This weapon was very popular in battle and foot combat. It was used to strike the opponent’s head (the word poll means head) and the solid hammerhead at the back could concuss a man in armor. The long langets of this example of about 1470 helped to hold the head firmly and prevent the shaft from being cut when fighting.
KNIGHT IN SHINING ARMOR
This 15th-century tournament parade shield depicts a bareheaded knight kneeling before his lady. The words on the scroll mean “You or death,” and the figure of death is represented by a skeleton.
SHOCK OF BATTLE
This late-15th-century picture shows the crash of two opposing cavalry forces in full plate armor and the deadly effects of well-aimed lances. Those struck down in the first line, even if only slightly wounded, were liable to be trampled by the horses either of the enemy or of their own knights following behind.
In some 13th-century jousts the knights dismounted after using their lances and fought on with swords. By the 14th century, such foot combats were popular in their own right. Each contestant was allowed a set number of blows, delivered alternately. Men-at-arms stood ready to separate them if they got too excited. From 15th-century writings we learn that each man sometimes threw a javelin first, then the fight went on with sword, ax, or staff weapon. Later still, such combats were replaced by contests in which two teams fought across a barrier. It was called the foot tournament because, as in the mounted tourney, each man tried to break a spear against his opponent before continuing the fight with blunted swords.