Armors and weapons in the Styrian Armory of Graz

The Armory in Graz, Austria boasts a huge collection of weapons and armors. The Collection of the Styrian Armoury contains arms and armor from the 15th to the 18th centuries. By the turn of the 17th century, the number of arms and armor had grown to approximately 190.000 objects. Today the Styrian Armoury contains 32, 000 objects: armor, firearms and cannons, staff and edged weapons, bullet molds, and powder flasks stored on four floors with more than 2000 square meters of exhibition space.

The Armory

Many of them were used on the battlefields during the Ottoman wars in Hungary, and it is quite hard to tell who used them: Austrians, Hungarians, or Croatians. Here, I made an attempt to select a few of the weapons and armors that are related to Hungarians. However, many of the weapons below were generally used in western Europe at that age. I am going to add the descriptions provided by the armory.

Photo: MNJ/N Lackner

Above: a Hungarian-style armor, Graz, c.1580/90…The description given by the Armory: “Hussars were lightly equipped horsemen who wore a close-meshed mail shirt and plate armor: the breast and backplate of this armor consisted of many iron rings bound together with leather straps and rivets so that the horseman remained agile. Since the 16th century, Hussars also existed in the Imperial Army; the Styrian Estates had been fitting them out since approx. 1570.”

Photo: UMJ

Above: Hungarian saber, Styria, 4th quarter of the 16th century…The description given by the Armory: “From the last quarter of the 16th century on, the Styrian estates equipped light Hussar cavalry, who were mainly used on the Military Frontier. They were recruited from the Christian population in the border area of Hungary and Croatia, who had already been familiar with Ottoman fighting techniques since the 15th century and, due to their agility and intimate knowledge of the terrain, could be better used against the Turkish cavalry (Akinjis) than the heavy cavalry (cuirassiers). Accordingly, their equipment was adapted to that of their enemy, which is reflected in both the protective equipment and the use of the saber. The saber is an old weapon of the Mongol cavalry, brought by the Ottomans to Europe via the Balkans from the second half of the 14th century on and adopted by the Hungarians in the 15th century. In the last quarter of the 16th century, it finally became prevalent in Styria too. Despite its name, the Hungarian saber was produced in Styrian workshops.” My note: there is more to it, the Hungarians had their own characteristic sabers as early as the 9th century in the Carpathian Basin…

A helmet from 1580 (Photo: MNJ/N Lackner)
A hussar style helmet, 17th century (Photo: MNJ/N Lackner)

As for the Hungarians’ contribution to the development of lobster-tailed helmets, you can read an article here:

There are weapons in the collection that could have been used by Hungarians or similar weapons were definitely used by them. Some of them are the “Morning Stars”:

Photo: MNJ/N Lackner

The description given by the Armory: “In 1683, Vienna was besieged by the army of the Turkish Grand Vizier Kara Mustafa. The Styrian estates perceived a threat to the northern and eastern borders of Styria, and thus both well-armed enlisted mercenaries and peasant subjects were conscripted to protect the border. With little experience of battle, these men were equipped with morning stars: clubs covered in iron spikes fixed onto wooden poles. A long, square thrust blade is attached on the upper part, whereas at the other end of the round pole made of spruce for reinforced with two langets, a bottom spike is mounted. 185 morning stars are still preserved; they were all produced by the Graz wood turner Egid Rotter. The total length amounts to approximately 250 cm, the thrust blade is about 25 cm long.”

Photo: MNJ/N Lackner

Above: Halberds from Upper Austria, 16th century…The description given by the Armory: “In the latter half of the 16th century, the Syrian region bought thousands of these staff weapons to equip the so-called halberdiers who wore no protection apart from a burgonet helmet, but who formed a permanent part of the soldiers conscripted to the military levy. Halberds consist of a wooden pole, a long, sharp blade, a hook, and an ax. Whilst the blade acted as a cut and thrust weapon, a rider could be pulled from his horse with the hook.”

Photo: MNJ/N Lackner

Above: Pike from Upper Austria, 4th quarter of the 16th century…The description: “There are many shelves displaying pikes dating from the 16th and 17th centuries. They were used by well-trained infantrymen to protect the arquebusiers and musketeers from enemy attacks on horseback. Most of the pikes in the armory are no longer the same length they were originally – up to five meters; when bayonets were introduced, pikes lost their importance, and by the late 17th century had been shortened by around half their length. Handling these pikes correctly (they were also called long spears) was difficult and exhausting; it required many years of practice and very solid training. Many of the staff weapons stored in the armory originate from Upper Austrian workshops and were transported to Graz on wagons that passed through several toll stations on their way. Because these consignments of pikes and halberds were considered vital to the war effort, the estates obtained letters of passage from the Prince Regnant for the suppliers so that they could avoid the usual toll charges.” You can read more about bayonets in the Hungarian battlefields during the Ottoman wars here:

Photo: MNJ/N Lackner

 Above: Trabant’s halberds from Upper Austria (?), late 16th century…Description: “Before the advent of firearms, edged weapons and staff weapons dominated warfare during this era. For a long time, staff weapons such as halberds, pikes, and morning stars were the chief weapons used by foot soldiers, while the equestrians preferred edged weapons such as swords and sabers. As their penetration force increased, guns gradually replaced staff weapons on the battlefield, yet staff weapons remained in use as symbolic items of prestige—as guard weapons, for example. The intricate etched decorations on these staff weapons are an indication of their users’ standing. The first step in the etching process is to cover the iron surface with an acid-resistant material such as wax. An etching needle is then used to scratch out the desired image, which then has acid washed over it. Once the acid-resistant layer has been removed, the design is then blackened.”

Photo: MNJ/N Lackner

Above: Two-handed sword, from South German, c.1600… Description: “The largest form of a sword is the Zweihänder, or “two-hander”, also known as the Bidenhänder, or “both-hander”. The Zweihänder sword first emerged as early as the 13th century, however, it was not until the second half of the 16th century that it developed into a special cutting weapon with its own design. It has a long handle with a pear-shaped pommel and a straight crossguard, which serves as the simplest form of hand protection. The crossguard prevented the opponent’s blade from sliding down the wielder’s blade in combat and injuring his hand. It also kept his own hands from sliding forward. As the name suggests, because of their length of up to two meters, Zweihänder swords were wielded with both hands. This meant that the soldiers using them needed to be specially trained: mercenaries equipped with them had to present a certificate from a fencing school but were also better paid. The handling of this weapon required physical strength and corresponding training. 

The Swiss and German Landsknecht armies in particular used these mercenaries with Zweihänder in their battle formations. One section was assigned to protect the flag, others were posted in the first row and had the task of breaking through the enemy’s rows of pikes. TheZweihänder proved unsuitable for the fray, however, and in the second half of the century evolved into a ceremonial and guard’s weapon adorned with various ornaments. The undulating edge did not have any function as such but served purely as decoration.” Let me note, that these words were also used by Hungarians, similar to longsword. For example, we know that Hungarian King Lajos II owned a fencing manual in 1524 that could have been used by his fencing teacher.

Photo: MNJ/N Lackner

Above: A cavalry sword from the 16th century…Description: “The straight, almost always double-edged sword was the main offensive weapon of the cavalrymen. The marks often stamped on the blades indicate their origin: most came from Passau and Styrian workshops. The blades, some of which date from the 15th century, were only given uniform hilts, crossguards, and shell guards later on, towards the end of the 17th century. One of the craftspeople who worked on these weapons was a female swordsmith from Graz, Barbara Reischenberger.”  My note: compare it with the Hungarian “pallos” that was a cutting sword, too:

 The description adds: “At the same time as the Zweihänder emerged in the 14th century, the Anderthalbhänder or “hand and a half” sword was developed. With an average length of 130 cm, it was somewhat smaller but also allowed the left hand to be used to assist. As protective armor became stronger and stronger, the swords used for attack also had to be improved. This was done by making the blades longer and heavier so that they could penetrate the tougher armor. As blades became longer, the length of the handles also steadily increased, eventually providing room for two hands by the end of this process of transformation. While the distinction between the Zweihänder and other melee weapons is relatively simple, with the Anderthalbhänder the difference is not entirely clear.”

Photo: MNJ/N Lackner

Above: an Estoc from Styria, 4th quarter of the 16th century…Description: “Estocs or even rapiers were carried by soldiers on horseback as well as by the infantry. Their narrow, four-edged blade was intended to be used on the areas of the body that were not protected by armor. Some of the swords have been conserved with their leather-covered sheaths and a carrying ring. The bladesmiths Wilhelm Gabler from Graz, Georg Lindl from Judenburg, Conrad Meisgen and Michel Eckhart from Passau and the swordsmiths Thoman Schimbl and Bartholomäus Heinrich from Graz are well known as producers of the Panzerstecher orestoc. All of their deliveries to the Styrian Armoury occurred in the 1570s and 1580s.” My note: this was the “hegyestőr” in the Hungarian language, the second sword of the Hussars. Compare it to this:

Photo: MNJ/N Lackner

Above: a matchlock muzzle-loading wall gun – Harquebus, Styria, 16th century (“hook-gun”, or “szakállas puska”) Description:

“Wall guns are muzzleloaders that can be loaded from the front with bullets or gunpowder. They are unusually long, large-caliber weapons. As they could weigh up to 32 kg, they had to be propped up on and fired from, walls and arrow slits. They have a distinctive hook that absorbs the recoil from the gun. This hook is forged onto the underside of the barrel. Of the 369 “Doppelhaken” matchlock wall guns (harquebuses) currently in the armory, the locks (matchlock, snap matchlock, wheel lock) and almost all of the shafts were made in Styrian workshops. They are generally made of beech wood, with cherry wood also being used in some harquebuses. Often weighing 20kg, instead of the hook, these rifles have a wrought iron fork with a round pivot, giving the otherwise rather cumbersome weapon significant mobility. They were therefore well suited for arming “Navaren” guard ships on the Drava, Sava, and Danube rivers.

The barrels of most of the harquebuses stored at the armory are consistently octagonal with a caliber of 21 mm on average; in some rifles, only the chamber section is octagonal, while the front barrel is round. These barrels, which are probably older, have a reddish protective layer (an anti-rust coating), while their barrel lock has clearly been welded and not, as was later customary, provided with a breech plug.”

Photo: MNJ/N Lackner

Above: a double-barrelled volley gun, late 15th century…Description: “Amongst the oldest weapons in the armory are three double-barrelled volley guns dating from the end of the 15th century. Volley guns are weapons, which have two or more barrels attached to one single gun; this increased the distance that could be covered by the load and thus strengthened the firepower of the weapon.” My note: King Matthias Corvinus of Hungary had lots of firearms in his Black Army. You can read more about it here:

Source: Styrian Armoury

I would like to have one of those! (Photo: Lackner)

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