Switzerland, 2nd half 16th century
Forged iron, etched
overall length 250 cm, length of point with blades 119 cm
The victorious battles of the Swiss against the Habsburgs at Morgarten in 1315 and at Sempach in 1386 founded the halberd's reputation, and since the emergence of a Swiss national consciousness in the C16 it has been used as a symbol of Swiss military prowess. Although the halberd gradually lost its military significance in the C16, large numbers of 'Sempach halberds' were still produced in the C17. The earlier halberd resembled an axe with blade and head; but on top the blade narrowed to a point. The thrusting point and the hook emerged in the C15 and C16. The weapon was used for swinging and thrusting, and was suited both to defence and to attack. When the halberd became obsolete in the C16, its form was elaborated decoratively. The halberd illustrated represents this late stage: the blade is crescent shaped, with hooks and teeth at the sides, the point is very long, and the flat hook also has teeth. It is covered in etched interlacing, and is enlivened on the axe blades by medallions with a female bust and a warrior. The octagonal shaft is studded with numerous brass nails.