Language: PLENDEHU

Exhibition on the history of weaponry

2011-04-14

On 27 April 2011, in the Castle in Dębno, an exhibition shall be opened presenting typical examples of weaponry used in Poland between the 14th and 16th century. Those two hundred years were a period of intensive development of culture and science as well as changes concerning methods of conducting wars and consequently also changes which occurred on battlefields. Experiences of European knights gained already during crusades in the area of the Near East, conducting wars with the Mongols and the Turks (Asian people) also transformed the methods of fighting. Also the offensive and defensive weaponry underwent changes. However, the introduction of firearms became revolutionary within this scope. The role of the traditional European knights i.e. horse-riding warriors covered with armour (chain mail armour or plate armour) with heavy lances and swords in their hands or axes by their sides was more and more depreciated by infantry armed with firearms. The twilight of European traditional knights together with their code of honour i.e. knightly virtues, was also the twilight of the Middle Ages era in the entire contemporary world.

The development of handheld firearms and especially artillery in the 16th century caused significant changes in the organisation of the army also in the Republic of Poland. However, owing to the vast area of the Republic of Poland at that time (ca. 1 million km2) and the need to protect its southern and eastern frontiers continuously threatened with the attacks of Tatars, the use of cavalry on the battlefield could not be resigned from. Therefore, it still constituted the core of the army, however, it became partially professionalised, reorganised and rearmed. Despite quite significant financial efforts of the state, the size of this standing army, i.e. "current defence force" (obrona potoczna in Polish), was not impressive. The size of the standing army was ca. 4,000 of professional soldiers. The current defence force was subject to the authority of hetmans and this office was created at the beginning of the 16th century. However, the mass conscription (pospolite ruszenie in Polish) of nobility (szlachta in Polish), so far constituting the basis for the organisation of the state armed forces, was subject to the king and could amount to even several dozen thousand, variously armed, trained and non-disciplined. The nobility cavalry could be used for the protection of threatened territory, however, its combat effectiveness value in the 16th century was not so high any more. As a matter of fact, the king aimed at harmonious cooperation of the mass conscription with the mercenary army but the hetman heading the professional and mercenary army did not have the authority allowing him to command the mass conscription.

The necessity of fighting with the eastern adversary (the Tatars and the Turks) became one of the reasons for the developing orientalisation of the armament and methods of conducting battles. As a result of those intentions, a new form of light cavalry occurred, the hussars, cavalry without armour, protected only with tetragonal shields of Turkish type, fighting with lances (wood) and sabres, hitting in gallop in close formation. From the beginning of the 16th century, the Polish infantry resembled Turkish janissaries in their method of fighting. Infantry called "drabi" prepared for a battle in tens. In the first row, pavisiers (pawężnicy in Polish) stood with large shields. Behind them, javelinmen covered with full armour, halberdiers and later in time, pikiners. The farther six rows were taken by shooters with firearms (rusznica in Polish) or much better arquebuses. The last row was formed by pikiners again, brilliant soldiers often called "back-up" soldiers. The infantry unit organised in the above manner formed most often a hundred i.e. rotte formation and was the basic unit of infantry of that time.

Artillery constituted then entirely separate organised type of army then useful for fortresses sieges, capturing cities and protection of military defensive positions. It did not play any significant part on the battlefield yet owing to its small mobility and considerably low quality of equipment.

The replicas of weaponry and equipment that shall be presented at the exhibition were executed by renowned Polish craftsmen. Swords, armours and many examples of polearm including very interesting plebeian weapons shall be displayed.

The exhibition shall be open from April 2011 to June 2012.




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About the project

"Autumn of middle ages – spring of renaissance – series of cultural and scientific events".   Until July 2012, the District Museum in Tarnów shall organise events under the project...
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