Two-handed sword

two handed sword

2-handed swords were specialized infantry weapons, used commonly in the 15th and 16th century, especially by German and Swiss armies. Considering the amount of specialized training required, extra-pay was often given to 2-handed sword wielders.

Features of 2-handed swords differed by country:

• Expanded cruciform hilts (15th century – continued usage in the 16th century in Italy), with side rings on the quillon blocks.

• In Germany, 2-handed swords were given ricassos to allow for safe wielding below the quillon, while also adding triangular projections at the ricasso’s base. The purpose of this is to help with close combat.

• Ricassos were also equipped with parrying hooks to help with the low speed of using such a heavy weapon when being in a defensive stance.

• Many of these arms were given compound hilts and cross-guards of up to 30 centimeters.

• Most 2-handed swords weighed 2.2-3.2 kg (they are not as heavy as they look).

Variants of the two-handed sword


2-handed swords are not quite medieval weapons. They are Renaissance weapons that existed in the later 1500s to 1600s. Such Renaissance swords were known by different names throughout the various countries:

• Swiss/German Dopplehander and Bidenhander for 2-handed swords.

• English Slaughter-Swords, named after the German Schlachterschwerter.

• A variant of the weapons known in German as Flammenschwert or in English knows as flambards or flamberges, which has a visually beautiful blade, but is not more effective than regular looking straight blades.

• German Paratschwert or in English parade-swords that weigh up to 7kg (very heavy for a two-handed sword), and were used only for parades and ceremonies.



2-handed swords also differ from regular in their competitive use. There are no records of those weapons being used in duels or fencing. These arms were used primarily for fighting among pike-squares, using slashing and stabbing tactics, as described by Paulus Jovius during the early 1500s, when the Swiss used them in the battle of Fornovo, 1495. 2-handed swords were also used as honor weapons by highly paid people, specifically for the protection of royal property such as banners and castle walls.

According to Dr. Hans-Peter Hils in his dissertation of the 14th century Master Johannes Liechtenauer, he noted that many museum collections feature 2-Handed Swords as if they were combat weapons, while completely ignoring the quality of these arms, and how most of the displayed weapons are inefficient for battle. Most of those weapons in museums were ceremonial weapons and were not used in fighting.

In Switzerland and Germany, where mercenary bands were commonly hired, 2-handed swords and halberds were used as trademark weapons. As such, during the 14th century, there was widespread production and exports of those weapons throughout Europe. Major producers would be the Swiss, Germans, and Italians. This would change, as 2-handed swords would be limited by law by the time of the 15th century, specifically after Swiss and German armies adopted pikes for weapons as more practical tools.

two-handed-sword-against-pikesThere is a source that shows that within the 16th century, two-handed swords were limited to function as a way of breaking enemy pikes in wars. As such, those who were given double pay to wield those weapons were placed in the front ranks of armies for this job. The enormous momentum in addition to the size of the weapon and the long reach, made it very tough to block, allowing the wielder to crush rapiers and pikes with ease in combat. Eventually, their use would be limited when the war would become short-distance combat focused, due to the weapon’s slow speed, and as such it disappeared as a war weapon.

How did fighters carry two-handed swords?


Most two-handed swords and longswords can be worn on the hip without much hassle. It just depends on proper attachment and the right angle. They weren’t that much bigger than one-handed swords.

Sometimes, wearing them on the hip, was a little bit uncomfortable, but carrying a sword is not really about comfort. It’s about defending yourself.

The other way to carry the two-handed sword was just to hold the weapon in hand, and the blade would rest on the shoulder like you see in the picture.

This way, it was easy to carry the sword as all you needed to do is balance the sword on your shoulder.

This great video below explains how two-handed swords were carried in Renaissance and Medieval Ages.

One-Handed versus Two-handed swords

There is a misconception that two-handed and longswords were much bigger and heavier than single handed swords. Actually, two-handed swords and one-handed swords were pretty close in weight.

A second misconception regarding the weapon is how it is used in combat. 2-handed swords are mainly used as chopping, hacking, and cutting weapons. They require the use of brute force and a strong arm, and not on agility. The sense of agility and nimbleness seen with smaller swords is found due to the fact that smaller swords focus on cutting, not chopping.

A third misconception is, one-handed swords are thought of as superior due to their speed and mobility in movement. This is found to be false when the specs of each weapon are compared.

A fourth misconception is related to weapon technologies at the time of the 2-handed swords. Many would assume that a 2-handed sword would not have been made lighter due to primitive methods of welding arms, but this is not the case.

Here are couple more facts regarding these weapons and strategies of using them:

• Two-handed swords may actually be faster than one-handed variants. The reason for this is two-handed swords are powered by two hands while weighing nowhere as close as twice the weight of a one-handed sword. Many usually weigh between 1.1-1.8 kilograms, and at most are 2.5-4 kilograms for the enormous variants.

• The reach of the two-handed sword may be comparable to the one-handed, due to the one-handed wielder’s ability to move their body, and increase their reach through side-moves.

• Regardless, the momentum of the two-handed sword is larger, therefore allowing the weapon to overpower the one-handed sword in leverage, especially when both weapons cross. This also makes the weapon impossible to parry, without risking being smashed through.

• In battle, the two-handed wielder has an advantage over the one-handed wielder. To equalize the strength, the one-handed wielder would need an additional one-handed weapon, therefore forcing the two-handed wielder to worry about dealing with two weapons.


Even though the weapons usage did not last for more than two centuries, it was still used nevertheless and plentifully. This shows that there were technologies available in the past that allowed those weapons to be lighter than they actually look, making them usable.Two-handed swords were strong enough to break enemy armor, but light enough to be used effectively. That is why Medieval and Renaissance knights loved them.

Two-handed swords were strong enough to break enemy armor but light enough to be used effectively. That is why Medieval and Renaissance knights loved them.

How much did a medieval mace weigh?

medieval-maceThere were a variety of maces in the Middle Ages. They differed in shape of the head (Studded MaceFlanged Mace, Indian Shishpar), in metals used (wood, copper, bronze, iron), and in length (cavalry usually had longer maces) all of which would determine the final mace weight.

Most of its weight is concentrated at the end, which made this Medieval Weapon rather unbalanced and hard to master. But it was still popular weapon as it was cheap and easy to produce.

They were mainly used by the cavalry and knights as it was very effective against armored opponents (much more effective than bladed weapons like sword or dagger, as these could not make much harm on the Medieval Armor). A strong blow from a mace could penetrate even thick armor.

Various maces weighted differently, but usually they were around 1kg – 1.5kg. A two-handed sword like longsword could weigh even more than that, so Medieval Mace did not weigh that much when you think about it. During battle, they were used in one hand, but bigger and heavier two-handed maces were also available in the Medieval Times.


How did Europe emerge from Dark Ages?

The Middle Ages were one of the darkest periods in world history – rife with disease, poverty and human cruelty. The previously enlightened civilizations of Rome and Constantinople – and their legendary armies of soldiers in Roman armor – had fallen victim to the bubonic plague, rampaging barbarian hordes and dangerous superstition.

Few people could be said to enjoy life during this era: kings and land barons had it pretty good, but what about all the illiterate peasants forced to grind out a subsistence lifestyle?

Monks and other members of the clergy were often the only ones afforded a chance to learn. Of all the people alive in Europe between 700 and 1100 AD, most were unable to read and write. Monks and some enlightened kings were the rare exception, and they kept the light of logic and reason burning for future generations.

Medieval Coins


During the Medieval Times, paper currency was not yet minted, so all existing money was made of different metals (copper, silver and gold). So basically, all money and currency in the Medieval Ages was different coins.  

Coins value depend on what kind of metal it was made of, its size and weight. The most valuable coins were made of gold, more common and not as valuable were silver and the lowest value coins were made of copper.

There were many different coins, each of which had different designs, weights, inscriptions, and the purity of the metals varied greatly also. Every coin had two sides –  obverse and reverse.  Obverse means the front face of the object and this is the side on with the rulers face or name. Whereas reverse means the back face and  was usually marked with the mint signature.




1. Kings face profile or portrait
2. King’s name and title






1. Mint data
2. Kingdom coat of arms
3. King family coat of arms
4. Denomination


            Photos ©

Medieval Christmas Traditions

Many pagan cultures played a very important role in Christmas celebrations from Medieval Europe until December 25, 2008.  Their rituals may have been reworked and glossed to fit our present day interpretation of the holiday, but the fact remains that the Vikings, Romans, Anglo-Saxons and other ancient cultures played a very significant role in the Christian celebration.

The Romans which are so influential in anything of any consequence in the Medieval and post Roman occupation of the European world also put their stamp on the Christian holiday.  In Rome pagans celebrated three important Roman festivals, Saturnalia (December 17-23), the Kalends (January 1-5), and Dues Sol Invictus, which we celebrate as the twelve nights of Christmas.  This celebration to the sun was December 25.  The citizens would light bonfires, decorate buildings with evergreens as  encouragement for the sun to return.

If the Vikings had seen pictures of Santa Claus cruising the skies in a sleigh pulled by reindeer, they probably would have assumed he was catching a ride with Thor, the Norse god of thunder.  According to Viking traditions, Thor’s personal transport was a flying wagon pulled by a team of horned goats.  The ancient Viking god, Odin, also brought gifts to good little Viking boys and girls.

The Roman Church designated December 25 as the  date of the birth of Christ in the fourth century.  Some early Christians did not celebrate Christmas, because they felt that the celebration had too many pagan practices.  In Roman occupied England the Catholic church banned mumming (masquerades) and wassailing (Anglo-Saxon for good health) as pagan practices, but the common people still celebrated with enthusiasm.  When the Vikings invaded, they would reinvigorate pagan practices.  In the rural areas pagan traditions remained very strong.  When the Roman troops were recalled in the fifth century, it was very common that Thor and Christ were worshipped side by side.


The early medieval army was composed of about one-third mounted knights, a few professional soldiers, and the rest were peasants who were conscripted for the battle.  The soldiers wore whatever they had available; most were clothed in a leather jerkin with iron rings.  They carried a battle shield for better protection.

At the beginning of the Thirteenth Century, armor became more advanced.  Knights could not armor themselves, because the armor was so cumberson.  The squires and pages lifted and placed the various pieces of mail on their master.

The typical knight wore steel-mail hose on his legs.  On his upper body the first layer of clothing to protect from the steel hauberk was made from felted hair or quilted cotton.  That particular garment is now referred to as a gambeson.  The next upper body mail article was the riveted steel hauberk, and it often extended to mid-thigh or below his knees.  This armor could weigh between 19 to 60 pounds, dependent upon the amount of money the knight could give the craftsman.  The lighter pieces naturally were more expensive.

The hauberk was subject to rust, so a game was devised to rid the corrosion from the article.  Sand and vinegar were placed in a bag with the chainmail and it was tossed back and forth between the soldiers. This protection was insufficient to protect from the sword, lance, flail, mace and axe.  Later in the century a chainmail coif was developed to protect the head.

Ancient Rome Overview

One of the most storied and legendary civilizations in recorded history is that of ancient Rome. Although it was started as a monarchy, the political structure shifted to an oligarchic republic during its span. During a time when empires rarely lasted for than a few generations, the Roman Empire thrived for over a thousand years in various incarnations.

Although there are a myriad of facets that make up the complexion of the society, the military is one of the most important. While Ancient Roman swords and armor would obviously be rudimentary by today’s standards, they were inline with their contemporaries. Along with Ancient Greece—who had a considerable influence on Rome—the two makeup what is now referred to as the “classical period.”


Medieval-FalchionA Falchion is a sword of European origin, handled by one hand, whose design is somewhat similar to the Persian Scimitar or the Chinese Dao.

The weapon combined the weight and power of an Axe with the versatility of a simple sword. Falchions are found in different forms throughout the 11th-16th centuries. In some versions the Falchion looks more like the Seax or the Sabre, and in other versions the shape is irregular and looks more like a Machete.

While some suggest that the meeting with the Islamic Shamshir inspired its creation, these “scimitars” of Persia were only developed many years after the Falchion. Falchion almost always had a single edge with a slight curve on the blade towards the point on the end. As the tip of the falchion had more weight near the end, it was more effective in sharp attacks as an Axe or Hatchet, but also made it slower to be wielded as a sword.




Chainmail armor was used by the last of the Romans, and by some of the invading Germanic tribes, including the Goths. Chainmail armor kept its popularity among the nobility of medieval Europe until, in the 13th century, plate armor began to be used instead, providing greater protection. This change was due to the fact, that the sharp tip of a sword or an arrow could pass through the chainmail.

Helmets also evolved from simple designs to large metal buckets, after which became large sculptured pieces to deflect arrows. Subsequently, helmets were assembled to the rest of the armor.

Full Armor, which could weigh up to 30 kilo, appeared in the 14th century. The armor plates were well designed, and the Knights could still keep a surprising agility. If a Knight with armour fell from the horse, he could easily get up without help. There are anecdotes and descriptions of warriors that wearing a suit of armor made the pine and other exercises in moments of calm.

Armatures put greater emphasis on deflecting projectiles and strengthening the areas most exposed to blows. Later appeared more elaborate models of armor plates with engravings, which were more ceremonial and prestigious than practical.

The armor represented a high cost to the Knight, because he would have to pay for their own equipment and his Squire.

Armor manufacture was a profitable business, and even second-hand armor would take a large part in the Medieval market. During battles, the troops of the victorious side could seize large sums of money stripping and taking armor of the dead Knights.

The Crossbows


Crossbows were already known in ancient China but, apparently, were invented again in Europe around the 5th century BC. They had good range and were more powerful that most of the bows, although it took much longer for them to load. A crossbowman could shoot an average of two arrows per minute.

Crossbow bow is held horizontally and fired by a trigger that released the taut rope. To load it, a soldier would hold the front of the weapon to the ground, holding it with your foot. He then could pull the rope up and back with both hands or with the help of a crank. Crossbows fired bolts or linear arrows, which were much shorter than the typical arrows. The arrows had feathers to provide stability in flight and a sharp metal tip.

The archers used to carry a few large shields to protect themselves while they crouched to reload their weapons. Thus they formed a wall that protected them. When they were shooting, were only visible their crossbows and their heads with helmets. If they had to fight a similar force of long-range archers, usually they were forced to retreat.

The crossbow was a deadly and very popular weapon for the simple reason that almost no training needed to handle it. Soldiers with little experience could learn its management very quickly, and a well-aimed shot could kill a gentleman who had spent entire life training in the arts of war. Crossbows were considered unfair in some circles (in the Knights, mainly) because a little skill required. Richard I of England, Lionheart, was wounded twice by crossbow, the second with fatal consequences. The idea that a man of his greatness was mortally wounded as easily by a common soldier, was unbearable for the nobility. In the 12th century, a Pope tried to prohibit the use of crossbows as inhumane.