Last updated
Item 4 in this diagram is the rain-guard or chappe, not to be confused with item 10, the chape (note the different spellings) Sword parts numbered.svg
Item 4 in this diagram is the rain-guard or chappe, not to be confused with item 10, the chape (note the different spellings)

A rain-guard or chappe is a piece of leather fitted to the crossguard of European swords of the later medieval period. The purpose of this leather is not entirely clear, but it seems to have originated as a part of the scabbard, functioning as a lid when the sword was in the scabbard.

The rain-guard presumably originated in the 13th century but did not become universal until the 14th. Oakeshott (1960) [1] is aware of one preserved specimen of c. 1250. The feature was ubiquitous throughout the 15th century and into the early 16th century, but they seem to fall out of use later in the 16th century.

The main problem in researching the development of this feature is the fact that it is lost to decomposition in all swords recovered archaeologically. A few originals have survived from the late medieval period; otherwise, research is largely based on depictions in paintings or etchings (e.g. well represented in works by Albrecht Dürer) and effigies (a detailed specimen is shown in the effigy of Lionel de Welles, 6th Baron Welles, d. 1461).

It is possible that the function of this feature developed to offer added hand-protection to the wielder, or alternatively into a mostly decorative addition to the cross-guard.

Note that the term "rain-guard" is modern, and reflects the hypothesis that the purpose was to protect the sword in the scabbard (c.f. German Regenleder / Dutch Regenleertje "rain-leather"). Oakeshott (1964) uses the term chappe, which may be the historical term, but which is ambiguous as it is merely a French word for "cap" and is also used for the part of the scabbard known in English as chape. But Oakeshott also embraces the "rainguard" hypothesis explicitly in his European weapons and armour: from the Renaissance to the industrial revolution (1980), where he talks about how the metal sheath-covers of early modern swords are derived from the medieval chappe. [2]

Related Research Articles

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.


A scabbard is a sheath for holding a sword, knife, or other large blade. As well, rifles may be stored in a scabbard by horse riders. Military cavalry and cowboys had scabbards for their saddle ring carbine rifles and lever action rifles on their horses for storage and protection. Scabbards have been made of many materials over the millennia, including leather, wood, and metals such as brass or steel.

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 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.

The French estoc is a type of sword, also called a tuck in English, in use from the 14th to 17th centuries. It is characterized by a cruciform hilt with a grip for two-handed use and a straight, edgeless, but sharply pointed blade of around 0.91 metres (36 in) to 1.32 metres (52 in) in length. It is noted for its ability to pierce mail armor.

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.

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.

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.


Chape has had various meanings in English, but the predominant one is a protective fitting at the bottom of a scabbard or sheath for a sword or dagger. Historic blade weapons often had leather scabbards with metal fittings at either end, sometimes decorated. These are generally either in some sort of U shape, protecting the edges only, or a pocket shape covering the sides of the scabbard as well. The reinforced end of a single-piece metal scabbard can also be called the chape.

Parrying dagger

The parrying dagger is a category of small handheld weapons from the European late Middle Ages and early Renaissance. These weapons were used as off-hand weapons in conjunction with a single-handed sword such as a rapier. As the name implies they were designed to parry, or defend, more effectively than a simple dagger form, typically incorporating a wider guard, and often some other defensive features to better protect the hand as well. They may also be used for attack if an opportunity arises. The general category includes two more specific types, the sword breaker and trident dagger.

Swords made of iron appear from the Early Iron Age, but do not become widespread before the 8th century BC.

Splint armour

Splint armour is armour consisting of strips of metal ("splints") attached to a cloth or leather backing. It is most commonly found as limb armour such as greaves or vambraces.

Wallace Sword Sword supposedly owned by William Wallace

The Wallace Sword is an antique two-handed sword purported to have belonged to William Wallace (1270–1305), a Scottish knight who led a resistance to the English occupation of Scotland during the Wars of Scottish Independence. It is said to have been used by William Wallace at the Battle of Stirling Bridge in 1297 and the Battle of Falkirk (1298).

Cawood sword

The Cawood sword is a medieval sword discovered in the River Ouse near Cawood in North Yorkshire in the late 19th century. The blade is of Oakeshott type XII and has inscriptions on both sides. It most likely dates to the early 12th century.

Ulfberht swords Type of medieval European sword

The Ulfberht swords are about 170 medieval swords found in Europe, dated to the 9th to 11th centuries, with blades inlaid with the inscription +VLFBERH+T or +VLFBERHT+. That word is a Frankish personal name that became the basis of a trademark of sorts, used by multiple bladesmiths for several centuries.

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.

Weaponry in Anglo-Saxon England Types and usage of weaponry in Anglo-Saxon England

Many different weapons were created and used in Anglo-Saxon England between the fifth and eleventh centuries. Spears, used for piercing and throwing, were the most common weapon. Other commonplace weapons included the sword, axe, and knife—bows and arrows, as well as slings, were not frequently used by the Anglo-Saxons. For defensive purposes, the shield was the most common item used by warriors, although mail and helmets were sometimes used.

Bodzia Cemetery is a large 10th – 11th century chamber burial site in Bodzia, a town in the Kuyavia region of Central Poland, approximately 50 km east of Poznań. A group from the Polish Academy of Sciences, led by Polish archaeologist, Andrzej Buko, excavated this site between 2007 – 2009. The excavation uncovered a large elite necropolis containing more than 58 graves, cenotaphs, weapons and riches. The Bodzia Cemetery is considered to be one of the most significant and "spectacular" Early Medieval findings in Poland in the last century. Artefacts uncovered in the site were mostly of foreign origin, which is atypical of other sites in the area. Information gleaned from the Bodzia Cemetery provided archaeologists with evidence of burial practices during the Early Medieval period in Poland.


  1. Archaeology of Weapons, 1960, p. 229
  2. "A feature which many of these swords have is a solid sheath-cover made of metal attached to the underside of the hilt, ... to keep rain from reaching the blade, like the old 'chappe' or rainguard of previous centuries", p. 135.