Polearm weapons were used for a variety of battlefield purposes during the medieval period. They were very useful in dislodging cavalrymen from their mounts and in tripping their ride.
The typical design of a polearm weapon comprises a long wooden shaft at the end of which a sharp blade of some sort is affixed. The length of different polearm weapons varies and a longer polearm weapon offers greater reach against an enemy.
Another notable aspect of a polearm weapon is the fact that it was one of the most inexpensive forms of a weapon during the medieval period. This made it a favourite weapon with peasants.
The Fauchard was a type of polearm weapon that was used in medieval Europe from the 11th to 14th centuries. The pole shaft of a fauchard measured 6 to 7 feet and a curved blade was affixed to the end of the shaft. The curved blade of a fauchard made it look a little like a sickle.
Towards the later medieval period, variants of fauchard evolved with a spear point added to the back of the primary blade. This spear point was used to stab in addition to the main blade which was used for cutting and slashing.
The Guisarme was a type of polearm weapon that remained in popular use in different parts of Europe from the 11th to 14th centuries. Like most other weapons, the guisarme was developed by peasants. Its basic design is comprised of a long wooden shaft culminating in a pruning hook.
The hook at the end of the pole was highly effective in combating incoming cavalry and dismounting cavalrymen. However, once the cavalrymen had been dislodged, the weapon was essentially ineffective against an on-foot enemy.
This led to the improvement of the weapon with a small spike being added at the back of the hook in order to enable close combat with the opponent.
A Glaive was a type of polearm weapon used in Europe during the High Middle Ages. This type of weapon comprised of a long wooden pole some 6 to 7 feet in length which culminated in an 18-inch blade.
The shape of the glaive’s blade was similar to the shape of a modern knife. Some variants of glaive came with a hook at the back of the main blade. Glaives were used by both cavalrymen as well as infantrymen during the medieval period.
The Voulge was a type of polearm weapon which first became popular in medieval France. The French extensively made use of the voulge during the Hundred Years’ War with the English.
The blade of a voulge was broad and meant for effectively hacking the opponent. This blade was fixed at the top of a long pole so that a part of the blade was directly affixed to the pole while the top of the blade remained free for stabbing and hacking.
A Svardstav was a Swedish polearm weapon that was wielded by Swedish armies during the medieval period. The basic design of a Svardstav comprised of a two-meter staff which culminated in a two-edged sword blade.
Such a design essentially combined the benefits of a sword’s blade with the extensive range of a spear. In many cases, an old sword blade was used in the construction of the polearm weapon which made it relatively inexpensive to produce.
The Halberd was a popular type of polearm weapon that came into widespread use during the later medieval period. The basic design of a halberd comprises a long shaft that ends in an axe head.
The axe is the primary blade for attacking the opponent using a halberd. A hook is added at the back of this blade. This hook is a defining feature of a halberd and it enables the wielder to grapple a mounted opponent and bring him down before attacking him with the axe.
The Halberd was famously used by Swiss fighters with great success during the later medieval period.
A corseque was a type of polearm weapon which was widely used in Europe during the late medieval period. The basic design of a corseque comprised of a 6 to 8 feet long shaft which culminated in a three-bladed head.
The three-blade heads were designed so that the two side-blade emanated from the central blade at an angle of 45 degrees. In some variants, the side-blade curved away from the central blade and towards the shaft.
The weapon was effective in close combat but didn’t gain widespread popularity or usage in medieval Europe.
The bardiche was a type of polearm weapon that was popularly used in Eastern Europe during the late medieval and early modern periods. The bardiche was unusual among other types of medieval polearm weapons in that its shaft was exceptionally short while its blade was exceptionally large.
The shaft of a bardiche rarely exceeded 5 feet in length while the blade positioned at the top of the shaft was often larger than 2 feet in length.
The basic blade used on a bardiche was curved and shaped like a cleaver. The design of the bardiche made it a type of polearm weapon that relied more on the strength of its heavy blade rather than on the length and swinging momentum of the shaft. The bardiche was popularly used in Russia and in Scandinavian regions.
A Pike is a type of polearm weapon that was commonly used by the infantrymen from the early Middle Ages until the early modern period.
The pike was notable as an exceptionally long polearm weapon, ranging from 10 to 25 feet in length. Consequently, the weight of a pike was also substantial, ranging between 3 to 6 kg. Such weight made it impossible for a pike to be wielded with a single hand.
At the end of the pike, a steel spearhead was affixed. The Pike was a highly effective weapon wielded by the infantrymen who would group together in pike formations to defend against an incoming attack, especially if the enemy deployed its cavalry units.
The exceptional length of pikes also made it possible for pike wielders to damage enemy soldiers at a distance.