Mediæval Sword Virtual Museum
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Germanic Iron Age (Migration Period) ~ 400 to 700 AD

Viking Age ~ 700 to 1066 AD

Norman Period ~ 1066 to 1180 AD

High Middle Ages ~ 1180 to 1450 AD

Germanic Iron Age (Migration Period) ~ 400 to 700 AD

The swords of this time evolved from the Teutonic swords in evidence in the later Roman Iron Age and average 33 to 37 inches in overall length including a 4 to 5 inch long tang. These swords vary between 1.7 and 2.5 inches in width and generally have parallel edges or edges slightly tapering towards the point. The blade surfaces are generally flat or show a very shallow fuller and are characterized by multiple bands of often complex pattern-welding within the central portion of the blade. The handles were often organic or had significant organic components which only rarely survive.

Pattern-welded blade of the early Migration Period

Pattern-welded sword of the late Migration Period

Viking Age ~ 700 to 1066 AD

Viking swords average about 37 inches in length overall and will, especially toward the later part of the period, show increasing taper towards the point and a deeper central fuller in the center of each blade face. Pattern welding diminishes during the middle of this epoch to be replaced by iron inlaid names and designs usually formed with twisted rods, such as were used in pattern-welding, hot-forged into the surface of the blade. The pommels and guards generally have a base of iron sometimes covered by non-ferrous metals often in geometric designs. The phrase "Viking sword" may be somewhat of a misnomer as similar swords are seen throughout Europe at this time, even in central western Europe (an ULFBERHT from the Rhine near Mannheim and another sword from the Danube in Bavaria are illustrated in Menghin (1983) fig. 107 p. 201), and with only a few exceptions, even if a design were made in only one area, trade scattered it widely. Indeed Jakobsson (1992) p. 178 - 179 concluded in his dissertation that the various basic design patterns of hilt shared the same geographic distributions contemporaneously.

H: Viking Age sword with silver and copper inlaid pommel

L: Viking Age sword with curved guards of "British" type

M: Mid-Viking Age sword with simple iron guards

M: Mid-Viking Age sword from a boy's grave

O: Early pattern-welded blade with later Viking Age bronze guard

X: Late Viking Age to early Norman sword with "tea-cosy" pommel

Norman Period ~ 1066 to 1180 AD

The evolution of the Viking sword continues with blades becoming, on average, three or four inches longer. These remain slashing swords and in some examples the degree of taper appears to be slightly reduced when compared with the most tapered Viking swords; the degree of the change being more than would be explained by the longer length alone. Iron blade inlays persist into the earliest part of this period, but latten and silver inlays dominate by its close. The relatively short iron cross guards of Viking swords become longer and Brazil-nut and flattened disc pommels (without a separately defined upper guard) become characteristic. These hilts are frequently of unadorned iron

X: Late Viking Age to Norman Period sword with brazil-nut pommel

High Middle Ages ~ 1180 to 1450 AD

The diversity of sword types now begins to increase, with varyingly specialized forms existing contemporaneously. The cutting and slashing sword continues to persist in many forms throughout this period, particularly where the crusades were fought. Along with increased use and coverage by plate armor beginning about 1250, the degree of taper of many swords increases to better allow use as a thrusting weapon while still retaining reasonable cutting qualities. By the late 13th Century swords entirely specialized for thrusting known as an estoc or tuck appear, and tend to be a sharpened rod of triangular, square or diamond cross-section drawn to an acute point at one end and hilted at the other.

Unclassified: Medieval Knightly Riding Sword

XIII: A Medieval Cutting Sword

XV: Late Medieval Cut and Thrust Sword

XVa: A Cut and Thrust Sword from the Castillon Find

XVII: Hand and a Half Sword Optimized for the Thrust

XVIII: A Cut and Thrust Sword Likely Preserved Indoors

Organization and Classification

This section contains descriptions and photographs of medieval swords, predominately from private collections. The section is classified by the system of Behmer (1939) for the Migration Period, by the Petersen (1918) classification for Viking Age swords and by Oakeshott's classification for later swords. By Oakeshott's design, his and Petersen's systems overlap with X, this being the ending letter in Petersen's typology and the beginning Roman numeral in Oakeshott's. The illustrations on this page of the Migration Period sword and the Viking Age sword above are from DuChaillu (1889), figures 813 and 798, respectively.

In time additional swords will be illustrated and described. Collectors desiring to contribute photographs and descriptions of items in their collections are kindly requested to make contact.

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19 Dec 2001 ~ v1.27 ~ Copyright © 1997, 1998, 1999, 2001 by Lee A. Jones