The Goedendag

Even in our modern times, the people of Flanders remember about this weapon from the history lessons they had in school. They all know it's a typical Flemish weapon but few know how that weapon really looked like.

Courtrai Chest
A Flemish soldier holds a goedendag.

The Myth

During the last century some incorrect things were written about the goedendag and taken for granted. The famous French architect Eugene Viollet-le-Duc thought the goedendag (le godendac) to be some sort of stretched halberd. Others thought it to be a plowshear on a pole. But most still think it is an iron ball with pins suspended on a chain and a short wooden stick. All wrong!

The Facts

In reality the goedendag is nothing else but a sturdy, chest length wooden staff, slightly thicker at the top, on which an iron pin is fastened, fixed with an iron ring. This weapon is shown on the Chest of Courtrai and can be seen on the reproductions of the now disappeared frescos of the Leugemeete in Ghent. Also some archaeological finds of the weapon give us an insight in its construction. The wood on these has perished ages ago, except for some traces on the bottom one.

Goedendag

Goedendag

Goedendag

Goedendag

The goedendag is a simple and therefore cheap weapon. It was much used during the late 13th and early 14th century in Flanders and proved to be a most effective weapon. The goedendag was used as a club in the first place. Afterwards it was possible to thrust with it. So it had kind of a double feature.

Goedendag
Most probable reconstruction drawing of a goedendag. Total length about 1 meter 35.

After the Battle of the Golden Spurs it was said that a Fleming with his goedendag would dare to fight against two knights on horse. Before this battle a knight was considered to be able to fight ten soldiers on foot.

What does goedendag mean?

Literally it means good day. But this name was only used in French sources of the time describing the weapon. They name it 'godendarz' or something of the kind. The origin of the name 'good day' is therefore unknown. There is a debate about its ethymology. Some think it originates in the combination of 'good' and 'dag', or in other words a "good dagger". Dag having the same root as a dagger, being a thrusting weapon. But recent studies showed that to be not the case. Most probably the name derives from a French word. The Flemish people themselves called it a 'pinned staff'.

Reconstruction

Goedendag

Goedendag

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Copyright on text, images and photos by Joris de Sutter, unless noted otherwise.
The picture of the Flemish soldier comes from "De Slag der Gulden Sporen", J.-F. Verbruggen
The pictures of the original goedendags come from
"Breydel en De Coninck herdacht 1887-1987", F. Demeyer ; "Veldslagen in de Lage Landen", L. de Vos ; Postcard and photograph Stedelijk Museum Kortrijk
This information is provided by De Liebaart and was last updated on December 25th 2002.