall length of over 70 inches the axe uses its long reach to deliver powerful thrusts with the top spike and crippling blows from the axe and back spikes. The head is mounted to an ash haft that tapers in size from butt to head with steel langets that cover the side of the haft. This weapon is seen depicted not only in the list but in scenes illustrating knights in combat on the field of battle.
The piece weighs approximately 4.3 ponds, so it is nimble in the hands and moves easily in strikes with head and butt. The length of the haft allows the combatant to not only use it for strikes to the head and torso, but also to hook the lower legs or thrust to an unprotected foot or knee.
Very similar axe pictured in this illustration of the burning of Hieronymus von Prag, in 1470
Often chosen for tournament and judicial duels, the long reach and devastating power of this style of axe was a match for even the best armor. Many of the combat treatises of the period describe axe play including the famous "Le jeu de la hache". This was written some time in the first half of the 15th century probably near the same area of manufacture for this axe. There was a great variety in the styles of head and elaborate decoration applied to these weapons but in this example we see a sturdy, elegantly simple weapon.
Nathan Clough, Ph.D. is Vice President of Arms and Armor and a member of the governing board of The Oakeshott Institute. He is a historical martial artist and a former university professor of cultural geography. He has given presentations on historical arms at events including Longpoint and Combatcon, and presented scholarly papers at, among others, The International Congress on Medieval Studies.
Craig Johnson is the Production Manager of Arms and Armor and Secretary of The Oakeshott Institute. He has taught and published on the history of arms, armor and western martial arts for over 30 years. He has lectured at several schools and Universities, WMAW, HEMAC, 4W, and ICMS at Kalamazoo. His experiences include iron smelting, jousting, theatrical combat instruction and choreography, historical research, European martial arts and crafting weapons and armor since 1985.