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Meet “Iron Hand”, The Toughest Knight and Most Notorious Mercenary of the Middle Ages

Mark Andrew

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More popularly known as Götz of the Iron Hand, Gottfried “Götz” von Berlichingen is a notorious German mercenary whose services were hired by lords and kings.

History tells us that Götz was active in numerous campaigns from 1498 to 1544 – that’s for a span of 47 years. He fought not only on the German Peasants’ War but numerous other feuds. In fact, his autobiography gives us information that he has fought at least 15 feuds under his name. This doesn’t even include other instances when he was asked to assist in feuds against the Augsburg, Cologne, Ulm, and the Swabian League.

Back in 1504, Götz was badly injured when he was hit by a cannonball during the siege of the southeast German town of Landshut in the name of Albert IV, the Duke of Bavaria. That incident, however, was not enough to put him down.

Gottfried “Götz” von Berlichingen is a German mercenary known popularly as ‘Götz of the Iron Hand.’

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Source: Wikipedia

In fact, he soon had two mechanical prosthetic iron replacements and he continued fighting in the military.

After getting hit by a cannonball, Berlichingen had prosthetic arms and continued fighting.

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Source: Wikimedia

The first hand was a basic one with only two hinges at the top of the palm which allowed the four hook-like fingers to be brought inward for sword-holding purposes. Needless to say, the function and motion of it was limited. However, the mechanical hand was beautifully detailed with noticeable fingernails and wrinkles sculpted at the knuckles.

The second version of the iron hand offered greater flexibility than its predecessor.

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Source: Wikimedia
It was later described as “a clumsy structure, but an ingenious one” by the American Journal of Surgery.

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Source: Wikimedia

Meanwhile, the second prosthetic hand featured greater flexibility than its predecessor. It was capable of holding objects such as a shield or even a feather pen. the hand was secured to Götz’ forearm via a leather strap. The American Journal of Surgery described it as “a clumsy structure, but an ingenious one.” .

Berlichingen’s mechanical prosthetics are now on display at the Jagsthausen Castle.

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The “Götz of the Iron Hand” proved that he indeed a man with an iron will as he continued fighting in several battles, both of his own and sometimes in support of his friends or his employers.

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe later wrote a play based on Berlichingen’s life.

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His favorite expression, attributed to him by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe who authored a play based on his life, is a testament of his no-nonsense character -“Er kann mich im Arsche lecken,” a vulgar expression that literally translates to “He can lick my ass.”

What an absolute badass!

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