Only a few mechanical prosthetics from the early era of artificial limbs have survived, including this piece, worn by German Imperial Knight and mercenary Götz von Berlichingen.
Berlichingen, who is famous for his appearance in Goethe’s 1773 play Götz von Berlichingen, lost his right hand during the siege of the city of Landshut in 1504. A canon ball forced his sword against him, ruining his arm. He was fitted with at least three prosthetic hands over his life, miraculous devices that allowed him to continue his military career. According to reports, the spring-operated fingers enabled him to grip a sword or a lance, and he remained a fearsome figure on the battlefield, even leading a group of rebels against the Holy Roman Empire in 1525, fighting the campaign against the Ottoman Empire of Suleyman the Magnificent under Emperor Charles V in 1542, and serving under Francis I in the 1544 Imperial invasion of France. Two of Berlichingen’s hands are kept at in Jagsthausen Castle; a third lives at Castle Grüningen in Riedlingen. Edited from This remarkable prosthetic hand was made for a 16th-century knight.