15th Century Ceremonial Sword. Credit MetMuseum.org
15th Century Ceremonial Sword. Credit MetMuseum.org

Most fighting in medieval times took place up close, face to face. A knight always needed to be ready to protect himself, his lord, his fellow knights, and the weak and defenseless. Hence, he never went anywhere without his sword.

Named the arming sword, war sword, or knightly sword, this single-handed, double-edged blade measured roughly 30 inches long with a 6 inch hilt. Made of steel or iron or a combination of both, the blade had to be flexible yet strong.

Many people think these swords were heavy and cumbersome, perhaps due to all that shiny metal. But research and reenactment has proved otherwise. The weight actually ran between 2.5 to 3.5 lbs., which means it was light and manageable. This makes perfect sense; a heavier sword would only slow the reaction time and wear out its wielder. Well-made and well-balanced swords in properly trained hands equaled an agile and deadly weapon.

These swords evolved in purpose from cut, to cut and thrust, to thrust, over the course of the Middle Ages. At each stage, armor was developed to counteract the swords, and in turn the swords changed shape to be more effective against the armor. A straight blade and blunt point was effective to cut padded or leather armor, so chain mail was invented. Sword blades then became more tapered down to a point to pierce the links (cut and thrust). Then plate armor became the best protection, and sword blades narrowed further to an even finer tip (thrust). Defense and offense go hand in hand; it has always been this way in warfare.

Swords in general were only carried by knights or those appointed to by the king; it was unlawful for regular citizens. And, since a knight’s sword always hung at his side, ready for use, he developed a strong attachment to it. Why wouldn’t he? It could mean the difference between life or death, especially his.

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One thought on “The Arming sword: A Knight’s Favorite Weapon

  1. Pingback: The Longsword: Two-fisted fun « Oath of Iron

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