Swords are a fascinating topic – there are so many different types, and each has its own history. Throughout history, the sword has been a symbol of power and strength. In medieval times, the sword was more than just a weapon – it reflected a knight’s honour and chivalry. Today, the sword remains an iconic symbol of the medieval era.
In this blog, we will look at different types of medieval swords and the stories behind them. From the iconic longsword to the lesser-known falchion, there’s a lot to learn about these weapons of war. So, let’s get started!
The symbolism of the Medieval Sword
The sword was the most important part of the knight’s equipment in the medieval era. A good sword was expensive, and it took a great deal of skill to use correctly. For these reasons, the swords of famous knights were often treasured as heirlooms.
In many cultures, the sword was seen as a sacred object that could only be wielded by those who were worthy of it. For example, in Japanese culture, the katana (a type of sword) was often seen as an extension of the Samurai’s soul, and it was said that only someone with a pure heart could wield such a weapon.
While the concept of chivalry has faded mainly in modern times, the symbol of the sword still retains its power. It is often used in art and literature to represent strength, honour and nobility.
In many works of literature, the sword is used as a symbol of loyalty. In the medieval era, knights often swore allegiance to their lord with a sword. This act was called “giving one’s sword.” The sword was also a symbol of knighthood. A knight was not just a warrior; he was also a man of honour who swore to protect the weak and defend the innocent. The sword was a visible reminder of this vow.
Today, the sword is commonly used in heraldry and coats of arms to represent strength and courage. It is also often used in movies and books to symbolize heroism and bravery.
Types of Medieval Swords
The Arming Sword was the most common type of sword in medieval Europe. It was typically used with a shield and had a single-edged blade between two and four feet long. These swords were used for both thrusting and slashing. Also, it was effective against both armour and unarmored opponents.
Common Arming Swords include the longsword, the katana, and the rapier. Longswords were characterized by their long blades, which made them ideal for thrusting but slower for slashing. Katanas were characterized by their curved blades, which made them ideal for cutting but less effective against armour. Rapiers were characterized by their slim blades, which made them extremely fast but less durable.
Knights and heavy infantry used the Knightly Sword throughout the high and late medieval periods. This sword was typically about 3 feet long, with a broad, double-edged blade and a cruciform hilt. The crossguard was usually straight, with quillons of equal length. The swords were often decorated with elaborate engravings and heraldic designs.
The knightly sword was versatile and effective for cutting and thrusting. It could be used on horseback or foot, making it an ideal weapon for knights and heavy infantry alike.
A Rapier is a long and thin blade-designed sword. It was popular in Western Europe during the late Renaissance and early Baroque periods, from around the 15th to the early 17th century. Rapiers are characterized by their elegant appearance and relatively lightweight, often used in duels and personal self-defence.
The Rapier first emerged in Spain during the early 14th century, where it was known as an Espada ropera or “Sword of the Rope.” It quickly spread to Italy and France, becoming known as a rapière (from the French word for “rapid”). By the mid-16th century, it had become the favoured sword of civilian gentlemen throughout Europe.
Rapiers typically have long, narrow blades with a sharp point and two cutting edges. The blades are generally between 90 and 110 cm (35-43 inches) in length, but some may be even longer. The hilt is often decorated with intricate designs, and many Rapiers also have an ornate pommel (the decorative knob at the end of the handle).
The sword was primarily used for thrusting attacks but could also be used for slashing if necessary.
The Longsword is a European sword used during the late medieval period, approximately 1350 to 1550 CE. It is characterized by a long, double-edged blade and a cruciform hilt. The sword was used in warfare and personal combat; it was ideal for both offensive and defensive situations. The longsword is also known as the bastard sword due to its large size and weight.
The Longsword was popularized by Germanic swordsmen of the late medieval period, who were known for their skill in using this type of weapon. It became increasingly popular in other parts of Europe, particularly Italy and Spain. By the early modern period, the Longsword had ceased to be used in warfare but continued to be used in personal combat and as a symbol of status. It is perhaps the most iconic and well-known type of medieval sword.
The Falchion sword has a single-edged blade with a curved edge and a hilt that is designed to protect the hand from being cut by the blade. It was used by infantry and cavalry and was especially popular among knights and crusaders.
Facts About Medieval Swords
Medieval swords were more than just sharp pieces of metal. They were carefully crafted weapons that could be used for offence and defence.
Here are 8 little-known facts about this iconic weapon:
1. The average medieval sword weighed between 2 and 4 pounds.
2. The longest recorded medieval sword was over six feet long!
3. Most swords were made of iron, but some were steel.
4. The blade of a typical medieval sword was about 2-3 inches wide.
5. A medieval sword’s guard (or hilt) was usually made of wood or bone.
6. The grip of a sword was often wrapped in leather or cloth to provide a better grip.
7. A medieval sword’s pommel (or end) was often decorated with gems or other precious materials.
8. It took a skilled swordsmith several days to make a single medieval sword.
Medieval time was a time of great violence. Many wars were fought among rival kings, nobles, and religious groups. During all this time, the medieval sword evolved from a simple weapon of war into a symbol of power and prestige.
The earliest swords were just sharpened pieces of metal attached to wooden handles. They were used primarily for stabbing and slashing and were ineffective against armoured opponents. Over time, swords became longer and thinner, with the edge becoming the primary cutting surface. This made them much more effective against armoured opponents, as they could penetrate the joints in the armour where the metal plates were connected.
Today, swords from medieval times are famous collector’s items, with some specimens fetching hundreds or even thousands of dollars at auction. They are also still used by historical reenactors and fencing enthusiasts who appreciate their beauty and historical significance.