What did Historical Swords Weigh?

M. Robert Gibson

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Just how heavy were swords from the Middle Ages and Renaissance? This question (perhaps the most commonly encountered in this subject) is easily answered by knowledgeable students of the subject. While understanding of the true weights of Medieval and Renaissance swords is appreciated by serious enthusiasts and practitioners of historical fencing today, in contrast the general public and even specialists are often woefully ignorant on the matter. Finding accurate information on what real historical swords actually weighed can sometimes be difficult, making efforts to convince skeptics and the uninformed a considerable challenge.

So those huge, unwieldy swords wielded by barbarians weren't actually so unwieldy. Who knew? :unsure:
 

paranoid marvin

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So those huge, unwieldy swords wielded by barbarians weren't actually so unwieldy. Who knew? :unsure:


I suppose part of the point of a sword is to make it look imposing, heavy and capable of dealing plenty of damage, and give the impression that anyone who could wielding one is equally imposing, strong and deadly. And it's kind of done its job, partly due to the fact that the vast majority of us have never handled one.

It's a bit like with armour, until you see someone putting it on and walking round like it was a suit of clothes (almost).
 

Montero

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I went round the Wallace Collection years ago and they had some enormous German medieval swords. There was an info sheet there about how some German towns had statutes about the maximum length of sword allowed in, and they held the right to cut off the end of any sword that was too long. I am trying to remember the length limit, possibly six feet.
 

sknox

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It's a bit like saying how big are cars. There was a huge variation in size, material, and weight across the thousand years that comprise the MIddle Ages. There is a Viking museum in Oslo that shows quite a few Viking swords that look small, ill-made, and downright wimpy. But over in the museum in the Doge's palace in Venice are massive swords. Examples of both and everything in between can be found in museums all across Europe.

I agree with the article that various writers have mis-characterized medieval swords, but it goes too far in the other direction. Pretty much any adjective applied to the broad range of bladed weapons over a millenium and an entire continent is going to be wrong or misleading at various points. Similarly, the wielders of swords were themselves of varying skills, strengths, and experience.

How much did a medieval sword weigh?
How many miles can you go on horseback in a day?
How much did bread cost?

These and a hundred other questions are all of a piece. They are too vague to be answerable in brief. Then there's the opposite extreme, like the person who wanted to know what sort of footwear a Cistercian monk in the 12th century would wear. When outside. (they neglected to specify French or German Cistercians <g>)
 

Boaz

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Great topic! @M. Robert Gibson

OIP.jpg


I was ten years old when Star Wars came out. I was eleven when I started reading the Marvel Comics for Star Wars (Issue #4). At some point, I remember a reader's letter complaining of the artwork featuring Luke and Vader holding their lightsabers with only one hand compared to the two handed style of the movie. The complaint was something to the effect of Everyone knows that lightsabers are 30-40 lbs. A person is not strong enough to use it one handed. And I thought, "How much does light weigh? Isn't the mechanical hilt less than five pounds?"
 

Venusian Broon

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