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Clearing false concepts about Medieval Weapons.


There is a belief that the Medieval Military Orders possessed superior weapons and secret martial arts. Truth is that they used the weapons and techniques of their time with superior military discipline. I am no weapons expert so I will let my friend and instructor in arms to clear a few false concepts about medieval weapons.


By George Zacharopoulos

(Historical European Martial Αrts Instructor of the Hoplomachia Academy)

In the late 15th century the armor of the Knights (and by extension of the Brother Knights of the Order of St. John) consisted basically of metal plates covering the entire body but leaving a few little openings through which could the opponent could be hit. Contrary to the «cinematic mythology», swords do not cut through armor plates. A strong blow with a sword of the era could deform slightly the plate, and convey the impact of the shock to the body, but in no case could penetrate the metal or the additional armor and padding that the Knights wore under their armor. The weapons that the Knights used were of three kinds: long range weapons (Spears, pole-axes, war-hammers etc.), medium range (swords) and close combat weapons (daggers, knifes).

-Swords. Except the usual single hand sword that the Knights carried always in combination with a shield, at that time a long blade sword (longsword) was also widespread. It was a double edge sword, with a total length between 110-130 cm, with straight blade (usually thinner than usual in the last 1/3 of its length that could enter through the openings of armor more easily) with large hand-guard of the cruciform type. Both thrusting and cutting tool, which could be used with two or even one hand since its maximum weight ranged from 1300-1600 grams.

-Daggers. The evolution of armour, influenced and shaped the use of various weapons. A special dagger carried by the Knights for melee, was the famous rondel. A special weapon with a total length of about 50 cm length, and a short straight narrow blade with stunning piercing capacity (imagine a long spit) those that had narrow blades weren’t even sharpened because their main advantage was the piercing and penetrating ability of the weapon against chain mail and vulnerable spots of contemporary armor. It took its name from the peculiar handle which was set in between two small round discs (or octagons) in order to enable the warrior to guide it during penetration by pushing with the other hand.

-Long distance Weapons. As we have already mentioned the usage of several long weapons (glaives, halberds, lances, pikes, pole-hammers, etc.) for battle, either foot or on horseback was widespread. We will not analyze the lances used being on horseback but one reference to an amazing weapon for battle on foot, the long war hammer (pole-hammer) is important. With a length from 150 to 180-190 cm and ending in a long and strong point it was a real terror in the late medieval battlefield. The head of the hammer was on the one side, flat or with spikes while on the other side had a strong thrusting spike reminiscent of a bird’s beak (hence its name: bec de corbin – beak of the raven). It had the ability to pierce armor and to continue its devastating work on the body of the opponent. Its wooden shaft was usually strengthened with steel plates to protect id from the cuts of swords or axes.


Thank you George for letting me translate from the Greek original text and for allowing me to host it on my blog.

2 Σχόλια
  1. Gary Thomas Jr permalink

    Outstanding article. True vrs. Hollywood is always a wonderful comparison and an educational and enjoyable read.
    Thank you all.
    ξαιρετική άρθρο. Αληθινή ΠΕΣ. Χόλιγουντ είναι πάντα μια υπέροχη σχέση και μια εκπαιδευτική και ευχάριστη ανάγνωση.
    Σας ευχαριστώ όλους.

  2. Thank you Garry


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