Falchion

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Falchion
Falchion MET 244431.jpg
Falchion – Italy, 15th century
Type Sword
Place of origin France
Production history
Produced13th century – 16th century
VariantsSee Elmslie typology
Specifications
Blade  typegenerally single-edged, curved (occasionally straight)
Hilt  typeafter an arming sword

A falchion ( /ˈfɔːlən/ ; Old French: fauchon; Latin: falx, "sickle") is a one-handed, single-edged sword of European origin, whose design is reminiscent of the modern machete. Falchions are found in different forms from around the 13th century up to and including the 16th century. In some versions the falchion looks rather like the seax and later the sabre, and in other versions the form is irregular or like a machete with a crossguard.

Contents

Types

The blade designs of falchions varied widely across the continent and over time. They almost always included a single edge with a slight curve on the blade towards the point on the end and most were also affixed with a quilloned crossguard for the hilt in the manner of the contemporary arming swords. Unlike the double-edged swords of Europe, few actual swords of this type have survived to the present day; fewer than a dozen specimens are currently known. [1] A number of weapons superficially similar to the falchion existed in Western Europe, including the Messer, hanger and the backsword. Two basic types of falchion can be identified:

Cleaver falchions

One of the few surviving falchions (the Conyers falchion) is shaped very much like a large meat cleaver, or large bladed machete. This type is also illustrated in art. The type seems to be confined to the 13th and 14th centuries. [2] However apart from the profile they present a very thin blade, often only 1.2 mm thick spines, 7 cm from the point with a slight taper leading near to the edge before dropping into a secondary bevel which brings the blade to a very acute edge while maintaining some durability. Current theories are that they were the anti-cloth armour weapon of the day. [3]

Cusped falchions

The majority of the depictions in art reflect a design similar to that of the großes Messer . The Thorpe Falchion, a surviving example from England's 13th century, was just under 904 grams (1.99 lb) in weight. Of its 956 millimetres (37.6 inches) length, 803 millimetres (31.6 in) are the straight blade which bears a cusped or flare-clipped tip similar to the much later kilij of Turkey. [4] This blade style may have been influenced by the Turko-Mongol sabres that had reached the borders of Europe by the 13th century. This type of sword continues in use into the 16th century. [5]

Other falchions

Typical falchion, from the Morgan Bible. Maciejowski falchion.png
Typical falchion, from the Morgan Bible.

In addition, there are a group of 13th- and early 14th-century weapons sometimes identified with the falchion. These have a falchion-like blade mounted on a wooden shaft 1–2 ft (30–61 cm) long, sometimes ending in a curve like an umbrella. These are seen in numerous illustrations in the mid-13th-century Maciejowski Bible. [6]

Modern classification

Ongoing research by James Elmslie has produced a typology covering both falchion and messer blade designs. Under this system all known falchions can be described as types 1 - 5 (with subtypes a - e used for any given type) as well as 5 levels of curvature. [7]

Status

A falchion had a lower quality and status than the longer, more expensive swords, as almost none of them survive today. [8] Falchions are sometimes misunderstood and thought of as being similar to machetes; however, the ancient falchions that have been discovered are incredibly thin and on average, lighter than a double-edged blade. These weapons were therefore not cleaving or chopping weapons similar to the machete, but quick slashing weapons more similar to shamshir or sabres despite their wide blade. While falchions are commonly thought to be peasants' weapons [9] this is not always the case; the Conyers falchion belonged to a landed family, [10] and the falchion is shown in illustrations of combat between mounted knights. [11] Some later falchions were ornate and used by the nobility; there is an elaborately engraved and gold plated falchion from the 1560s in the Wallace Collection, engraved with the personal coat of arms of Cosimo I de' Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany. [12] [13]

Related Research Articles

A machete is a broad blade used either as an agricultural implement similar to an axe, or in combat like a long-bladed knife. The blade is typically 30 to 45 centimetres long and usually under 3 millimetres (0.12 in) thick. In the Spanish language, the word is a diminutive form of the word macho, which was used to refer to sledgehammers. In the English language, an equivalent term is matchet, though it is less commonly used. In the English-speaking Caribbean, such as Jamaica, Indonesia,Barbados, Guyana, and Grenada and in Trinidad and Tobago, the term cutlass is used for these agricultural tools.

Pole weapon Type of melee armament with a long shaft for infantry combat

A pole weapon or pole arm is a close combat weapon in which the main fighting part of the weapon is fitted to the end of a long shaft, typically of wood, thereby extending the user's effective range and striking power. Pole weapons are predominantly melee weapons, with a subclass of spear-like designs fit for both thrusting and throwing. Because many pole weapons were adapted from agricultural implements or other tools in fairly large amount of abundance, and contain relatively little metal, they were cheap to make and readily available. When warfare breaks out and the belligerents have a poorer class who cannot pay for dedicated weapons made for war, military leaders often resort to the appropriation of tools as cheap weapons. The cost of training was minimal, since these conscripted farmers had spent most of their lives in the familiar use of these "weapons" in the fields. This made polearms the favored weapon of peasant levies and peasant rebellions the world over.

A sword is a bladed melee weapon intended for cutting or thrusting that is longer than a knife or dagger, consisting of a long blade attached to a hilt. The precise definition of the term varies with the historical epoch or the geographic region under consideration. The blade can be straight or curved. Thrusting swords have a pointed tip on the blade, and tend to be straighter; slashing swords have a sharpened cutting edge on one or both sides of the blade, and are more likely to be curved. Many swords are designed for both thrusting and slashing.

Hilt Handle of a sword or similar weapon

The hilt of a knife, dagger, sword, or bayonet is its handle, consisting of a guard, grip and pommel. The guard may contain a crossguard or quillons. A tassel or sword knot may be attached to the guard or pommel.

A backsword is a type of sword characterised by having a single-edged blade and a hilt with a single-handed grip. It is so called because the triangular cross section gives a flat back edge opposite the cutting edge. Later examples often have a "false edge" on the back near the tip, which was in many cases sharpened to make an actual edge and facilitate thrusting attacks. From around the early 14th century the backsword became the first type of European sword to be fitted with a knuckle guard.

This is a list of types of swords.

A longsword is a type of European sword characterized as having a cruciform hilt with a grip for two-handed use, a straight double-edged blade of around 85 to 110 cm, and weighing approximately 1 to 1.5 kg.

Cutlass Short sword used by sailors on sailing ships

A cutlass is a short, broad sabre or slashing sword, with a straight or slightly curved blade sharpened on the cutting edge, and a hilt often featuring a solid cupped or basket-shaped guard. It was a common naval weapon during the early Age of Sail.

Swordsmanship or sword fighting refers to the skills of a swordsman, a person versed in the art of the sword. The term is modern, and as such was mainly used to refer to smallsword fencing, but by extension it can also be applied to any martial art involving the use of a sword. The formation of the English word "swordsman" is parallel to the Latin word gladiator, a term for the professional fighters who fought against each other and a variety of other foes for the entertainment of spectators in the Roman Empire. The word gladiator itself comes from the Latin word gladius, which is a type of sword.

Classification of swords

The English language terminology used in the classification of swords is imprecise and has varied widely over time. There is no historical dictionary for the universal names, classification or terminology of swords; A sword was simply a double edged knife.

Makhaira Ancient Greek bladed weapon

The makhaira is a type of Ancient Greek bladed weapon, generally a large knife or sword with a single cutting edge.

Dusack Type of Sabre

A dusack is a single-edged sword of the cutlass or sabre type, in use as a side arm in Germany and the Habsburg Monarchy during the 16th to 17th centuries, as well as a practice weapon based on this weapon used in early modern German fencing.

Messer (weapon) Cold weapon

A messer is a single-edged sword with a knife-like hilt construction. While the various names are often used synonymously, messers are divided into two types:

Viking sword Type of Sword

The Viking Age sword or Carolingian sword is the type of sword prevalent in Western and Northern Europe during the Early Middle Ages.

Ewart Oakeshott

Ewart Oakeshott was a British illustrator, collector, and amateur historian who wrote prodigiously on medieval arms and armour. He was a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries, a Founder Member of the Arms and Armour Society, and the Founder of the Oakeshott Institute. He created a classification system of the medieval sword, the Oakeshott typology, a systematic organization of medieval weaponry.

Oakeshott typology Medieval sword classification system

The Oakeshott typology is a way to define and catalogue the medieval sword based on physical form. It categorises the swords of the European Middle Ages into 13 main types, labelled X through XXII. The historian and illustrator Ewart Oakeshott introduced it in his 1960 treatise The Archaeology of Weapons: Arms and Armour from Prehistory to the Age of Chivalry.

Crossguard Type of sword guard made of two quillons

On a sword, the crossguard, or cross-guard, also known as quillon, is a bar of metal at right angles to the blade, placed between the blade and the hilt. The crossguard was developed in the European sword around the 10th century for the protection of the wielder's hand. The earliest forms were the crossguard variant of the Spatha used by the Huns, the so-called Pontic swords. There are many examples of crossguards on Sasanian Persian Swords beginning from the early 3rd century. They might be the oldest examples. The crossguards were not only used to counter enemy attacks, but also to get a better grip on the sword. They were later seen in late Viking swords, and is a standard feature of the Norman sword of the 11th century and of the knightly arming sword throughout the high and late medieval period. Early crossguards were straight metal bars, sometimes tapering towards the outer ends. While this simple type was never discontinued, more elaborate forms developed alongside it in the course of the Middle Ages. The crossguard could be waisted or bent in the 12th and 13th century.

Basket-hilted sword Sword with basket-like hand protection

The basket-hilted sword is a sword type of the early modern era characterised by a basket-shaped guard that protects the hand. The basket hilt is a development of the quillons added to swords' crossguards since the Late Middle Ages. In modern times, this variety of sword is also sometimes referred to as the broadsword.

In the European High Middle Ages, the typical sword was a straight, double-edged weapon with a single-handed, cruciform hilt and a blade length of about 70 to 80 centimetres. This type is frequently depicted in period artwork, and numerous examples have been preserved archaeologically.

Turko-Mongol sabers Type of Cavalry Sabre

These swords were used by the Turkic nomads of the Eurasian steppes primarily between the 9th and 14th centuries. One of the earliest recorded sabres of this type was recovered from an Avar grave in Romania dating to the mid 7th century. Although minor variations occur in size and hilt, they are common enough in design across 5 centuries that individual blades are difficult to date when discovered without other context.

References

  1. Hellqvist, Björn. "The Conyers Falchion".
  2. Oakeshott, Ewart (1980). European Weapons and Armour. Guildford & London: Lutterworth Press. p. 152. ISBN   0-7188-2126-2.
  3. James G. Elmslie
  4. Nathan Robinson. "German Falchion -- myArmoury.com" . Retrieved 26 October 2014.
  5. Oakeshott (1980), p.152
  6. "The Crusader Bible". e.g., folio 3v., folio 14v
  7. Brooks, Shad (2016). "Elmslie Typology of single edged medieval swords".
  8. John Clements, Medieval Swordsmanship, 1998, p. 43.
  9. Alchin, Linda. "Falchion sword". The Middle Ages. Retrieved 6 November 2014.
  10. Hellqvist, Conyers Falchion
  11. e.g., media:Battle from Holkham Bible.jpg
  12. Capwell, Tobias; David Edge; Jeremy Warren (2011). Masterpieces of European Arms and Armour from the Wallace Collection. London: Wallace Collection. pp. 98–99. ISBN   978-0-900785-86-3.
  13. Collection, The Wallace. "The Wallace Collection – What's On – Treasure of the Month". www.wallacecollection.org. Retrieved 6 March 2017.