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Götz von Berlichingen: The Knight with The Iron Hand

Greetings fellow Age fans!  

I am wishing you all a wonderful 2023 and thank you for joining me again on another adventure through history. Today, I bring with me the story of an imperial knight whose unique circumstances did not stop him from being one of the most impressive knights of his time. 

Let’s jump right in! 

Götz von Berlichingen, also known as Götz with the Iron Hand, was born in the year 1480. He was a well-known knight during the transition between the Middle Ages and the beginning of the European Renaissance. During his lengthy career as a knight, he served in many campaigns and a variety of leaders. Götz story is unlike any other as even though he was missing one of his hands, he excelled in his duties as defender of those who he served. His life was filled with some impressive adventures and he is one of the most notable knights in history, all with an iron hand!

A Life-Changing Injury:  

Götz lost his right hand at the Siege of Landshut in 1504. The way it was lost is highly debated. Some believe the fragments of a cannon ball hit his hand, injuring it to the point of needing an amputation. Others theorize that the cannon ball fragments hit his sword at such an angle that it ricocheted the blade straight through his arm slicing it enough to cause him to lose the hand. 

The Development of His Prosthetic: 

Losing his hand was incredibly overwhelming to Götz as he felt that his time leading military campaigns was over. As he recovered from his injury, he was inspired by the memory of one of his father’s servants. This man had one hand and still showed that he could live a full life and serve Götz father to the best of his abilities. This story led the imperial knight to hire a gunsmith to build him a custom iron hand which he could use to hold a sword in battle.  

The first of his prosthetics was a simple iron structure which he could move the fingers by pushing and releasing a button. While it was a basic mechanism, the metal worker added some small details to resemble the wrinkles and nails of a human hand. This hand was limited to basic motions and only a limited amount of grip. His second prosthetic had more dexterity than the original, allowing him to move the fingers more freely, even allowing him to properly grip the reigns of his war horse, a quill, and handle his sword more efficiently. 

Both of Götz von Berlichingen’s iron hands were essential to his success, but it is said his first prosthetic was his favorite out of the two. These iron hands are now on display at the Hornberg Museum in Germany. 

Notable Military Moments with His Prosthetic
  • Götz served in countless campaigns and attacked merchant ships for booty.  
  • He participated in kidnappings of nobles for ransom.
  • The knight was a part of the Peasant War in 1525. 
  • He participated in the wars against the Turks in Hungary (1542). 
  • In 1544, he served one of his final wars against the French under the command of the Habsburg emperor Charles V. 

In addition to succeeding as an imperial knight while, Götz von Berlichingen lived much longer than many men of his time. Passing in 1562 at the age of 82, he survived severe injuries, countless battles, and some of the most dangerous encounters a soldier could face.  

Götz von Berlichingen proved throughout his life that he was a force to be reckoned with. His courage, determination, and perseverance certainly earned him the title of one of the most impressive knights of his time. 

Thank you for joining me on this journey, friends. Keep your eyes open for our next adventure as you will not want to miss it. 

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