Medieval Sword Shapes - Their unique shapes and changes over the centuries



The Shapes of Medieval Swords

Swords from the medieval Period went through some wonderful changes as the tools and technology of metal working changed. This change is also nicely seen in cultural differences in the swords.

Here is a look at some of the major shapes of swords and a little explanation of them. In a future post I will take a closer look at each type of sword. For now this is just an overview to show some of the different types and shapes of swords.

Medieval sword shapes

From Left to Right

1. the Katana: This sword has a beautiful line with a delicate curve that is continued through the handle. Sharp on only one side it was predominantly used as a slicing tool but an interesting thing to note about the katana was that its wielder considered the blunt side also a very effective tool for subduing an enemy without maiming or killing. (14th century to modern day)

2. Rapier - shows the height of the late middle ages. the blade was very thin and very strong yet flexible. This allowed for very fast combat and the ability to find weaknesses in an enemy guard and armor. Notice the very large hand guard. Began its development around the 15th century -predominantly in Spain and had its heyday in the 17th.

3. Cutlass - Very popular in Italy and had its peak around the 16th Century. Its curved and thick blade is reminiscent of an elongated axe or a machete. And it was this machete like action that made it popular among sailors and pirates because it was sturdy enough to quickly cut through ship ropes.

4. Bronze Age Sword - This size, shape and style of sword was very common for two thousand years dating all the way back to the early bronze age and surviving into the early iron age (roughly 15th century) The bronze working and early iron working of this weapon made it only a stabbing weapon, it was not suitable for slicing. It had neither the ability to hold an edge or the strength to withstand hacking attacks. This type of sword is probably an extended version of the dagger. Bronze working allowed daggers to become longer thus swords. ALthough this type of sword came in many versions and shapes the shape I have drawn here is the typical styling of a Roman Centurion sword.

5. Typical Middle Ages Sword - This style and shape of sword ranged from the 11th - 16th centuries This is the common refined form of the sword and what we most picture when we think sword. The blade is strong, long and well edged. It had a solid and extended cross piece and was the typical sidearm of the medieval knight. This type of sword did change quite a bit over the centuries and it was much dependant upon the metal working technology of the period. Generally as the centuries progressed the blades got flatter and longer as did the grip and crosspiece.

6. Two handed Sword - This was a large weapon wielded with two hands. Something that I should point out is that this drawing shows a bit of the development of swords as art and not just function. Swords became a piece to show symbolic meaning and wealth. this sword has a bit of fancy lines to it and its crosspiece. It could also have detailed carvings in silver and gold and even gems embedded in it. This shows the development of the sword in the late middle ages as they transformed from a weapon to a dress and show piece because other weapons using gunpowder made them obsolete.

7. Zweihander : This sword could be as long as 5-6 feet overall and came to it was used in Germany between the 14th and 16th centuries. In normal function it was a two handed weapon that could be wielded in large arcs. But the requrements of combat sometimes necessitated very close in-fighting where there was little room to swing a large weapon. The zweihander had a unique leather wrap just over the handle that allowed the wielder to choke up and swing it in smaller arcs. This section at the base of the blade was called the Ricasso or Fehlscharfe. And this type of sword often had a pair of hooks (shown) at the end of the ricasso which would catch and stop an enemy blade from sliding down to wielders hands.


Browse through my Amazon store and check out the Swords and Medieval Armor:

Medieval Armor and Weapons

medieval armory



Here is an unusual shape for a real weapon. Technically this sword is not medieval; it is ancient! It goes much further back in time. This is an egyptian sword and two of these were discovered among king Tuts treasure. It is called the Khopesh and I have a project where you can make one out of cardboard that looks great:

A Khopesh SwordAncient Egyptian Sword: A Khopesh This is an easy project where you can make a cardboard sword called a Khopesh. It is half axe and half sword and a 3,000 year old design. Make a Khopesh Sword