|Further Reading||The Top 5 Fun Facts About Medieval Knights|
When it comes to medieval weaponry lots of people ask the question “exactly how heavy was the average medieval knight’s sword?” While medieval knights might have existed for hundreds of years their primary tool, the sword, remained largely unchanged.
Generally speaking, the average medieval knight’s sword ranged in weight from 2.0 lbs to as high as 8.8 lbs. The one-handed knightly sword or arming sword weighed a meager 2.0-2.4 lbs. The two-handed long sword weighed on average about 2.8-4.0 lbs. After this, a Scottish claymore weighed between 4.9-6.2 lbs. The heaviest sword used by knights was the massive two-handed great sword or Zweihänder at a staggering 5.0-15 lbs.
It is important to remember that the European medieval period lasted from the 5th century to about the 15th. This nearly 1,000-year time frame saw many swords being used by medieval knights. Further, most medieval knights fought with long polearm weapons instead of swords to keep themselves safe.
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A Knight’s Short Sword Was About 2.0-2.4 lbs
A majority of medieval knights would be equipped with what was called an arming sword or a one-handed knightly sword.
This sword was designed to be used at the last moment if an enemy closed the distance between the knight. Most combat engagements during the medieval period took place at a polearm length. However, sometimes an opponent would get close and the knight would be forced to draw their sharp short sword.
These short swords would only be around 33-37 inches in length. The blade itself was flat and sharp on both ends with a groove going down the center. Opposite the blade’s tip was a pommel which provided a counterbalance to the overall weight of the knight’s sword.
It was this pommel that made these swords so deadly. If you held one in your hand chances are it would appear to be nearly weightless. This was because the blade was tempered out and counterbalanced with the pommel on the end. In the end, the knight’s short sword weighed a small 2.0-2.4 lbs.
Out of all the medieval knight’s weapons, these short swords are the best preserved. This is because they often would never get used in actual combat but instead served as protection in case the knight needed it. Because the knight’s short sword would not see combat they would often be ornately decorated to demonstrate the knight’s social status.
As such the lightest of the medieval knight’s swords would have been the knightly short sword or arming sword. These swords only would weigh around 2.0-2.4 lbs.
A Medieval Knight’s Longsword Weighed Between 2.8-4.0 lbs
Heavier than the one-handed short sword a medieval knight’s two-handed long sword would weigh about 2.8-4.0 lbs.
Contrary to popular belief the longsword’s name does not mean a longer blade. Instead, the longsword had a longer grip and allowed for a more versatile and adaptive fighting stance for medieval knights. Archaeologists and historians have uncovered medieval longswords which had a grip that extended for nearly a foot with a large pommel on the end.
These swords were seldom used in battle, instead, they were designed for fencing between knights. Because the knight could use both hands to wield the sword in several stances it was designed to battle other knights in plate armor.
On rare occasions, these large hilted swords would see combat around medieval Europe. During the hundred years war between France and England, the knights of both kingdoms would field these twohanded longswords and engage in fencing battles.
Because these two-handed longswords had a larger hilt they were heavier than the short knightly swords. The average weight for these swords was between 2.8-4.0 lbs. The heavier weight allowed the knight to easily pierce mail armor and deflect incoming sword blows.
As such the medieval knight’s two-handed long swords weighed between 2.8-4.0 lbs. While this was a heavy blade to be swinging around it paled in comparison to the giant German Zweihänder.
The Medieval Scottish Claymore Was Around 4.5-6.0 LBS
After the medieval longsword comes the Scottish Claymore. This massive sword was both a status symbol as well as a weapon of war during the medieval period.
Over the next 300-400 years the Claymore would be used by Scottish knights as a status symbol across the northern highlands as a way to distinguish themselves from the English knights.
These massive swords typically were about 45-60 inches in length and weighed an astounding 4.9-6.0 lbs. Unlike the normal longsword, a majority of this weight was in the blade of the weapon itself. This means that in order to wield such a heavy sword the knight would have had to be incredibly strong and dexterous.
The Heaviest Medieval Knight’s Swords Was The Zweihänder At 5-15 lbs
By far the heaviest sword that medieval knights would use was the massive Zweihänder or “giant two-handed sword.”
These swords were primarily used by Swiss and German mercenaries as a way of breaking through pike lines. The largest knights here would be equipped with these massive swords and trained to march towards the pikes of infantry. When close they would then swing the giant sword breaking the wooden pikes.
These giant swords were typically not used in direct combat but instead served as medieval shock weapons. In a couple of swings, a well-trained medieval knight could destroy an entire pike formation allowing his fellow knights to easily advance.
While the Scottish claymore is large the reason the Zweihänder is the heaviest medieval sword a knight would use is because of one of these swords that is currently on display at the Fries Museum in the Netherlands. This Zweihänder was used by the legendary medieval knight Gerlofs Donia and it weighs a massive 15 lbs!
As such the largest medieval sword that a knight would use would be the Zweihänder as it could range from 5 lbs to an astounding 15 lbs. Wielding such a large sword would require tremendous strength.
There you have it; an entire article going over the question of how heavy the average medieval knight’s sword was.
Medieval knight’s swords are a fascinating topic. Many people are not aware of just how varied these swords were during the medieval period. Most combat took place without the need for a sword and instead a polearm was used. In spite of this however knights still used swords and had them equipped.
Here at The History Ace, I strive to publish the best history articles on the internet. If you enjoyed this article then consider subscribing to the free newsletter and sharing it around the web.
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