Arms of Western Europe in the 15th — 17th centuries
The Military Historical Museum of Artillery, Engineer and Signal Corps holds a rich collection of blank weapons, fire arms and defensive armament from Western Europe of the 15th — 17th centuries Among others it includes knightly swords and daggers, two-hand swords, a war crossbow and pavese-shields for archers in the 15th century, pole-hammers and horseman-hammers, maces, staff-weapons for the infantry — halberds, war axes, partisans, a Morgenstern (known as a "holy-water sprinkler" in English), a war flail, gisarme, a winged spear, as well as a matchlock fortress gun from 1420, a Saxon wheel-lock musket from 1589, pistols and other arms.
|German helmet. Germany, first half of the 17th century.|
The exhibited are only objects originating from the Museum collections. The collection of West-European arms started as early as the 18th century, when an armory was arranged in the Dostopamiatnyi Zal, predecessor of the Artillery Museum. There were armors from Teutonic knights (some of them were used during the funeral ceremony for burying Empress Elizabeth Petrovna, Alexander I and Nicholas I), medieval chain mails, cuirasses, spiked helmets, English colors from the time of Queen Elizabeth I and James I. This collection was completed in the 19th century as well. Confiscated objects of the West-European arms from private collections were transferred to the Museum in the 1920–1930’s.
At present the Museum holds one of the most significant collections of arms from Western Europe of the 15th17th centuries in Russia. It may be compared only with collections in the State Hermitage (St. Petersburg), Armory of the Moscow Kremlin and the State Historical Museum (Moscow).
|Powder-flask. Saxony, 17th century.|
The majority of the display is dedicated to the history of war endeavor during the Middle Ages and Renaissance. Among the displayed objects is a crossbow, missile weapon combining a bow with a pulley-block. It was used both in a battle and a hunt. The crossbow with an English crank (polispast) was made rather early, possibly in the second half of the 12th century. In spite of its complexity and inconvenience while using, it was widely practiced. A steel bow appeared on crossbows not earlier than in the 14th–early 15th century. Some time was required for drawing the bowstring, and warriors used high pavese or tarch-shields in field conditions to cover from enemy’s arrows. One of the shields displayed in the room was made in the city of Konstanz in the 15th century. An emblem of this city is imaged on it.
Glass-cases display horseman-hammers which were used for effective piercing armor-plating. Their stab made along the normal (at an angle of 90°) went through plates of the armor. The visitors also can see here various maces which were used as a stab-crushing arm.
Among the exhibited objects are different swords which were a basic arm for noble warriors for a long time. Magical characteristics were often ascribed to them. Life of a sword owner depended on the quality of blade. So a sword of good steel cost much, and masters who made blades of high quality were world-famed. Thus, for instance, blades by masters from Passau (Germany), and their mark — "Passau Wolf" was an original quality symbol. Often buyers refused to purchase the sword without so-called small wolf, and armorers from other countries had to falsify this mark or make it near the stamp of their own.
|Fragments of the armour (shoulders and thighs defences) of the False Demetrius I (?). Germany. Late 16th — 17th century.|
Visitors can see a stamp of another famous master, Johannes Wundes, who worked between 1560 and 1620, on the blade of two swords also exhibited in the room. The stamp, a king’s head, has been kept on the lintel of his house in Solingen together with initials J. W., motto and distich THE KING’S HEAD IS MY COATOFARM, WHICH I WAS ENVIED AT SO MUCH. Under his children and grandchildren the stamp did keep its reputation on the same high level. In the late 18th century the heirs sold out the right for using the stamp for the absurd sum of four thalers.
On the display are huge two-hand swords (up to 2 meters long and with their weight up to 4.5 kg) with a straight, undulating and even curved blade. They were used mostly by landsknechts fighting on foot.
|German Arme helmet. Germany, late 16th century.|
In the mid. 15th century masters-armorers started to produce completely plated armors to protect from improved offensive arms. They did not hinder movements of the warrior and ensured maximal safe protection from cutting and pointing thrusts of the enemy. Armors made in South Germany and Northern Italy were considered to be the best ones. Their form changed in due course. The gothic armor gave place to so-called Maximilian type of the armor, named such a way after Maximilian I Habsburg, Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire (1493–1519). Crimped surface of the armor-plating was its distinctive feature. It gave a possibility to reduce the weight without prejudice to strength. A brilliant sample of such an armor is displayed in the room.
In the center of the room is a mounted figure of a knight from the 16th century. The horse armor was made by Nuremberg master Kunz Lochner in 1552 and 1556–1560 for Duke Johannn Wilhelm of Saxe-Weimar-Coburg and Johann Friedrich II, Elector of Saxony.
One of the most precious exhibits are parts from a luxurious gilt armor (shoulders and thighs defences) with a depiction of coats of arms and a large seal of the Russian state. They were ordered for False Demetrius I (1605–1606) in Germany. A wheel-lock stutzen inscribed DOMETRIUS IMPERATOR on the lower part of its barrel also belonged to him.
Five complete armor sets in all are displayed in the room with helmets of various types and cuirasses made by masters from Germany and North Italy.
In the glass-cases are knightly helmets of various types. In the Middle Ages, helmets, as well as the other kinds of armor underwent significant changes. The heaviest was a pot-form helmet which knights-crusaders wore since the early 13th century. It was replaced with a light helmet -bascinet. The helmet of the salad type was also more comfortable and used for a long time. However, the armet helmet with a visor and a beaver opened separately is considered to be the most perfect. In the 16th century an open morion helmet appeared. It was comfortable due to the fact that it did not prevent aiming. It was bore by infantrymen, archers, and later musketeers.
Special tournament helmets existed as well. One of them, a richly decorated parade helmet, a real masterpiece of the armor mastery is exhibited in the room. It bears a stamp of the city of Lugsburg. Possibly this helmet was made in a workshop of well-known master Anton Peffengauser and decorated by Jorg Sorg.
Hunting was a loving entertainment for royal persons, aristocracy as well as not-titled nobility. Each kind of hunting had its clear rules, etiquette and arms. A Tschinke-rifle was used for the hunting to bird. A crossbow with a mechanical device known as a "goat’s foot lever" and stuzens were used for the bigger game. Hunting knives and dirks were used to finish and cut the bag. A special knife-spit was used for roasting the meat on the bonfire. Visitors can see samples of these arms on the display.
|Partisan and two wheel-lock pistols — combined arms. Germany, second half of the 17th century.|
Exhibited nearby are models of the medieval artillery. They are represented by an iron-shod breech-loading bombard and an harquebus. They were forged from metal bands and reinforced with diametrical tightening hoops. Their barrels were fastened on a wooden block where the breech-chamber was put in. The latter was secured with a transversal wedge. The powder charge was in the breech chamber, and a ball was put into the barrel from the bottom. It enabled to solve the problem of firing rate, because there could be the few charged chambers. However, the powder gazes burst through the place of junction of the barrel and the chamber. It not only affected the power and accuracy of fire, but could cause tragic consequences. The guns could be blown up, and the artillery crew could much suffer or perish. One can see the place of such a burst on the barrel of the harquebus from the 15th century.
Muzzle-loading ceremonial cannons of the late 16th — early 17th century strike with their wonderful decorative casting and nicety of décor.
Among the "unusual arms" displayed in the room is a combined pistol-mace from the collection of the Hohenzollerns, a Gewehrgabel (a rest for a musket) with an axe and a sliding blade, a sword-pistol, a partisan with two wheel-lock pistols, as well as a seven-barreled Riga cannon and an executioner’s sword. The latter was made by Solingen masters and differs from "noble" swords by a typical obtuse (chopped off) end. In the 17th century it was used to decapitate criminals.