While I wouldn’t call myself a Game of Thrones fangirl, who doesn’t love a knight in shining armor? Inside Landeszeughaus, the world’s largest armory museum, you’ll find 32,000 pieces of weaponry. Racks of suits of armor, staff weapons, cannons and swords line the walls of Landeszeughaus in Graz, Austria. You don’t have to be a medieval history buff to appreciate this collection of historic armory housed in the old town of this UNESCO World Heritage City.
Landeszeughaus, world’s largest armory
Landeszeughaus, also known as the Styrian Armory, was opened in 1642. It was originally used as a place to store weapons for when the citizens of Graz needed to defend themselves. As an arms depot, it was one of the most important centers for regional armory in the southeast of the Habsburg Empire.
During the 18th century, as armed conflicts lessened, the armory no longer played a vital role in protecting Graz. Yet, the significance of this huge collection of weapons was not lost on the Joanneum, founded by Archduke Johanna. Eventually, the Styrian Armory gained museum status and was named Landeszeughaus. Opening its doors to the general public in 1882, the armory was preserved as a monument to regional history.
Located in old town Graz, on Herrengasse, the museum is divided into four floors, housing weapons and armor from the Middle Ages. The heavy cannons are located on the first floor. Toward the end of the 18th century French troops occupied Graz. Not wanting them to have access to their stash of weapons, the majority of the cannons were taken to what is today known as Serbia. The cannons on display at the museum are only the few remaining from the original stock.
Weapons of war
Doppelhaken wall guns are on display, along with bayonets. Due to their heavy weight, the wall guns were fired through the small slits in castle walls. Staff weapons are housed on the fourth floor of the museum. If you look closely, you’ll see the intricate etched decorations on the staff. These designs are an indication of the users standing or rank within the community.
The pikes, or morning stars, as they were also referred to, were the preferred weapon of choice by foot soldiers. Guns eventually replaced staff weapons, yet staff weapons remained popular for their association with prestige and power.
Look for the two-handed swords that were used to force their way through the enemies pikes. These swords got their name because their length required two hands to wield the weapon. Higher ranking soldiers carried these heavy swords. These weapons required a more skilled soldier and thus earned them better pay.
Landeszeughaus Armory is one of only seven museums in the world to display the fully preserved horse armor. The armor produced specifically for horses is designed to allow range of motion and yet still protect the horse during battle. In 1814, Karl Graf von Stubenberg donated this equestrian suit of armor to the Joanneum.
Having shown horses in my youth and seen the Cavalia Odysseo horse show, I can only imagine what it was like to get this armor on the horses.
Like the importance of equestrian helmets today, the shape of the helmet changed with advances in technology. The designs for cavalry men included enclosed visors, as well as open-faced helmets, sometimes called lobster-tail pots. Foot soldiers wore different helmets and body armor and carried different weapons than riders on horseback.
Hussars were lightly equipped horsemen wearing meshed shirts and plates of armor. The breast and back plate were composed of iron rings bound together with rivets and leather to give the equestrians better flexibility in motion.
Need to know:
The Styrian Armory Museum is open from 10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday. Guided tours in English are offered at 12:30 p.m. for an additional fee.
If You Go:
Landeszeughaus Styrian Armory +43-316/8017-9810
8010 Graz, Austria
Landeszeughaus, World’s Largest Armory Museum review, YouTube video and all photography by equestrian travel expert Nancy D. Brown.