A Detailed Guide To The Lucerne Hammer

Key Point: A Lucerne hammer was a medieval weapon characterized by a combination of a long polearm and a hammerhead, often featuring a spike on the opposite side. It was versatile in both bludgeoning and piercing.

Now, let’s take a deeper look at its origin.

Origin Of The Lucerne Hammer

Lucerne Hammer from the MetMuseum

The Lucerne hammer originated in Switzerland during the 15th century. It reflected the innovative craftsmanship of medieval weapon makers. Its design is believed to have emerged from the need for a versatile tool that could effectively counter heavily armored opponents.

Crafted in the bustling weapon-smithing workshops of Lucerne Switzerland (from where the weapon gets its name), this unique weapon blended elements of a polearm, hammer, and pick into a single, formidable tool of war.

So as warfare evolved, the weapon gained popularity across Europe for its ability to deliver both crushing and piercing blows, making it a staple on the battlefield during the late Middle Ages. The hammer itself stands as a testament to the ingenuity of medieval weapon designers and the adaptability required to navigate the challenges of armed conflict.

The Dimensions Of The Lucerne Hammer

You can see from an exhibition piece at the MetMuseum that the exact dimensions were:

Dimensions: L. 94 1/8 in. (139.2 cm); L. of head 18 7/8 in. (48 cm); W. 8 in. (20.4 cm); Wt. 5 lbs. 14 oz. (2664.9 g)

But in plain English: The Lucerne hammer typically boasted a shaft ranging from five to six feet in length, providing the wielder with ample reach on the battlefield. The head of the hammer featured a symphony of lethal elements, including a hammer face for blunt force, a beak or spike for piercing armor, and sometimes a hook or fluke for grappling or disarming opponents.

What Was It Made From?

The shaft, often made from hardwood such as ash or oak, provided a balance of flexibility and strength. This allowed for effective handling and maneuverability during combat.

The head of the Lucerne hammer was commonly forged from iron or steel, ensuring resilience and sharpness for the various striking surfaces. The hammer face, spike, and any additional features were meticulously shaped to optimize the weapon’s dual-purpose functionality, accommodating both blunt force and piercing attacks.

So, where was such a weapon used? Let’s take a look at that next.

Where It Was Used

One of the key battles where this weapon gained prominence was the Burgundian Wars (1474–1477).

During the Burgundian Wars, the Swiss Confederacy faced off against the powerful Duke Charles the Bold of Burgundy. Swiss infantry, armed with Lucerne hammers among other weapons, played a significant role in the decisive Battle of Grandson in 1476 and the Battle of Morat in 1476.

These battles demonstrated the effectiveness of the Lucerne hammer against heavily armored opponents, contributing to the Swiss reputation as formidable warriors.

Additionally, the weapon found favor among Landsknechts, German and Swiss mercenary foot soldiers, who served various European powers during the 16th century.

This leads to the final question … if the weapon itself was so great … why did it decline in use?

The Decline Of The Lucerne Hammer

As firearms gained prominence, especially during the 16th century, traditional melee weapons like the Lucerne hammer faced challenges in adapting to the increased range and firepower of guns.

The widespread adoption of full plate armor also played a role in the diminishing effectiveness of the Lucerne hammer. While the weapon excelled in piercing mail and plate armor joints, advancements in armor design made it more challenging for polearms to deliver decisive blows. Firearms became more effective at penetrating armor, and soldiers began to rely more on firearms and pikes on the battlefield.

Furthermore, as military tactics evolved, the focus shifted away from individual combat and melee weapons toward organized formations and ranged firepower. The pike square formation, for instance, became a dominant tactic, rendering the specialized features of the Lucerne hammer less relevant in the changing dynamics of warfare.

In Conclusion

Thank you for taking the time to read this article. I hope you got a thing or two out of it. If you wish I invite you to take a look at the following article on another cool polearm, right here. Or take a trip with me to the Russian heartland and discover the sovnya, the uniquely Russian polearm.

Take care!