In medieval times different kinds of medieval swords were used in battle depending on the battle situations such as Arming swords, Shortswords, Longswords and Broadswords. A medieval knight for example would use an arming sword in battle, the arming sword is a European sword and it was used by Knights from the 11th century when it was first introduced.
As the medieval period progressed from the 11th century until the 16th century medieval swords improved with technological improvements to the way medieval swords were made and with new metals being discovered.
Medieval swords were designed for different uses, some medieval swords were used for fast movements such as cut and thrust actions and were designed to be light for the quick movements that were needed in battle. There were a wide variety of sword designs that had different uses and we will look at all the different medieval swords in detail in this article.
The Broadsword was the name for a group of very popular medieval swords, the design was lightweight and the blade made slashing the enemy quite easy with the proper training. Read more about the Broadsword >>
The Falchion Sword was a fearsome weapon used from the 11th century onwards in battle, it was a one handed sword with a single edge and was used in close range combat. Read more about the Falchion Sword >>
If you want a detailed explanation of any of the Medieval swords described below please see our individual sword articles on this website.
Types of Medieval Sword:
Medieval Arming Swords – Light sword worn with armor.
Bastard Sword – French description, general term for a large sword of uncertain origins the épée bâtarde.
Batons Sword – Early sword used as a training sword in medieval tournaments, wood or whalebone.
Broadsword – Early Modern longsword that had a metal basket design to protect the hand.
Claymore Sword – A two-handed long sword popular in Scotland with forward sloping quillons.
Falchion Sword – European one handed fighting sword with a single edge and the power of an axe
Flambard Sword – A flame-bladed sword, the wave blade design was mainly for decorative purposes.
Great Sword – A variety of long swords fit this description used from medieval times and the renaissance.
Katana Sword – Japanese Sword used in Japan in medieval times, commonly known as a Samurai sword.
Long Sword – Two handled long sword straight double-edged blade used in medieval times and renaissance.
Scimitar sword – Fighting sword used by Saracens and in the crusades, it has a steep curve.
Short Sword – A general term to group together most short swords from the medieval period and beyond.
Ulfberht Sword – German sword use in the Germanic period from the 8th to the 11th century.
Zweihander Sword – German meaning two handed large sword that could only be used with two hands.
“European medieval knights used arming swords in combat, the small lightweight swords were standard military weapons that were worn with the Knights armor”
Medieval Arming swords – military standard swords
Arming sword lightweight swords are usually used with a shield or buckler and were swords used in fast close fighting combat.
If you imagine being in a fight with with an arming sword you would either use your shield to knock your rival of balance and also to protect yourself whilst swiping and thrusting your sword at your opponent, so you would use your arming sword as a cut and combat weapon.
Sometimes in a fight a warrior would not use a shield when fighting with an arming sword for extra speed in movement or a warrior could lose the shield from a vicious blow to the shield from the rivals arming sword.
Sometimes a warrior fighting with an arming sword preferred to use the free hand for grabbing and grappling an opponent.
So in summary an arming sword is a lightweight quick cut and weapon that would be worn as a side arm that will be used in close combat situations in later years arming sword evolved into the cut and thrust of swords of the Renaissance period.
Bastard Sword – Medieval Sword
The term basted sword comes from the French word “epee batarde”, it describes a hand and a half Sword that was commonly known as a long sword in medieval times.
The blade length of the bastard sword could vary in length, it could be short or long, but the main thing was that the handle grip was long enough so that a medieval military men could get two hands around the handle of the Sword.
The main advantage of this was that the medieval soldiers were able to get a better grip of the sword and also more power could be put into the slashing swiping actions, due to the fact that more muscles in the back could be used with a double grip.
Bastard swords usually had a very narrow blade that was pointed and they were more tapered than a lot of medieval swords around at the time, another advantage of the bastard sword was its reach, medieval knight particularly liked this weapon for its cutting and thrusting properties.
Batons Sword – Medieval Sword
Batons swords were used it medieval training tournaments, they were usually made from wood or whalebone and were fairly basic melee weapons that were cheap and easy to make.
Baton Swords that were used by soldiers or knights as training weapons were usually around 2 1/2 feet long and were commonly used in tournaments, they were even decorated so that they looked like real swords.
These close contact Baton swords were used for military training purposes and used in medieval shows and tournaments when entertaining medieval people.
Even though Baton swords were made from wood and bone for training and entertainment purposes, they were still quite dangerous swords. Baton swords were usually made from hard wood, with lime wood being one of the best materials used to make Baton Swords.
Broadsword – Medieval Sword
The Broadsword was also known as the basket -hilted sword, these types of swords are very easy to recognize as they have a basket shaped guard that was designed to protect the hand of the military person holding them.
The reason the Broadsword got its name because the actual blade is quite wide or “broad” in contrast to other medieval swords around at the time, which had slimmer blades.
The Broadsword is a heavy weapon that required quite a lot strength in a sustained fight against and enemy, however they were very destructive and popular medieval swords.
Claymore Sword – Medieval Sword
The Claymore sword is a Scottish sword with a Broadsword used by Scottish mercenaries in the late medieval period the name Claymore sword means the “Great Sword” and this term is derived from the early Gaelic language.
This Great Sword was used by Scottish Highland warriors, it is a huge sword which must have be a scary sight on the battlefield and is about 55 inches in length.
The Claymore sword was used without a shield as it would be very hard to hold with one hand due to the size and weight, two hands were needed to hold the Claymore sword and the main thing that distinguished it from other medieval swords was it’s sloped style hilt, that is unique.
There are many different versions of the Claymore sword which originate from Scotland. The Claymore sword would have been a frightening presence on the battlefield and could inflict great injury and could easily cut off limbs such was the power that could be generated by the strong Highlanders with this two-handed sword.
Falchion Sword – Medieval Sword
The Falchion should sword was popular with medieval knights and is recorded as being used by crusaders during the many Holy wars that took place in medieval times.
The Falchion Sword was a mass produced weapon that was a common sight on medieval battlefields, the main part of the blade was made from iron and the blade edges from steel, it was a single edge blade that was slightly curved.
These were close combat swords that were not too heavy and could be easily maneuvered weighing in at around 1-2lbs, they were around 36-40 inches long.
The Falchion sword was a close combat weapon used for cutting and slicing an enemy and just like the Claymore sword it could also cut off the enemies limbs in a single stroke, it was classed as a cutting weapon in medieval times.
Flamberge Sword – Medieval Sword
The Flamberge sword was very distinctive and was popular in medieval times, a German sword the term Flamberge means wavy blade, it does not mean two-handed sword as many people believe.
The wavy blade of the sword is very distinctive and it also has an unusual handle and distinctive handle with a section called the Ricasso, this section which was wrapped in leather allowed the user of the Flamberge sword to get a firmer grip and allowed them to get more power into the weapon.
Great Swords – Medieval Swords
Great sword is the term used to describe long swords in the medieval period, there are different swords that are classed as great swords.
The Scottish claymore sword is widely recognised as being a Great Sword but the term Great Sword can also relate to various long swords that had a two-handed grip and also to a basket hilted sword.
Great swords we usually large swords of roughly between 90-120cm in length. Because different medieval swords can be classed as Great Swords it is difficult to decide which swords should be in this grouping, but the term can refer to swords that were held with one or two hands and also the hand and a half grip.
Katana sword – Medieval Swords
The Katana sword was the medieval sword used in Japan by Samurai Warriors. The Katana sword was a work of art in sword making technology and is fairly unrivaled in its cutting ability and sharpness, the sword was very strong and had a very sharp bevel.
The Katana sword would simply slice through the skin and bone, however it did not penetrate armor as well as you would think and so it was used as a cut and thrust weapon!
The warrior would look for gaps in an enemies armor in which to thrust the blade of the Katana sword into, some people even believed that the Katana sword was the ultimate sword available although it did have some disadvantages.
Longswords – Medieval Swords
The Longsword is one of the world’s most recognisable weapons, it is a European design sword with a cruciform hilt that was used in late medieval times, it is is a very substantial sword that needed to be used with two hands.
A sword described as a Longsword would have a straight double edged blade that was around 35 to 43 inches in length.
There are many different swords that fit the category of Longsword such as the Claymore sword or Great sword, the Spanish espadon, the Italian spadone and many more, in fact the term Longsword is used more as a grouping of large swords of a similar type from medieval times.
Scimitar Swords – Medieval Swords
This sword was used by the Saracens in medieval times, against the invading enemies of the West in the crusader battles for the holy land.
The Scimitar sword has a very distinctive design with a wide curved blade ending in a point, these are very fearsome looking weapons that must have scared their enemies on the battlefield.
The Scimitar sword was designed to be used on horseback as a slicing weapon, they had either long narrow curved blades or wide curved blades with two designs that could be used as one or two-handed weapons depending on the Scimitar sword chosen.
This was primarily a cutting weapon that was capable of cutting off limbs of an enemy soldier in one stroke, the blades were around 30 to 36 inches in length and was used as a close combat weapon that would be used for cutting and slicing in medieval battles.
Short sword – Medieval Swords
Used throughout the medieval period right up until the Renaissance, again it is fairly short sword designed to be used flexibility using one hand it is designed in a crucifix style.
The short sword was a basic military sword which is often used in battle by Knights was also used by bandits and other medieval people as it was common in the medieval period.
Ulfberht sword – Medieval Swords
The Ulfberht Sword was a Viking medieval sword that was made of superior steel that was very advanced for medieval times, the steel had a high carbon content, this made the sword very strong and this new type of steel also gave greater flexibility to the sword as the metal was less brittle than other medieval swords made at the time.
The Ulfberht sword was used by Viking from around the early 8th century and were used by elite Viking warriors, the Ulfberht sword was lethal in battle and had a far superior than typical medieval swords.
These swords were so well re-nowned in medieval times that many people tried to imitate the weapons and there were many fake versions in circulation.
Zweinander Sword – Medieval Swords
As the name suggests the Zweinander a sword was medieval sword that originated in Germany but like the arming sword and short sword this was a long two-handed sword also called the great sword.
The Zweinander sword was a true two-handed sword like some other long swords which could also be used with one hand this was a h a heavy fighting sword that could only be used with two hands.
They developed a trend from the 14th century the larger and larger fighting swords and the Zweinander was at the end of this trend of swords got so heavy and large they were difficult to use in battle.
With the invention of guns and gun-powder brought with it a new era of warfare that made the medieval sword redundant in battle.
Great Resources On Medieval Swords for Further Learning: