15th Century Swords

When you think about medieval warfare in Europe, the initial thoughts are knights and glamorous aristocratic warriors. However, even though weapons were crucial for warring at this time period, there was much more than just a sword and lance.

The popularity of a weapon depended on multiple factors, including its effectiveness and status but it was the impact that mattered most during combat.

Medieval weapons were able to knock out opponents without needing to completely kill them.
15th Century Swords

15th Sword Twilight Evolution: 13th – 15th Centuries

The design of swords in the late medieval period evolved to suit new armors. As a result, understanding how and why these weapons changed is intricately linked with understanding how armor evolved during this period.

As medieval swords became more dangerous throughout the late medieval, armor also evolved to protect against them. As weapons became even deadlier with improved blade geometry and with added abilities like piercing through armor, this necessitated an additional improvement of protection apparel. It was difficult for medieval weapons to pierce the new, complex armor of the late 15th century. In response, both sword design and armor construction became more advanced at roughly the same time as a kind of arms race.

The high Middle Ages, a period between the early 13th and 14th century, was when armor changed most dramatically. Prior to this period of time, chainmail provided exceptional movement and weight distribution.

As swords became more powerful and prevalent with the end of the 13th century, mail armor was able to protect against slashes and cuts. This form of armor consists of tightly woven four-in-one rings that are riveted together; in addition to being strong itself, it is able to disperse pressure from incoming blows. Despite this ability, the changing blade geometry of many swords in the late 13th century challenged it. The blades became wider at the base and had a significant taper; they were designed to break through armor links and could also penetrate them.
As new bludgeoning weapons emerged during the mid 13th century, chain mail became less effective. In response, composites became popular armor types. Prior to this development, shields and armor were made from leather due to a lack of technology. Longbows used during the 13th and 14th century, one of the deadliest weapons around, punctured through many types of metal armor. This led to more steel plates and combining multiple materials for armors.

When wearing composite armor, the joints became a weak point that permitted soldiers to easily pierce through. This prompted longer and pointed tapered blades to extend the soldier’s reach, open up gaps in the armor that were smaller than could be pierced before, as well as opening up holes in places like under gorgets or visors. Hand-and-a-half swords and two handed swords were introduced during the late 13th and 14th centuries, respectively. These required more force to use which in turn increased the weight of armor pieces at these joints. Some people used metal plates to protect elbows and knees by the end of the 14th century as well. This then gave birth to increasingly improved armors that incorporated overlapping levels down into a breastplate with straps or sliding rivets for increased flexibility.

To improve the cutting ability and quality of 14th century swords, sword makers started using alloys to strengthen the alloy. Strength in an alloy is determined by blending materials together. The blend of various alloys and diverse tempering rendered a softer core- thus making the blade more flexible while coating it with hard carbon. Although harder metals made it difficult to keep the edge and tip sharp, they also aided in preventing sword breakage by absorbing shock. At this same time, however, plated armors emerged at the end of the 14th century – so these weapons had to be made with stronger materials that could still penetrate the enemy’s armor.

15th Sword Twilight: Mid to Late 15th Century AD

The Battle of Crecy foreshadowed the medieval battlefield tactics in the 14th century. One example was increased usage of missile weapons like longbows and crossbows, which became even more prominent in 15th century battles with cannons and arquebuses as new artillery technology came out alongside gun powder.

The role of medieval knights diminished as standing armies became an essential part of battle tactics.

The 15th and final medieval sword discussed by Ewart Oakeshott was the Type XVIII. The introduction of missile weapons on the battlefield led to a decline in armor usage, returning swords to their prominence.

During the Renaissance, knights used swords with a diamond-shaped cross section and reinforced tip. These swords combined the best features of previous centuries to have both thrusting capability as well as cutting power when facing heavy armor.

The swords that followed after the XVIII became more geared towards personal defense over utilitarian uses. Fashion became an element of such swords as well. This change marked a period in which medieval times shifted to the early Renaissance.

Anelace Sword 

Anelace is a very short sword and by some it was considered a long dagger. It is contemporary to the Italian Cinquedea, features a double-edged blade, which at its base near the hilt, is very wide and towards the point of the blade towards narrows. The sword can be used both for attacking as well as defending.

Anelace, a short sword shorter than some daggers, was specialized for close-quarters fighting. The sword featured a large, heavy blade that tapered towards the hilt and its sharp point. The sword is capable of defending against a swordsman as well as acting as a dagger.

This dagger is a typical addition to the swords used in this era. The Anelace had a triangular blade with two positions for splitting it into sword and dagger, making it suitable for long distance attacks when such weapons were at times not available.

Like the earlier Coustille, the Anelace was a weapon that filled the void between short swords and daggers. This weapon was often carried at an angle, and during travel or court they were the only type of weapon that a person could carry. The poignard was a stabbing weapon suited for piercing through the gaps of plate armour.

The user would be able to defend against a sword with ease by wielding the weapon, yet it still had all of the qualities of a dagger. Like the Cinquedea, this sword was contemporary to multiple other similar weapons. The Cinquedea was developed in northern Italy and enjoyed a period of popularity during the Italian Renaissance of the 15th and early 16th centuries. Some researchers suggest that its name is derived from the Latin “quinque” for five because it features five fullers, while others maintain that its name derives from an archaic Italian word for “knife” or “dagger”.

Bastard Sword

Bastard swords, a type of long sword designed in the early 15th century, were given this name for not fitting into either the one-handed or two-handed sword families. These weapons featured grips similar to those on a longsword. The bastard sword, more so than the great sword, plays into the “hand-and-a-half sword” classification since some great swords provided considerably more than an extra “half” hand. Like early swords being developed, bastard swords developed as well. Bastard swords had a plain or cruciform cross-guard and a round or wheel pommel. Later bastard sword development saw the inclusion of curved quillons, ring guards, and compound hilts that increased protection for the wielder’s hands and improved the balance of the weapon.

Cinquedea Sword

The Cinquedea is a short, heavy-bladed sword named for its width, which measures five fingers from the hilt. Originating in Northern Italy during the renaissance period, it was used as an effective and deadly weapon during battle. The blade tapered to the round point and had multiple fullers for strength, while the hand-guard was curved with a concave shape that faced the blade. The sword’s design necessitated a short length so as a result, its pommel was small.

Katzbalger Sword

A Katzbalger sword belongs to the Arming Sword group, in use by Landsknecht soldiers during the Renaissance period. It is considered a last resort weapon and characteristic of these types of swords are that they feature an S-shaped twisted crossguard and measure between 30-33 inches long with a weight from 2.2 – 4.4lbs.

A Katzbalger is a distinctive type of Renaissance arming sword, notable for its sturdy build and guard that protects the hand if an opposing sword slides down the blade. Measuring 70–75 centimeters in length and weighing 1-2 kilograms, it was wielded by Landsknecht soldiers.

There are several explanations about the origin of the name Katzbalger: one is that it comes from the custom of carrying a sword without a scabbard, held only by a cat’s skin (the word “Katze” means “cat”, while “Balg” means animal fillet). Katzbalger thus refers to some kind of piece made out of feline skin.

Another interpretation is that the word refers to intense fighting and close-quarter combat, as with two feral cats. The most common translation is “cat fight,” which alludes to their behavior.

A katzbalger was used by pikemen, archers, and crossbowmen as their last line of defense if the enemy approached too closely with ranged weapons.

Kilij Sword 

The Kilij was a sword used by the Ottoman Turks and Mamluks of Egypt. It was an early example of a curved blade, which is now commonly seen in Middle Eastern swords. The Turkish kilij, a predecessor of the Persian shamshir, was developed from this sword.Before the advent of taper, the blade featured a wide section in ¾ of the blade before narrowing to its sharp point. The characteristic flare-out added a lot of cutting force to the blade, as it formed a tip at the back of the blade called “yelman.” A curved pommel of the sword faces towards the back of the sword and a Kilij blade were often made from Damascene steel. This type of sword was also introduced to Europe by Turkish conquests. The Polish “Karabela,” for example, is a well-known adaptation of this type of sword. Similarly during the Napoleonic Wars the French adapted this type of sabre for their light cavalry. Eventually these Kilij types made their way to Britain.

Kriegsmesser Sword 

The Kriegsmesser is a two-handed, one-edged sword that is curved slightly and can be traced back to the Seax knife and Falchion. However, the popularity of it was not sufficient in Germany compared to the large sword. Kriegsmesser is a sword that gets its name from its unique design of the guard. The hilt looks like an oversized knife handle and the pommel curves toward one side. It typically had two pieces of wood or bone for the handle with a full tang between them, a steel ring or plate for a guard or cruciform crossguard.

Two-handed Claymore Sword 

The most famous two-handed swords were the claymore sword and the short, basket-hilted claymore sword. The word “claymore” refers to two different types of swords: a longsword with a large grip and an easier-to-carry shorter variant. The ceremonial highland claymore sword has been used since the 16th century. It is still used today as a part of the dress uniform of Scottish highland regiments. The two-handed highland claymore sword was originally developed during the late Medieval Age and saw use in wars with English forces in the Renaissance, but it also played a role in battles between Scottish clans. The claymore, a Scottish sword, had distinctive features including a cross-hilt with downward sloping arms that ended with four-leaf clover designs. Also known as the Great Sword of War, it was about 55 inches in length and 5.5lbs in weight.

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