Fashion in the Age of Datini

Where Can I Find Measurements of Medieval Swords?

Detailed technical information on late medieval swords can be hard to find, because most collections only have a few and because swords are 'artist's work' not 'engineer's work.' Making a good one is about instinct and sense for form not reason and language. Although Peter Johansson has success designing the outline of swords using geometry, most people who make good swords don't use this method.

This page has links to photos and measurements of late medieval European swords in some online collections. For the purposes of this essay, a "sword" is straight and two-edged and reasonably long. Thus falchions, lange Messers, and backswords do not count (but some of the weapons which collectors call "rapiers" do). "Late medieval" is roughly 1200-1520.

If you want print references, check out the books by Marko Aleksić and Ewart Oakeshott in the bibliography. Craig Johnson of A&A has suggestions here.

Skip directly to one-handed swords, long swords, and two-handed swords.

One-Handed Swords

One-handed swords are ones intended to be wielded in one hand. Some people today call them "arming swords," but when medieval people said "arming sword" they seem to mean the sword you wear with your armour (as opposed to the lighter shorter one you wear around town, or the hanger which attaches directly to your hipbelt, or the long stiff "tuck" or "estoc" you use to thrust at the gaps in armour). So the name "arming sword" means different things to different people.

Long Swords

Long swords are swords designed to be used with both hands, but capable of being used comfortably in one and worn at the hip.

Two-Handed Swords

Two-handed swords are designed to be used with two hands against multiple opponents. They are usually roughly shoulder high and heavier than other kinds of swords. They were usually carried on the shoulder rather than being worn on the hip or at the saddle bow. Two-handed swords are not my main interest, and quite a few survive from the early 16th centurys, so this listing is less complete than the listings above.