battle axe medieval

The Fierce Battle Axes of Medieval Combat

Step back in time to engage with an era of brutal hand-to-hand combat, where warriors wielded the mighty battle axe. The medieval period that lasted from the 5th to the 15th century saw the usage of battle axes as one of the primary weapons in battle. The intimidating appearance and exceptional functionality of these weapons made them popular among soldiers and fighters.

In this article, we explore the rich history and significance of battle axes in medieval warfare. We delve into their origins, design and construction, battle strategies, and cultural symbolism. We also take a look at famous battles that involved the usage of these formidable weapons.

If you’re passionate about weaponry and love the sound of clashing steel, then read on to discover more about the history and power of battle axes in medieval combat.

Key Takeaways

  • Battle axes were a popular weapon of choice in medieval combat.
  • The medieval period saw the usage of battle axes from the 5th to the 15th century.
  • Battle axes were feared for their intimidating appearance and exceptional functionality.
  • We will explore the origins, design and construction, battle strategies, and cultural symbolism of battle axes.
  • We will also take a look at famous battles that involved the usage of these formidable weapons.

Introduction to Medieval Battle Axes

Medieval battles were a brutal and bloody affair, and the weapons used in these conflicts played a vital role in determining the outcome. Among the most fearsome of all medieval weapons were the battle axes, which were wielded by warriors all over the world, from Europe to Asia.

The origins of the battle axe can be traced back to the early civilizations of mankind, where it was used as a tool for cutting wood and clearing land. However, as society grew more complex, the axe began to take on a new role as a weapon of war. In medieval times, the battle axe was a popular choice among warriors, thanks in no small part to its versatility and power.

Viking Axes

Although medieval battle axes were used all over the world, one of the most famous types was the Viking axe, which was used by the fearsome Norse warriors during their raids on Europe in the 8th and 9th centuries. The Viking axe was a single-handed weapon that featured a long, heavy blade, often with a curved or pointed tip. It was designed for both chopping and thrusting, making it a very versatile weapon on the battlefield.

The Viking axe was also known for its durability and strength, and many warriors would decorate their axes with intricate designs and symbols, turning them into both weapons and works of art. Today, Viking axes are highly prized by collectors and enthusiasts of medieval weaponry.

Types of Battle Axes

The battle axe was an essential weapon for medieval warriors. There were different types of battle axes used in combat, each with its unique design and purpose. The following are some of the most common types:

Type of Battle Axe Description
Single-Handed Battle Axe The single-handed battle axe was a versatile weapon commonly used by medieval foot soldiers. It had a short handle and a small blade, making it lightweight and easy to maneuver in tight spaces.
Double-Handed Battle Axe The double-handed battle axe was a larger and heavier weapon used by elite soldiers and knights. It required both hands to wield, and its longer handle allowed for greater striking power and reach.
Viking Battle Axe The Viking battle axe was a fierce weapon used by Viking warriors during raids and battles. It had a long handle and a large, curved blade that could inflict devastating damage on enemy soldiers.
Pollaxe The pollaxe was a specialized weapon used by knights and nobles. It had a small axe blade on one side and a spike on the other, allowing for both cutting and piercing attacks.

Each type of battle axe served a specific purpose in combat. Single-handed axes were commonly used in close quarters, while double-handed axes were used to break through enemy lines. Viking axes were effective for both cutting and hooking enemy shields, while pollaxes were designed for use against heavily armored opponents.

The blades of battle axes also varied in their shape and size. Blades could be straight or have a curved edge, and some axes had a spike on the opposite side of the blade. The design of the axe blade depended on the intended use of the weapon and the preferences of the wielder.

Battle Axe Comparison Table

Type of Battle Axe Size Weight Handle Blade Shape Intended Use
Single-Handed Battle Axe Short Light One-handed Straight or slightly curved Close quarters combat
Double-Handed Battle Axe Long Heavy Two-handed Straight or curved Breaking through enemy lines
Viking Battle Axe Long Medium to heavy One-handed or two-handed Large and curved Inflicting devastating damage on enemy soldiers
Pollaxe Long Heavy Two-handed Combination of axe blade and spike Use against heavily armored opponents

The table above provides a detailed comparison of the different types of battle axes. It showcases the contrasting features and intended uses of each one, highlighting their unique roles in medieval combat.

In conclusion, battle axes played a significant role in medieval warfare. Their versatility, power, and durability made them a formidable weapon on the battlefield. The different types of battle axes and their variations in design and construction highlight the ingenuity and craftsmanship of medieval weapon makers.

Design and Construction of Battle Axes

Medieval battle axes were regarded as powerful weapons of war. Their design and construction were crucial elements in their effectiveness as well as their cultural significance. The making of a battle axe was a skilled craft that required specialized knowledge and craftsmanship.

The Materials

The most commonly used materials for making battle axes were steel and wood. Steel was used for the blade or head of the axe, while wood was used for the handle. Steel was preferred for its strength and durability, while wood was chosen for its lightness and flexibility. The handle was usually made of several pieces of wood that were tightly bound together to create a sturdy and balanced grip.

The Balance

The balance of a battle axe was critical to its effectiveness in combat. The weight of the head had to be perfectly balanced with the weight of the handle. If the head was too heavy, it would be difficult to control in battle. If the handle was too long, it would be too heavy to wield effectively. The balance of a battle axe was achieved through careful design and construction.

The Shape of the Blade

The shape of the blade on a battle axe varied depending on its purpose. Some axes had a wide blade with a sharp edge for cleaving through armor, while others had a narrow blade for penetrating armor. The shape of the blade also affected the axe’s balance and the angle at which it could be used in combat.

The Decorations

Battle axes were often decorated with intricate designs and symbols that represented the warrior’s identity or the weapon’s cultural significance. These decorations were carved into the handle or the blade and could be quite intricate and detailed. Some battle axes were also adorned with precious metals, such as gold or silver, to increase their value and status.

The Importance of Design and Construction

The design and construction of a battle axe were critical to its effectiveness in combat and its cultural significance. A well-designed and well-crafted battle axe was a symbol of a warrior’s strength, skill, and status. It was a weapon that could strike fear into the hearts of the enemy and inspire courage in the hearts of allies.

Battle Strategies with Axes

Medieval battles were often chaotic and intense, with combatants relying on their wits and weapons to survive. Battle axes offered a unique advantage, allowing warriors to deliver powerful blows that could cleave through armor and bone. However, using a battle axe effectively required skill and strategy, as well as an understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of the weapon.

Battle Techniques

One of the primary advantages of a battle axe is its versatility. Depending on the design, the weapon could be used for both slashing and thrusting attacks. This made the weapon useful in a variety of combat situations, from close-quarters brawls to open field battles.

When using a battle axe, the first priority was to maintain a firm grip on the weapon. Because battle axes are heavy, it was important to hold the weapon properly to avoid dropping it during combat. In addition, the axe needed to be swung with sufficient force to inflict damage on the opponent, while also avoiding overextension that could leave the warrior vulnerable to counterattacks.


Effective use of a battle axe required specialized training. Warriors needed to develop their strength, agility, and reflexes through regular practice with the weapon. This involved exercises such as swinging the axe, striking targets, and practicing defensive maneuvers.

Training also involved learning how to adapt to different battle scenarios. Warriors needed to be able to quickly assess their opponents and surroundings, and adjust their tactics accordingly. This required a combination of physical and mental preparation, as well as experience gained from actual combat situations.

Advantages and Disadvantages

The battle axe offered several advantages over other weapons commonly used during medieval battles. Its weight and size made it a formidable weapon, capable of delivering powerful blows that could incapacitate or kill an opponent. In addition, the axe’s design allowed for a range of attacks, making it effective in a variety of combat situations.

However, the battle axe also had some disadvantages. Because it was a heavy weapon, it could be difficult to wield effectively for extended periods of time. In addition, the axe’s size and weight required a degree of physical strength and endurance that not all warriors possessed. Finally, the axe’s length and heft made it less useful in tight quarters, where shorter weapons such as swords or daggers could be more effective.


In conclusion, battle axes were a valuable weapon in medieval battles, offering a range of advantages to warriors who wielded them effectively. By combining skill, strength, and strategy, warriors could use battle axes to devastating effect on the battlefield, making them a formidable presence in medieval combat.

Famous Battles Involving Battle Axes

The use of battle axes in medieval battles was widespread, and they played a significant role in shaping the outcomes of many battles. Here are some of the most famous battles where battle axes were prominently used:

Battle Name Date Location Description
Battle of Stamford Bridge September 25, 1066 Stamford Bridge, England During this battle, Harold Godwinson’s army defeated the Viking army of Harald Hardrada. Viking warriors, including Hardrada himself, were armed with battle axes and fought ferociously.
Battle of Hastings October 14, 1066 Hastings, England In this battle, William the Conqueror’s Norman army defeated the English army of King Harold. Norman knights carried battle axes as a secondary weapon and effectively used them to break through the English shield wall.
Battle of Bannockburn June 23-24, 1314 Bannockburn, Scotland Scottish warriors, including Robert the Bruce, fought against the English army led by King Edward II. Scottish warriors wielded battle axes and used them to crush the English cavalry charge, contributing significantly to their victory.

“The greater part of our men fought with battle-axes…and so thickly crowded were they that they formed, as it were, a castle of steel.” – William of Malmesbury on the Battle of Hastings

In these battles, the use of battle axes required great strength and skill, but it was a formidable weapon that instilled fear in the enemy. The sound of a battle axe hitting a shield or armor was often enough to demoralize opponents and turn the tide of a battle.

Symbolism and Cultural Significance

The battle axe was not just a weapon in medieval times; it was also a symbol of power and strength. Warriors adorned their axes with intricate designs and symbols to showcase their allegiance and identity.

In Viking culture, the axe symbolized the god of thunder, Thor, and was used in rituals and sacrifices. The Norse also believed that the axe had supernatural powers and could ward off evil spirits.

“The axe was not only a weapon, but also a symbol of power. It was a tool used to conquer lands, defeat enemies, and make a statement of dominance.”

The cultural significance of the battle axe extended beyond warfare. It was also present in art and literature. The epic poem Beowulf mentions the use of battle axes by warriors and the symbolism attached to them.

Battle Axes in Literature Battle Axes in Art
  • Beowulf
  • The Song of Roland
  • The Nibelungenlied
  • Medieval tapestries
  • Coat of arms
  • Armor and weapons design

The battle axe’s cultural significance has remained strong throughout the centuries. It has been used in modern-day heraldry, with the axe often representing justice, courage, and honor. The weapon has also made numerous appearances in popular culture, from video games to movies, further cementing its enduring legacy.

Evolution of Battle Axes

The design and construction of battle axes in medieval times have evolved over centuries, influenced by advancements in technology and warfare. Early battle axes were simple, single-handed tools, used primarily for chopping wood and hunting. However, as societies became more militarized, these axes began to take on new forms, specifically designed for combat.

During the Viking Age, battle axes became the weapon of choice for many warriors. The Viking axe was a double-handed design, with a long, curved blade made of iron or steel. These axes were incredibly versatile, allowing warriors to use them for both hacking and thrusting. The curved blade was also capable of hooking onto an enemy’s shield, disarming them and leaving them vulnerable to attack.

Type of Battle Axe Description
Dane Axe A large, two-handed axe with a broad head and a long haft, used by the Vikings. It was typically made of iron or steel.
Battle Hammer A type of axe with a hammerhead on the opposite side of the cutting edge. It was used to bludgeon opponents but could also be used to pierce armor.
Bearded Axe A type of single-handed axe with a distinctive curve at the bottom of the blade. It was used for chopping and cutting, and its unique design allowed for hooking and pulling maneuvers.

As the Middle Ages progressed, battle axes continued to evolve. The design of single-handed axes became more complex, with blades of various shapes and sizes. These axes were often paired with shields, providing both offense and defense in battle.

The construction of battle axes also became more intricate, with a greater emphasis on balance and durability. Axes were often crafted with steel blades and wooden hafts, carefully balanced to ensure easy handling for warriors in battle.


The evolution of battle axes in medieval times reflects the changing nature of warfare and technology. From simple tools to complex weapons, the battle axe played an important role in shaping the outcomes of many battles throughout history.

Battle Axe Techniques and Training

Battle axes were not simple weapons to wield, nor were they effective in the hands of an untrained person. Proper techniques and training were crucial for warriors to master the axe’s true potential in battle.

Battle Axe Stances

One of the first things a warrior needs to learn when using a battle axe is the proper stance. There are three main stances:

Stance Description
Neutral stance Both feet shoulder-width apart, axe held at the ready in both hands
Forward stance One foot forward, axe held in one hand at the ready, the other hand used for balance
Backward stance One foot back, axe held in both hands, ready for a power strike

Each stance has its benefits and drawbacks. The neutral stance is the most balanced and allows for quick changes in direction, while the forward stance gives more reach and power to the swing. The backward stance is used for heavy blows and can leave a warrior vulnerable to attacks from the sides.

Battle Axe Grips

The grip is also essential to master when using a battle axe. There are two main grips:

  • Single-handed grip: One hand on the axe handle, offering more mobility to the warrior but less power and control over the weapon.
  • Double-handed grip: Both hands on the axe handle, providing more power, control, and precision but limiting the warrior’s mobility.


There are various techniques that warriors used to maximize the potential of the battle axe in combat. Here are some examples:

  • Overhead strike: A powerful blow delivered from above, used to crush armor or down an opponent.
  • Hooking strike: A quick maneuver where the blade is hooked behind the opponent’s shield, yanking it away to expose the enemy for a finishing strike.
  • Sweeping strike: A wide, sweeping motion used to clear out multiple enemies at once.
  • Shield break: A heavy blow aimed at breaking an opponent’s shield, leaving them vulnerable to a follow-up attack.


Training for battle axe combat varies depending on the warrior’s background and culture. Some received formal training from an early age, while others learned through experience and trial and error on the battlefield. Training often included physical conditioning, weapons drills, and sparring with other warriors.

“The axe is heavy, and it takes time to master. But with patience, practice, and a willingness to learn, any warrior can become a formidable opponent with a battle axe in hand.” – Anonymous Medieval Warrior

Collecting and Preserving Battle Axes

Battle axes played a crucial role in medieval warfare and are now highly sought after by collectors and preservationists. The design, craftsmanship, and historical significance of these weapons make them valuable artifacts for enthusiasts. If you’re interested in collecting and preserving battle axes, there are a few things you should know.


When collecting battle axes, it’s essential to ensure their authenticity. Many fake battle axes are on the market, so it’s vital to verify the weapon’s origin, age, and historical significance. Look for weapons with provenance, meaning that they come with a documented history of ownership and use.


After authentication, preserving battle axes is the next important step. Proper storage, handling, and cleaning are crucial for ensuring the longevity of these weapons. Keep battle axes in a dry and temperature-controlled environment to prevent rust and corrosion. Additionally, handle the weapons with gloves to prevent oils and acids from your skin damaging the metal.


Displaying battle axes can be a challenging task, as these weapons can be heavy and sharp. Ensure that the display case or mount can support the weapon’s weight and provide adequate protection. If possible, showcase the battle axe alongside its documentation and provenance to enhance its historical significance.

Collecting and preserving battle axes requires specialized knowledge and understanding of these weapons’ historical significance. Proper authentication, preservation, and display are essential for maintaining the value and integrity of these valuable artifacts.


Battle axes were essential weapons in the medieval world, and their significance is evident from their presence in historical battles, folklore, and ancient customs.

The Viking axes were particularly noteworthy for their power and durability, and their influence on warfare during this era was profound.

The design and construction of battle axes required specific skills and attention to detail, and understanding how they were made is essential in appreciating their value as historical artifacts.

Battle strategies with axes varied depending on the situation, and warriors had to employ tactics that maximized the advantages of using these weapons while minimizing their disadvantages.

Battles involving battle axes are well documented in history, and reviewing these records can help us understand the significance of these weapons in medieval warfare.

The symbolism and cultural significance attached to battle axes in medieval societies were profound, and these weapons were often portrayed in art, folklore, and ancient customs.

The evolution of battle axes from their early forms to the later designs in medieval times was influenced by advancements in technology and warfare.

Preservation and Collecting of Battle Axes

Battle axe collectors and preservationists play an essential role in ensuring that these historical artifacts are protected and displayed for future generations. Authentication and preservation methods are constantly evolving, and there is now a more significant appreciation of the importance of these items in understanding our history.

Learning about the specialized techniques and training required to effectively wield a battle axe can help us appreciate the skill and precision that medieval warriors had to master to use these weapons effectively.

In conclusion, the legacy of battle axes in medieval combat is undeniable, and these weapons played a significant role in shaping our history. Understanding their significance can help us appreciate the incredible skill, bravery, and innovation that characterized the warriors of that era.


What is the origin of battle axes in medieval times?

Battle axes have been used in warfare since ancient times, but they gained prominence in medieval Europe as a versatile and effective weapon.

What types of battle axes were used in medieval combat?

Medieval warriors used a variety of battle axes, including single-handed axes for close combat and double-handed axes for more powerful strikes. There were also variations in blade shapes and sizes.

How were battle axes designed and constructed?

Battle axes were meticulously crafted with materials such as steel and wood. The balance and durability of the weapon were essential considerations in their design and construction.

What were some combat strategies employed with battle axes?

Warriors wielding battle axes would often utilize their agility and quick strikes to exploit openings in an opponent’s defenses. However, the weight and size of the weapon could also be a disadvantage in certain battle situations.

Can you provide examples of famous battles involving battle axes?

Some notable battles where battle axes played a significant role include the Battle of Stamford Bridge in 1066 and the Battle of Hastings in the same year. These weapons were instrumental in shaping the outcomes of these conflicts.

What is the cultural significance of battle axes in medieval societies?

Battle axes held symbolic importance in medieval societies, representing strength, courage, and power. They were often depicted in art, folklore, and ancient customs as symbols of authority and warrior spirit.

How have battle axes evolved over time?

Battle axes have undergone significant changes in design and functionality over the centuries. Advancements in technology and warfare influenced the evolution of battle axe designs, resulting in more efficient and deadly weapons.

What techniques and training were required to wield a battle axe effectively?

Wielding a battle axe required strength, skill, and precision. Training in proper grip, footwork, and striking techniques was essential to maximize the weapon’s potential in combat.

Is there a community dedicated to collecting and preserving battle axes?

Yes, there is a community of battle axe collectors and preservationists who study and collect these historical artifacts. They employ various methods to authenticate, preserve, and display battle axes to ensure their historical value is protected for future generations.

What is the significance of battle axes in medieval combat?

Battle axes played a crucial role in medieval combat, serving as formidable weapons that could inflict devastating blows on opponents. Their power and effectiveness made them a weapon of choice for many warriors, shaping the outcomes of battles.