Koncerz and Palasz
(Cavalry Stock and Broadsword of the Polish Lithuanian Commonwealth, 17th C.)
The typical Hussar heavy cavalry of the period was extremely well armed.
The "koncerz" (above/left, similar to the western Europe "estock" or "stock") is a special point-only sword, straight and very long (1.1-1.4 meters, typically 1.3 meters), for horseback use only because of its extreme length.
From the mid 17th Century they were made in triangle cross-section, like a smallsword or modern epee, but they were much longer than small-swords.
Koncerz were used in Poland since the 15th Century - perhaps the prototype was a turkish weapon designed to pierce chainmail. The upper one illustrated is called "Hungarian" (koncerz wegierski), the lower one is called "Turkish" (koncerz turecki).
The "Palasz" (Right/below, or cavalry Broadsword) is a straight-bladed sword capable of attack with both the point and edge. Somewhat shorter but heavier than a koncerz. These varied greatly in style, and may include basket-hilted swords.
right, 16th C. Hungarian Pallosa
few words on the Polish Koncerz and Palasz swords of the 17th C.
(Kilka słów na temat koncerza polskiego w XVII wieku)
(cavalry swords known as stocks or estocks in the west, pronounced kon-shech’)
are closely associated with the famous Polish Winged Hussars. The Poles adopted
the koncerz in the 16th C from
eastern models, for example as used by Turkish cavalry.
Żygulski observed that there are very few existing examples of koncerz of
the early type. Several specimens of early koncerz are in the collection of the
Warsaw Military Museum (MWP). They have a characteristic grip in line with the
blade, such that the blade can be an extension of the arm (straight line from
elbow to point). They have an extremely long, triangular or quadrangular
cross-section blade, mostly with sides concavely cut, the latter feature perhaps
of German origin .
scabbards were hung from the saddle usually under the left, but sometimes right,
knee of the rider. Eastern saddles had a special strap for hanging the koncerz.
Often comrade-hussars (knights) like ordinary post-hussar (fighting retainers)
had hanging from the saddle not koncerz, but broadsword (palasz), or one or both
sides. According to Zofiowka Stefański, officers - captains and lieutenants
- always had koncerz .
comrades - towarazysze - were senior
troopers or wealthy men who sponsored and outfitted one or more ‘post men’ -poszetazysze
-fighting men, who served as the comrade’s retainers.
The group consisting of the comrade as junior officer and his men was
called a Post -poczet-, and was the smallest tactical unit (of variable size 2-12
averaging 3-4 in the hussars). In
formation, the comrade was the file-leader, and his post made up one file. More
on organization is here.)
source of evidence is the “mobilia” (the non-real-estate ‘movable’
property of estates) left by deceased Polish officers. From this it may appear
that in the majority of cases it was an ornate arm of great expense.
For example, among property left by the deceased lieutenant of the
hussars Nicholas Złotnicki we will find “koncerz of silver and gold
worked with turquoise” and “koncerz bound in silver” .
was associated with the husarią, a demonstration at the Air Show 2003
in Poznan from 5 July 2003 (photo by author).
in the MWP collection have a length of 135 cm (Hungarian), 140 cm (Hungarian
second half of the 17TH century) and 143 cm (Hussar style). The tip is often
triangular cross-section. The hussar koncerz had the following parameters:
length 143 cm,
blade width by hilt 2 cm,
weight 0,78 kg .
Zdzislaw Żygulski agrees that koncerzi (whether of western or eastern
style) were often seen in the hands of comrades and the older veteran hussars.
Żygulski adds, “that some researchers interpret that the koncerz may be a
primary weapon of older hussars, as a substitute for the “kopia” lance
(which requires a great deal of athletic ability to use). If so, the koncerz
would have been brought out the scabbard before battle and used in charges.”
into consideration that koncerz were comrades’ arms, and used also without doubt by post-hussars, the whole banner
would be uniformly armed with koncerz while standing in ranks with kopia-lances.
In the few documentary references to swords in hand while charging (without
kopia) the broadsword was used rather than the koncerz.
We don’t encounter memoirs of banners attacking with drawn koncerz,
but we can read about charges with drawn broadswords. Describing a hussar charge
at Powonka in 1660 against Moscow infantry Łosia writes:
„ …. Upon the infantry the banner of hussars with their broadswords
The matter remains open, here I have only raised it as a subject of inquiry. The fact is, that if we agree with Cichowski’s and Szulczyński’s thesis, that koncerzi contested with broadswords for weapon of first choice, we will be accepting the memorialists’ apparent observations that broadswords were used by banners in the majority of battles, (and that they would have started with koncerz in a minority of battles). Generally this author disagrees with that position; I believe that that koncerz were owned and used often by comrade and post-man alike .
the koncerz we cannot assign a greater role than the facts can support. On
one hand, both memorial authors observed, that after using the kopia-lance the
hussars attacked with drawn koncerz in hand; on the other, there
is the dictate of Wladyslaw IV
stating, that hussars must have „ the saddle with the necessaries, which are
rzędem (files?), tokiem (lathe? Progress?), koncerz or broadsword, hanging
the koncerz from the saddle under the knee”. Apparently broadsword and koncerz
were treated as uniform munitions-grade arms. Presumably authorities decided the
price and specifications. Ornate koncerz would be owned by veterans and the
wealthy which also distinguished them the normal post-hussar (however
is it only hypothesis, difficult to proof, undoubtedly prices koncerzy-stocks
and broadswords varied by period and place).
appears that some older books about hussars overestimated the koncerz’s typical
size. Cichowski and Szulczyński wrote that their specimens of koncerzi had
160 cm lengths (the authors claimed that the length of four koncerzi of the 17th
century in the MWP were180 cm which
we know are actually about. 140 cm.) Useful when the length he defends
we read while going together
with pulled out hand, she leveled some to the lance”. So much only, that the
('short' 11-13 foot) lance (in 17th century the ‘rohatyna’) is universal, because its virtue stems
also from how it “works”, that is to
maneuver around (asking how fighting was done in
the 17th century? Some putting on the sides and backwards certainly was done
already in the 16th C..), so comparing not it is to end forcible. In
fighting koncerz serves only to thrust, and appears less universally versatile
than broadsword, which attacks as well as defends, e.g. against
saber or rapier of opponent.
koncerzi were more costly than broadswords, that could explain the more common
use of broadswords.
At that time we would be already the step from stating, that koncerz as valuable Arms of senior troopers and comrades, and broadsword was very popular. Unfortunately slight searching prices both kinds he defends (obviously with stipulating, with is that fitting “by eye”, because the prices they concerned decorated variously and carried out he defends, they have been furthermore various in various part Rzplitej) they will appear to confirm the thesis, that koncerz and broadsword used they have been interchangeably nor has been discerned of specially that two kinds he defends. For example the price for koncerz and broadsword established by a Lublin commission in 1627 r. is precisely identical - 90 groszy (24,3 grams silvers). So, perhaps koncerz and broadsword are different in details but are also similar in production costs by each being steel swords, with scabbards of leather.
searching farther I found some indication that, on average, koncerz was somewhat
more expensive than broadswords. In a list of decreed prices in Poznan, 1626, we
read that “for koncerz bound in
scabbard with long bands (? wkówki)” it is necessary to to pay 7 florins and
15 groszy, while “for broadsword in scabbard” the
cost was 6 florins. It appears that the difference in price resulted from the
“long wkówki” of the koncerz. Fact, that Arms are dealt some just as and
especially important confirms the price list of 1623 r. (Sieradz), in which
is written, that koncerz and broadsword
each cost 24 groszy. In another case “koncerz in scabbard bound with iron
parts” costs 3 zlote, while “broadsword in scabbard bound with iron bound in
capę” costs 5 złote.
Its apparent from the above-mentioned examples that koncerzi were not elegant showpieces while broadswords were humble utilitarian tools – we can put that thesis to rest. Price depends on the utility of the weapon, but also on the construction, finish, and decoration. Undoubtedly koncerz and broadsword use depended primarily on the personal preference of the hussar given the task at hand. Perhaps koncerz as Arms sophisticated from broadsword was used by veterans with to of the right it, that usually the officers to stand it has been on a lot of specimens various kind he defends, than post-men (troopers) used saber and broadsword universally. I believe that we don’t need to envision a scenario in which an entire banner would draw koncerz in formation, as a substitute for kopia. If it had been actually so husarz he would be "overloaded” with various kinds of arms, first using the kopia after that koncerz, then broadsword, then saber; then the other weapons including the pistols and the nadziak (armor piercing battle axe) each of which was regularly carried. Each was used in a way that emphasized its strengths in the context of the tactical situation.
Koncerz would certainly have been found in the possession of every officer of
the Polish –style cavalry. When it comes to cold steel, obviously it is no
surprise that rosters were dominated by various kinds of sabers, with
considerably fewer koncerzi and broadswords. The inventory of the armory of
Hetman of Lithuania Janus Radziwill (made at his death) offers evidence that
that the quantity of broadswords and koncerzy may be similar. Analyses
of that inventory indicates that
superior officers might even own several koncerzi of various types, which they
differed the thing light carrying out and price. Janus Radziwiłł he
had in his arms locker two koncerz bound in the silver, and not in the locker a
“koncerz in black furniture (scabbard, etc)”, and still in still other
places more highly decorated specimens: “koncerz
greatly [i.e. richly] bound, large turquoise stone insets, lacking 5 turquoise
stones, without cords”, next koncerz is a very ornate specimen, “greatly
bound, golden” and also with some missing decorations.
Several Broadswords were similarly described .
Finally, it is necessary to add,
that because of the koncerz’s length (about. 140 cm), withdrawing the koncerz
in battle from under the saddle required special techniques. Żygulski
thought drawing out a koncerz probably took two steps, first pushing back the
scabbard, second (in the same motion) pulling out the blade.
Obviously care must be taken to not injure anything (especially the
horse) because it is so sharp .
1 – Zdzisław Żygulski, Broń w dawnej Polsce, Warszawa 1975, s. 191.
2 – Zofia Stefańska, Muzeum Wojska Polskiego w Warszawie, Katalog zbiorów wiek XVII, Warszawa 1968, s. 36.
3 – Marek Wagner, Kadra oficerska armii koronnej w drugiej połowie XVII wieku, Toruń 1995, s. 79.
4 – Z. Stefańska, Muzeum..., s. 38.
5 – Z. Żygulski, Broń..., . s. 272.
6 – Jakub Łoś, Pamiętnik towarzysza chorągwi pancernej, Warszawa 2000, s. 94-95.
7 – J. Cichowski, A. Szulczyński, Husaria, Warszawa 1977, s. 68.
8 – Radosław Sikora, Fenomen husarii, Toruń 2004, s. 155 (tab. 10).
9 – Maciej Jeske, O szabelni wyszyńskiej, Dawna broń i barwa, 23, 2001, s. 47-48.
10 – Rejestr broni skarbca ks. Janusza Radziwiłła z zamku w Tykocinie z dnia 15.IX.1656 r., Studia i Materiały do Historii Wojskowości (tomu nie pamiętam).
11 – Z. Żygulski, Broń..., s. 272.
and Translator’s Notes:
‘movement dynamics’ of the koncerz vs. the Palasz, and what that implies for
koncerz is a thrusting weapon, 100%. It
has no edge at all, and is very light – it may weigh half what a Palasz
weighs, even though it is up to half again as long.
Its grip implies that it is to be held in such a way that the point is an
extension of the forearm (such that even if you closed your eyes, you would have
a fair sense of where the tip would point.)
This is not a fencing weapon. In
battle it would be used much as a short lance would be used, that is, best in a
forward charge. The weapon would
normally not be thrust with the arm, but held at full extension and carried into
the opponent by the momentum of the horse.
If the weapon were thrust deeply in and the horse was carrying the rider
through, the weapon would likely have to be dropped, and the palasz or saber
would have to be drawn. It
seems rather unsuitable for a close-quarter circling melee, except perhaps in a
second rank’s support role. Especially,
it is too light and long to allow it to be used defensively well, and because it
is so long it cannot comfortably strike an opponent who might be close enough to
be pressing against your horse.
Polish cavalry sometimes used it like a short pike - putting the hilt between arm and chest and holding the blade a third of the way down. Again because of its length, it was carried sheathed below the saddle under the hussar's right knee.
palasz, on the other hand, and in its heavier variations, is essentially an axe
shaped like a sword. While it has a
point that could and should be used on the charge and in melee, it is clearly
most suitable for heavy cutting blows and slashes.
That makes it a versatile weapon ideal for close quarter melee fighting.
the matter of cost, sabers also varied greatly in cost.
Some were cheap tools, but usually men bought the best sabers they could
not just because their life might depend on it, but because sabers worn every
day to every public occasion were personal jewelry.
On the other hand, broadswords and koncerz were only used from horseback,
and were not as visible. Medium grade sabers were far more costly than the fixed
price ‘standard’ model koncerz and broadswords mentioned above.