The Falchion Sword was one of the most popular weapons used in the medieval period.
Its name originates from the old French word ‘fauchon’, which means a “broad sword”. It is a single-handed, single-edged sword that originated in Europe, characterized by its broad, curved design with the edge on its convex side.
The medieval Falchion sword is known for its short, heavy blade. According to research, the Falchion sword was a derivative of a sharp farming tool that was used by farm labourers, farmers, and peasants during the medieval era, and was mass-produced by blacksmiths at the time.
It was a weapon with the combined weight and power of an axe but has the versatility of a sword. They were found in several forms from the 11th century up to the 16th century. In other versions, the Falchion sword resembles more of a knife than a sword, while some versions come in an irregular, pointed shape.
The Falchion sword was 37 to 40 inches in length and weighed about 1 to 2 pounds. It was also typically made from iron and steel. The most common designs of the Falchion swords were single-edged, broad, and slightly curved on the blade and some versions of it were irregularly shaped and pointed.
“Falchion swords were primarily used for cutting an opponent’s limbs or head and slicing unprotected areas of the body with a single stroke”.
The first type is the ‘Cleaver Falchion Sword’, which looks very similar to a modern-day machete. These types of Falchion swords were common during the 13th to 14th centuries. This was also one of the very few versions of the Falchion sword that has survived through history.
The second one is the Cusped Falchion sword. These are characterized by a straight blade with flare-clipped or cusped tips, thus the name Cusped Falchion. Most historical art shows the Cusped Falchion as something that resembles the knife.
Historians believe that the styling of the blade was highly influenced by Turko-Mongol sabers reaching the borders of Europe in the 13th century. The use of this type of Falchion sword was common until the 16th century.
The medieval Falchion sword was characterized by a curve one-edged blade, while the European version had a short back edge. It was also noted in some historical manuscripts that the Falchion sword may have had several influences.
Although originally derived from sharp farming tools during the medieval period, it may have been influenced by the Italian Renaissance later on. However, the earlier types had knightly sword-hilts and were dated not later than the 14th century.
Falchion swords were common among crusaders of the middle ages. Nonetheless, they were also favoured by knights, despite the common belief that the sword is low quality and deemed unworthy of knights. Some manuscripts suggest that the Falchion was the third primary sword for men-at-arms and the secondary sword for Knights.
It was also assumed that the Falchion was derived from Frankish scramasax, which was a long single-edged knife used for fighting. Manuscripts also noted that single-edged swords were found in Scandinavia where most Vikings used them. The swords found in Scandinavia were said to be straight with equal broadness throughout the length.
There is no definitive origin identified for the Falchion sword. Some say that it originated from some sharp farming tools but other historians disagree. However, historians do agree on a few things about the Falchion sword.
The most common construction of a Falchion sword is a wooden grip with an iron or steel blade. And these types of weapons were mass-produced during the medieval ages. They also agreed that the construction of the Falchion was similar to that of a long sword, and the earliest Falchions were made of iron that has a lower carbon content.
However, falchions of the later medieval era had much better quality blades, mostly made of steel instead of iron.
Historical evidence shows that Falchion swords are weapons that were also used by nobility, although it was not clearly indicative if they were used by knights. Nonetheless, historians believe that it developed as a special weapon designed to penetrate armours made of leather and chain mail.
Studies show that this coincides with the great decline during the 16th century, which was an aftermath of most weapons’ inability to penetrate plated armours. Nonetheless, Falchion swords were believed to be secondary swords among knights as they could produce deep wounds and cut through lightly armoured enemies.
Based on some descriptions, Falchion swords have the combined power of an axe and a sword. It has the weight necessary to produce a much more forceful blow to the opponent while having the precision of a sword and its defensive capacity.
Falchions are also considered to be well-designed weapons with their cutting edge and blade effective in carving through the mail. Although it is designed as a cutting weapon, its pointed ends can penetrate deeply with a hard stab.
However, the falchion’s weight can also be a disadvantage. Historical analysts believe that attacking with heavy weapons creates some extended animation in movement which leaves warriors open to another opponent’s blow.
It may be beneficial for one-on-one combat but not very favourable on the battlefield, which is why the Falchion is only a secondary weapon for knights. Another disadvantage is its length. Most Falchion swords are short which required close-range combat. Soldiers needed to allow their opponents to close the distance between them before they could make a chopping action that would cause damage, putting themselves in danger.