The Sword

Copyright Koninklijke Bibliotheek Den Haag KA XX, fol.34 rc The sword is the most imaginative weapon from the medieval arsenal. Ever since the earliest history, the sword has been more than any other weapon, the symbol of knighthood.

The knightly sword

The sword of a knight around 1302 was rather short, barely a meter long. The blade had a double edge and was slightly tapered, broader near the hilt than on the top. A central fuller ran for about three-quarters of the length of the blade, contributing to the overall stiffness of the weapon. The cross-guard was straight or slightly curved towards the blade. The hilt allowed the sword to be wielded with one single hand. On top of this hilt a pommel was mounted, mostly circular in form around 1302. This pommel was quite heavy and had a double function: acting as counter-weight for the blade, and to be used as a club if there was no room to use the sword as intended in battle.

A typical sword for the period around the year 1302.

The sword was not the knight's most important weapon in battle. They attacked with couched lance on horseback. Only when the lance was lost in battle or became too difficult to use, a knight would draw his sword to fight on.

The falchion

A falchion.

With normal swords it is possible to cut and to thrust. The falchion however was only able to cut. This weapon was designed specifically to have the biggest possible cleaving power to cut trough armour. The blade widened towards the point and had only one cutting edge. It was cheaper to produce than a normal sword and therefore fairly widespread inside the town militias.

Courtrai Chest
The Ypres town militia at the Battle of Courtrai, with two flachions.

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Copyright on text, images and photos by Joris de Sutter, unless noted otherwise.
The miniature comes from "Spiegel Historiael", Jacob van Maerlant, Copyright Koninklijke Bibliotheek Den Haag KA XX, fol.34 rc.
The picture of the Ypres town militia comes from "De Slag der Gulden Sporen", J.-F. Verbruggen
This information is provided by De Liebaart and was last updated on March 30th 2001.