The Voulge: Discover What Made It So Effective

Key Point: A voulge was a medieval polearm with a long, curved blade attached to a wooden shaft, used for slashing and thrusting in combat.

In this installment of articles on polearms. We will be discussing the voulge. Here you will see what the voulge is, how it was used, and what made it effective on the battlefields across Europe for so long.

Now as always. Let’s start with the beginning. By answering a simple question. What was a voulge?

The voulge was a polearm weapon that was commonly used in medieval Europe during the 14th and 15th centuries. It consisted of a long wooden shaft with a curved blade at the end. The blade had a sharp hook that could be used to pull riders from their horses or to catch the weapons of enemy soldiers. The blade itself could be used for slashing or thrusting attacks. While the length of the shaft allowed the wielder to keep a safe distance from their opponent.

That was the short introduction to what is to come. Now for the detailed exploration of the voulge. Starting with its origins.

The Origin Of The Voulge

The Voulge

The voulge is a polearm weapon that likely originated in Switzerland in the 14th century. It consists of a long wooden shaft with a curved blade at the end, similar to a billhook. The blade is designed with a hook shape, which made it particularly effective against cavalry riders. The voulge quickly spread throughout Europe and became a popular weapon among foot soldiers due to its versatility in both offensive and defensive maneuvers.

During the Hundred Years’ War between England and France, the voulge saw widespread use on both sides of the conflict. Its hook-shaped blade allowed soldiers to disarm knights and other cavalrymen with ease, making it a formidable weapon on the battlefield.

Let’s take a closer look at a few of those battlefields where the voulge was put to good use.

Famous Wars And Battles Where Voulge Was Used

One of the most notable conflicts where the voulge was used was the Hundred Years’ War between England and France. During this period, the voulge was a popular weapon among foot soldiers and was effective against cavalry riders due to its hook-shaped blade.

Another significant conflict where the voulge was used was the Wars of the Roses in England. This civil war lasted from 1455 to 1485 and saw the voulge employed by soldiers on both sides. It was particularly effective in close combat situations and could easily disarm opponents with its hook-shaped blade.

The voulge was also used in the Battle of Bicocca in 1522, which was fought between the forces of the Holy Roman Empire and the French army.

Those were just a few notable conflicts where the voulge played a key role.

Now, let’s explore the dimensions of the voulge and the materials from which it was made.

Its Size And Materials It Was Made From

Generally, the voulge had a wooden shaft that was between 5 and 7 feet in length. The blade at the end of the shaft was usually between 12 and 18 inches long, with a pronounced curve and a sharp hook at the end. And the weight?

Its weight ranged between 2 and 4 pounds, but there were some variations that could be either lighter or heavier. The weight was distributed along the length of the weapon. The majority of the weight being located in the blade itself. This design allowed for more force to be applied to a strike, making the voulge an effective weapon for both cutting and thrusting attacks.

And What Was It Made From?

The shaft of the weapon was made from a sturdy and durable type of wood. Usually ash or oak, which could withstand the impact of blows without breaking.

The blade of the voulge was made from iron, which was a strong and relatively cheap material that could be easily sharpened to a fine edge. Some higher-end voulges had steel blades, which were more expensive and thus very rare.

The iron or steel blade was attached to the wooden shaft with a socket or tang. This provided a secure connection between the two materials.

Now that we got the dimensions and materials out of the way, let’s explore for a bit how this polearm was used in battle.

How It Was Used In Battle?

The voulge was primarily used by foot soldiers in battle. And was particularly effective against cavalry due to its long reach and hook-shaped blade.

It was a versatile weapon, capable of both cutting and thrusting attacks. The hook at the end of the blade could be used to trip or disarm an opponent. While the weapon’s light weight allowed for quick and agile movements. In battle, voulge-wielding soldiers would typically form a phalanx or a line, using the weapon’s reach and hook to engage the enemy from a distance.

An added benefit to the voulge was also its effectiveness in breaking through formations of pikes or spears, as its hook-shaped blade could grab onto the opponent’s weapon and pull it aside. Thus breaking enemy formation.

Why Did The Voulge Fall From Use?

As with any other polearm we discussed in our series, the reason for the voulge disappearing from battlefields can be traced back to one thing. And what’s that?

Gunpowder weapons. Despite being immensely crude and ineffective at first they quickly developed into semi-effective long-ranged weapons. And as technology progressed further and further it became possible to fight from greater and greater distances. Which made the voulge ineffective.

Hence why it vanished.

In Conclusion

Thank you for taking the time to read my article. I hope you learned a thing or two. And If you wish you can take a look at my library of resources on other polearms, right here. Or you can check out my article on the glaive polearm by going here.

Take care!


“Arms and Armor of the Medieval Knight” by David Edge and John Miles Paddock

“Medieval Warfare: Theory and Practice of War in Europe, 300-1500” by Helen Nicholson

“The Renaissance at War” by Thomas Arnold