5 Types of medieval swords

A common misconception of the medieval era is that it was a time of darkness and ignorance. In reality, the Middle Ages saw a flourishing in creativity and learning unlike any other period in human history. It was an age where advancements in mathematics, science, technology, engineering, commerce and culture revolutionized ideas about almost every aspect of life.

Even with great strides being made over the course of this era though, there were still some things which did not change at all. For instance, much like how society is vastly different than it was before yet many issues remain unresolved; women for example were given many opportunities during this time but still struggled greatly to gain agency or independence.

Introduction to Medieval Swords

It is a broad term to sum up any type of weapon that was in use around the time of the medieval era. There is a lot to unpack about this subject, as many different cultures used different types of swords, with varying shapes and sizes. 

The handle and pommel made for various grip styles. Some sword hilts were slender, while others had quillons extending from the cross guard. Linguists have no way of deciding which words mean what things when it comes to medieval swords due to all the different languages used by their respective cultures during this time period.

Types of Swords

Weapons of the medieval period were not always weapons in the traditional sense, but more often tools that were used in a very specific set of tasks. For example, a knight and his horse would be equipped with armor and weapons, but the horse would also have to carry food on its back to avoid starvation. 

Because of this dynamic, the role and importance of just about every object was slightly different for each person or type of object. Real swords during this time would fall into one particular category known as broadswords or two-handed swords. Broadswords are generally considered longswords measuring between 30-34" (76-86 cm) in length that lack any crossguard or pommel at their ends.

The types of swords that were used during this time period were incredibly varied, with each region having its own unique style and type of sword. For example, in Ireland they were known as the "steel scimitar" and in France they were often called the "great sword." The types of swords that the designers and craftsmen used to make ranged in size, shape and design.

From the 11th to 13th centuries, there was an abundance of available steel. From this fact alone, we are able to create a wide variety of longswords ranging from single handed to two handed depending on the needs of the time period. Some famous medieval swords are:

Medieval sword

1. Broadswords

Broadswords are, quite simply, long swords that are pointed and double edged. They were once the standard weapon of battle but have been supplanted by guns and other weapons in modern warfare. However, they still have their uses in sporting or theater fighting events because they allow easy cuts when they come into contact with an opposing blade.

It's important to note that there may not be any actual differences in appearance or use between one type of sword versus another — it all depends on how you want to view the weapon. Broadswords can be used for thrusting and slashing, while sabre typically will only do one or the other.  It's a bit like how two-handed weapons are called "great swords" in that case. 

It really depends on the individual. These medieval swords were popular during the time period right before firearms became common due to their ease of use and lack of specialized training to use them well. They first gained popularity with cavalry as they allowed mounted soldiers to strike down enemies easily during a charge. 

However, they were eventually replaced with firearms in battle when people developed gunpowder and found ways to effectively harness it for use as a weapon. Even though they lost popularity, they're still used today by many people who enjoy stage fighting events that have elements of swordplay in them.

2. Longswords

If you’ve ever had the pleasure of reading any medieval fantasy, you’re likely to have heard mention of the mighty longsword. But what are these great swords and where do they come from?

Longswords were first used by German knights in the 12th century, but they were not very common until later in European history when they became popular with cavalry. It is a versatile weapon that can be used both as a pure cutting or stabbing weapon, and as a defensive sword against other horsemen. 

These are ideal cosplay swords and are typically 108-129 cm (3’6-4') long and weigh between 1.2 kg (2 pounds) to 2 kg (5 pounds). The blade is around 60-64 cm (2'-2’) long, but the total length of the sword is around 100 cm (3’3?), as the hilt is longer than the blade.

In Europe, the longsword was primarily used in one hand, although two-handed use was known. This style of combat has come to be known as “spadenbinden.” It was also a popular weapon among mercenaries and pirates in Europe during the 14th century. Because of these reasons, it was also a popular weapon for stage combat.

Also Read: Types of Short Swords

3. Arming Swords

Arming swords are a type of European sword from the early Medieval period that usually had a cruciform blade - i.e. a broad blade with cutting edges on both sides, narrowing to a sharp point at one end and widening to form an elongated triangle at the other.

There are many different types of arming swords, which were used throughout Europe over several centuries starting in around 1000 AD, but mainly between 1050-1250 AD during what is known as the Late Medieval period. These medieval swords have strong similarities to those used by Viking warriors (called scramasaxes).

The blades of arming swords were usually well-made and not so delicate, designed to inflict damage on a wider range of targets than a simple dagger or knife. They are often thicker and wider and have more blade mass to make them stronger and more damaging. 

Like Viking swords, the edges of the blades were usually heavily curved, giving them the ability to hook into fibrous materials like armor or wood. The blades often had decorative designs or inscriptions on them to improve their appeal and also as status symbols for their owners. One type of arming sword specifically used by Swedes is called a knifbuk (knife-buck) from Old Norse knifbuð = "knife".

Medieval swords

4. Rapier

Rapier is a fencing term (derived from Italian rapier) used to describe a type of weapon featuring a slender, sharply pointed blade. Rapier swords were the primary weapon of Henry VIII's guards, the so-called 'Gardes d'Armes'. Known as "the king's two swords", they were approximately 40-60 inches long and could reach up to 48 inches in width at the base. 

These blades had sharp points and edges while retaining strength and flexibility during thrusts. Henrico VIII’s guards also trained with polearms such as halberds and two-handed swords like an arming sword or glaive. Rapiers were considered very effective in single combat and a symbol of status for nobles. Its slender shape, with a sharp and pointed tip, had little cutting capability. 

The main purpose of these full tang swords was thrusting and the onslaughts were aimed at major organs like the heart, lungs or liver. It is not surprising that a rapier could be lethal even through thick clothing such as doublet or mail armor.

In addition to its repertoire of thrusting attacks, the rapier was often used to make slashing attacks too. As with the cut attack in modern fencing, a cut with a rapier was much more powerful than with other weapons like the sword or smallsword.

5. Falchions

Falchions were used as a weapon from the thirteenth to sixteenth centuries. It is identified by having a single-edged blade that tapers out to the point. The falchion's blade was typically narrow and circular, with a thick spine curving out into an almost paper-like edge made of soft metal. 

This gave it tremendous cutting power which made it a favored weapon for rough and tumble fighting in crowds when combat became more brutal as knights began wearing less armor. 

These medieval swords were also popular weapons with civilians such as butchers and huntsmen because they could be effective at killing both large animals and human beings without drawing blood or creating any mess whatsoever.

Also Read: 5 Highlander Sword Replicas You Must Own

Grab the Historical Swords

Weapons were an important part of medieval life and what they were used for varied significantly. Medieval swords are an important and unique weapon, yet they weren't used exclusively as weapons. 

In fact, these swords have been found all over the world in the archaeological context of different societies. Swords didn't just appear out of nowhere and there is evidence that points to people using their skills with a sword to develop new ways to use things like oxen for plowing fields, cutting firewood for fuel or even whittle tools from a branch.

Read More: Facts Regarding Medieval Swords