Arms & Armor Iberian Mace
A hands-on review by Chad Arnow
Despite many modern collectors' preference for swords, those popular and revered weapons were often not the primary knightly weapon on the battlefield. Against armour, whether mail or plate, even the most robust sword's edges could become dull or damaged, requiring re-sharpening or repair. On top of that, the likely-damaged sword would still probably have not caused a great deal of damage to the armour it faced or the opponent inside.
Other weapons were needed: weapons that didn't require sharpening, concentrated a great deal of force in one area, and could actually damage armour and the wearer beneath. Today we call these impact weapons, a name which says it all. Maces, warhammers, flails and the like did the battlefield work the sword could not.
Maces are old weapons and are descended from the club, one of mankind's earliest weapons. Many of us are familiar with the all-steel flanged maces of the 15th century. Less well-documented, though, are the wooden-hafted spiked maces of earlier eras, like those shown in the Maciejowski Bible and other period artwork. Instead of flanges, many of these maces had studs or pyramidal spikes. Like the later flanges, these did not require sharpening, as their very shape delivered concentrated force to the target.
Arms & Armor of Minnesota has a wide range of impact weapons in their catalogue; the majority of these are based on surviving period examples. Though not their fanciest piece, I've always enjoyed the look of their Iberian Mace, based on a weapon depicted in a 13th century Spanish manuscript housed in the Real Academia de la Historia in Madrid.
This simple yet brutally effective weapon is composed of an ash haft, on which is mounted a tubular head with four rows of four pyramid-shaped spikes. When it appeared as one of their discount monthly specials, I decided to add one to my collection.
Measurements and Specifications:
Replica created by Arms & Armor of Minnesota.
Its weight is similar to swords of the era but it handles completely differently due to the majority of its weight being around 20 inches from the hand. Held straight out and motionless its weight is apparent. Of course, this weapon was not meant to be held statically. When swung, the weight mostly disappears; all that is left is momentum.
Swinging this mace is a joy, though recovery time is not always swift, due in no small part to my physical conditioning and lack of regular training with a weapon like this. Against pressed wood cabinet sides, the Iberian Mace stood up to repeated full-force strikes, leaving pyramid shaped indentations in the wood.
I also performed a half dozen or so strikes against a defunct metal-cased network hub. I had expected to see inverted pyramids left in the metal, as in the wood. Instead though, the mace left four shallow dents from each spike's point in the middle of a much larger dent as a result of each strike. Obviously, these test strikes don't really tell us much about what kind of damage period armour would have received from these blows, though they do tell us that this weapon can stand up to strikes against stationary metal objects without deforming the spikes or loosening the head in any way.
While this weapon can be swung bare-handed, it felt more secure while wearing a glove. A more "grippable" area might be a good idea to add, whether it is simple grooves in the wood or a leather and/or wire binding.
Fit and Finish
The cast mild steel heed is secured to the haft both with a wedge (like a hammer or axe head today) and a rivet that passes through the head on both sides as well as through the haft and the wedge. The head bears some pitting from the casting process, and some of the nooks and crannies aren't polished smooth (I wouldn't expect them to be), but this all fits with the workman-like appearance of the mace. The peening of the rivet heads is nicely done.
This mace is simple, yet effective. It is obvious that it is not a finesse weapon, but rather one designed for heavy, crushing blows. The execution of the weapon is quite nice, though "nice" is the last word to come to mind as it is swung. I think this is a fine weapon and a great representation of a mace from earlier in the High Middle Ages. Arms & Armor has proved yet again that a weapon doesn't have to be fancy or ornate, just effective and this is a classic example of that.
About the Author
Chad Arnow is a classical musician from the greater Cincinnati area and has had an interest in military history for many years. Though his collecting tends to focus on European weapons and armour of the High Middle Ages, he enjoys swords, knives and armour from many eras.
Photographer: Chad Arnow