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"They arrived with their mail shirts
Glittering, silver-shining links
Clanking an iron song as they came."

Beowulf, lines 321-323.


  The great warriors of the Middle Ages knew what hand to hand combat was all about. They fought their enemy in close range and knew the smell of death. Throughout much of the Middle Ages, warfare was a common event of everyday life. The weapons of this era reflect the dual needs of defence and the desire to inflict serious damage. The following is a brief description of some of the most widely used arms and armor of the Middle Ages.


Medieval Arms



The Axe

The Battle Axe of the Middle Ages was a favorite among many. It appears that the great Danish warriors were the first to use the axe on a regular basis. The large blade would have been mounted on a long wooden handle to enable both hands to grasp it.

Battle Axe

Smaller axes were also used, particularly when a warrior was on horseback and some had a long spike on the back to be used as an alternative weapon.


The Mace

Maces were popular weapons among Medieval infantry. They were usually large wooden truncheons often with metal spikes in the end, or they could have a metal ball on the end with spikes on it.


These were used to bludgeon opponents and could inflict serious wounds, even if the opponent was wearing armor.



The sword was one of the most common weapons and an extremely deadly one at that. They had been used for thousands of years before the Middle Ages, but they were still as effective. Some swords were designed to pierce, some to cut. Some were designed for one hand, others for both. They became increasingly ornate and often personal treasures of their owners.




The spear was another weapon of the infantry. They were long poles sometimes with a heavy pointed metal tip used to thrust and sometimes throw at their opponents.

Spear Point



There were several types of bows used in the Middle Ages. The two most popular were the longbow and the crossbow. The longbow was a bow of about five feet in length which required archers to pull the string back to their chest to shoot. The crossbow was an extremely deadly weapon. It was a small bow on its side mounted on a stock. It shot small arrows with extreme velocity due to the tension of the bow.



War Hammers

War hammers were brutal weapons. They were used to pummel the opposition at close range and could produce quite devastating results.

War Hammers


For Medieval Armor, follow the link below.

Link to Armor


©1998-2001 Jason J. Nugent
Created: May 4th, 1998
Last modified: February 4th, 2001