Cleaving weapons were popular in medieval warfare since they proved effective against different forms of armours used in the medieval period. Cleaving weapons were meant to inflict significant damage on an opponent even if the opponent wore strong armour.
For this purpose, cleaving weapons not only came with the ability to pierce through strong armour but also with an overall design which allowed medieval warriors to wield the weapon with maximum force. Among the most notable cleaving weapons used in the medieval era was the battle axe, maul, war hammer, morning star and horseman’s pick.
Battle axes were first popularised in medieval Europe by the Vikings. They were used both by the Anglo-Saxon warriors as well as the Norman cavalrymen in the historical Norman Conquest of England in the 11th century. Battle axes continued to be popular weapons in the subsequent centuries with noted historical figures such as Richard the Lionheart having wielded one on the battlefield.
The medieval battle axe typically ranged in length from 1 to 5 feet and had a weight of 1 to 6 pounds. From 13th to 15th centuries, the battle axe underwent significant evolution in its design due to the increasing sophistication of the defensive armour. Towards the 15th century, more effective cleaving weapons had been invented and the use of battle axe declined.
The Morning star was another type of cleaving weapon used in medieval battlefields. The design of a morning star typically comprised of a long club-like structure which culminated in a number of spikes added to the head of the weapon. It was typically constructed to be used as a two-hand weapon and was typically six feet in length.
Three distinct types of morning star were used during the medieval period. One was the type used by professional soldiers on the battlefield, often those stationed in the garrison of a rich town. This type was constructed by professional smiths and utilised quality material.
The second type was that used by the peasants who usually made the weapon on their own and then had spikes added to its head by the local smith. A third type of morning star was often decorative in nature and came to be used in the late medieval period.
A Horseman’s pick was another cleaving weapon which, as the name suggests, was typically used to hurl the cavalrymen of an enemy force down to the ground when they could then be attacked with other weapons. Similar to a war hammer in its shape, the horseman’s pick came with a strong blunt head at one side and a long spike on the other side.
The spike was the primary feature of this weapon and it was chiefly wielded by using the spike to trip down mounted warriors or to penetrate through their mail armour. The weapon was very effective in the hands of English troops during the Hundred Years’ War but it carried many drawbacks such as being too heavy for quick wielding and essentially ineffective in close combat