Created at the end of 19th century, Collection of Military Armaments, one of the leading ones in the Museum, is a rich and diverse collection containing over 1400 exhibits of high artistic and historic value.
It consists of polish and western European weaponry specimens, of high exposition values, representing a number of types and categories, starting from Middle Ages until the end of modern age. It's supplemented with armaments equipped by military formations and army divisions related with Kraków of the times of national uprisings , Piłsudski Legions, World War I, and weaponry of the conspiracy period and combat during World War II.
Within the Collection, by the variety and number of types distinguish themselves pole arm assemblies, sidearm and firearms. It is supplemented with propelling weapons, armours, equipment and uniforms.
Among the numerous pole arms, dated from 14th to 20th century, for special attention deserves a beautiful specimen of winged spear dated for the end of XIV century, 15th century eel lances, so called awls, and interesting collection of halberds. Being the Middle Ages revelation in terms of polearm weapons, halberds distinguish themselves with wide variety of forms. The harshness of shapes attracts attention when watching one of the oldest, Sempach and Morgarten types, dated for the half of 15th century.
One of the more valued examples of pole arms is, unique in the collection, tournament spear dated for the 15th century. Collection is full of battle scythes, Corsecs, Glaives, Javelins and infantry pikes, and also partisans and officer spontoons from 17th and 18th. Stabbing pole arms from 19th and mainly German and French cavalry lances represent 20th century. Among the blunt weapons, which consist of a few battle-axes and pole axes, most of them being 19th century copies of earlier specimens, is a very interesting German Morgenstern from the turn of 16th and 17th century.
There is also a huge variety of side arms. Among the oldest specimens attracts attention a chivalry bastard sword, from the northern Europe terrain, with gold markings on its pommel, dated for the turn of 14th and 15th century. Undoubtedly, also capture our attention huge two-handed swords used by infantry - flam Berge and espadon, dated for end of 16th century. One of the masterpieces of sword constructing are two cavalry great swords called "grenades". They were probably created as master crafting in crafting guild in Stradom between 1671- 1761 after the patterns of the turn of 15th and 16th century.
There is an interesting collection of rapiers. They show evolution of this beautiful stabbing weapon, from the early types of swords with crossed hilt from the end of 16th century, throughout late renaissance forms of Spanish-Netherlands types; until the most typical for first half of 17th century Pappenheimer type rapiers.
The largest group of side arms consists of sabres, broadswords and hatchets descending from French and German manufactures of 18th and 19th century in Solingen, Klingenthal and Potsdam. For numerous times they were equipment of military formations and army divisions related with Kraków, fighting during the national uprisings period for gaining lost in the end of 18th century independence.
Undeniably, a big emotional load is carried by polish sabres, with Augustówka sabre among them, commemorating the day of enacting the 3rd May Constitution, crafted at the end of 18th century. The sides of its pommel are marked with monogram of king Stanislaw August Poniatowski with the inscription: Hail Nation with King/ King with Nation and Constitution/ the 3rd of May 1791.
Not large, nevertheless very interesting is a set of propelling weapons, represented by one of the oldest in polish collections gothic battle crossbow. In highest probability it was crafted in Kraków crossbow constructing guild at the end of 14th or the beginning of 15th century.
A different interesting specimen is dated for the turn of 16th and 17th century, Flandrian heavy embankment crossbow, stretched with the so-called English lift.
Collection is fulfilled with several, mainly German hunting crossbows from 17th and 18th century, with beautifully incrusted with bone buttons and mother-of-pearl decorated with plant-like and zoomorphic ornament, and two crossbows lunching balls, and so called Fowlers.
For special attention among propelling weapons deserve two specimens of oriental reflexive type composite bows and 17th century Chinese type retroflex long bow, decorated with ornament with eastern symbol of over stylized tao-tie mask, swastika and lotus flower.
Among helmets are 17th century boat types merinos consist of the most numerous group. However the most valuable are the oldest among the collection full helms, dated for the 15th and 16th century- Hundsgugel- older type of visor and newer type- maximialian visor and a great example of raw functionality, German salada type helmet.
Among shields, mostly decorative ones, are two interesting infantry battle shields, probably crafted in Nurnberg workshop of Martin Rottschmidt in the end of 16th century.
The biggest set in Collection of Military Armaments is a beautiful collection of firearms, which reveals her construction evolution starting from 16th century harquebus's with the easiest firing system. The specimens of the muskets with fuse-rigged and circular locks give the idea of the successive links in the chain of technical upgrades to us from the 17th century. The most numerous are military flintlock and matchlock rifles from the beginning of modern ages; finally, we have various specimens of pinnacle- type weapons, which were the equipment of all European armies since the 1870's.
Also, amidst firearms are few, yet very interesting and valuable hunting and sport rifles. From the construction point of view, undoubtedly back- loaded repeater Lorenzoni system rifle made in 18th century grabs our attention. A very interesting group of firearms are heavy matchlock shield rifles dated for the first half of 19th century, made in Silesian workshops in Świdnica, Chojnowo and Dzierżonowo, and German pinnacle- type sport rifles, made in the second half of 19th century.
A real masterpiece is a sport rifle with switch able barrels made in Emanuel Meffert's manufacture in Suhl, around 1880. In its decoration, we can see eclectic likings of that age, integrated in asymmetric etched decoration, adjusted to irregular, functionally determined fields of decoration, different style-elements.
A special attention deserves a specimen made by our native creators- Bogdan Grabiński from Leszno, Józef Splichal and Ignacy Höfelmajer from Kraków.
A double-barrelled rifle made in Kraków workshop of Höfelmajer in 1863 represents a beautiful style of neo-romanticism ornamentation of hunting rifles of the 19th century. Signed by the gunsmith, the barrels are decorated with richly etched plant-like ornament and a medallion with the bust of Tadeusz Kościuszko. Double-barrelled rifle was acquired for the collection by the help of Ministry of Culture and Art, on the terrains of Soviet Union. While its previous fate is unknown, it is highly probable that it was requisitioned during uprising actions between 1863 and 1864.
Large group of military and civil pistols, mainly French and German, beginning with circular locks and ending with automatic pinnacle- type weapons, significantly enriches the collection of handguns. Among the oldest are beautiful, early military pistols of the cavalry and encrusted with ivory and mother-of-pearl circular pistol from the turn of 16th and 17th century, probably from the workshop of Nikolaus Kletta in Suhl, Turing.
Collection of Military Armaments is also rich in with pretty and rare models of wind cannons of Netherlands type from the first half of 17th century as well as several mortars and cannon barrels. In this group there is a beautifully decorated acanthus leaf ornament barrel of red bronze cannon, with carved cartridge belt crest of earl Henryk Brühl, minister Augusta the 3rd Strong. Most likely, it was founded in Dresden's foundry in the half of 18th century.
For over a century and a half the Museum presents rich and various collections of militaristic armaments on many permanent and temporary exhibitions, within the widely conceived exposition program.