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The Medieval Sword

The Medieval Sword



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Published by Steven Till
Focuses on the medieval sword of Western Europe, namely England and France and Scandinavia, from the 10th to the 13th century.
Focuses on the medieval sword of Western Europe, namely England and France and Scandinavia, from the 10th to the 13th century.

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Categories:Types, Research
Published by: Steven Till on Aug 01, 2008
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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For purposes of this post, I will focus on the medieval sword of Western Europe,namely England and France and Scandinavia, from the 10th to the 13th century.The sword was an instrumental weapon for the knight during the Middle Ages. Asmost combat was conducted up close hand-to-hand, you did not go into battlewithout one. Since they were expensive — swordsmiths fabricated swords in the HighMiddle Ages entirely out of steel or with steel edges and an iron core — only themost wealthy could afford such weapons, and the wealthy were the nobles, theknights in society. Commoners, when the king raised the levies, carried whateverthey could find into battle: spears, small axes, knives, sickles, scythes.One typical sword in use during this period was a type based on “Viking” design.Ewart Oakeshott classified this sword as a Type X design. Oakeshott developed hisclassification system based on previous typology work done by Dr. Jan Peterson andDr. R.E.M Wheeler in the early 20th century. In his book, The Sword in the Age ofChivalry, Oakeshott describes the Type X as:A broad, flat blade of medium length (average 31) with a fuller running the
 entire length and fading out an inch or so from the point, which is sometimesacute but more often rounded. This fuller is generally very wide and shallow, butin some cases may be narrower (about 1/3 of the blade’s width) and more clearlydefined; a short grip, of the same average length (3 3/4) as the Viking swords.
 The tang is usually very flat and broad, tapering sharply towards the pommel. Thecross is narrower and longer than the more usual Viking kind–though the Vikingsused it, calling it “Gaddjhalt” (spike-hilt) because of its spike-like shape.Generally of square section, about 7 to 8 long, tapering towards the tips. In
 rare cases curved. The pommel is commonly of one of the Brazil-nut forms, but maybe of disk form.This type of sword was well used throughout the Viking Age and remained in useuntil the 13th century.Since steel was scarce in the early Middle Ages, swordsmiths made their swordsmostly of iron. Northmen, for example, made the core of the sword by twisting ironrods and then hammer welding them together. This process is known as patternwelding. This gave the swords impressive flexibility and resiliency. After theswordsmiths had created a strong iron core, they then added strips of steel togive the blade a sharp edge. The swords from the 10th to the early 12th centurywere designed primary as cutting weapons. On both sides of the blade, a fuller randown the center of the blade. While some people think of the fuller as a bloodgroove, to channel the blood off the blade, this idea is simply a myth. Theprimary purpose of the fuller was to make the blade lighter, easier to wield, andmore flexible, so that it would bend and not break under impact. In the 13thcentury, swords were very similar to the blades from the previous three centuries,but they were made longer in order to extend the reach for knights on horseback.Another important feature of the sword was the pommel. The pommel is a piece ofmetal attached to the end of the handle, which was often fashioned from wood thatwas bound with wire and then wrapped in leather (the crossguard was usually madeof iron and could be decorated with silver inlay, for example) . Pommels came inall different shapes, but the most common forms were polygonal, disk-shaped, orBrazil-nut. Pommels made the blade easier to wield, as they served as acounterweight to help balance the blade. This counterweight at the end of thesword also produced more force and momentum for the swordsman when he drove hisblade down into his target.One other interesting note about the Type X classified sword: many of these swordsbear an inscription denoting the maker of the blade. The most common name found is

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