Arming sword

Classification Sword
Time Period ca. 1000 - 1350
Avg. Length 36" (91.4 cm)
Avg. Weight 2.5 lbs. (1.1 kg)
Blade Type Double-edged, parallel
Hilt Type One-handed cruciform, with pommel


The MS I.33 manuscript, dated to ca. 1290, shows fencing with the arming sword and the buckler.
The MS I.33 manuscript, dated to ca. 1290, shows fencing with the arming sword and the buckler.

The arming sword (also sometimes called a knight's or knightly sword) is the single handed cruciform sword of the High Middle Ages, in common use between ca. 1000 and 1350, and possibly even down to the 16th century. It is a common weapon in period artwork, and there are many surviving examples in museums. The arming sword was worn by a knight even when not in armor, and he would be considered 'undressed' for public if he were without it. Due to the influence of fantasy gaming in the late 20th century, arming swords are sometimes incorrectly referred to as longswords or broadswords.

Typically used with a shield or buckler, the arming sword was the standard military sword of the knight (merely called a "war sword") until technological changes led to the rise of the longsword in the late 13th century. The first longswords were actually little more than two-handed arming swords, but the difference in length grew substantially as time passed. Long after these larger weapons came into use, the arming sword was retained as a common sidearm, eventually evolving into the cut & thrust swords of the Renaissance.

Although a variety of designs fall under the heading of 'arming sword', they are most commonly recognized as single-handed double-edged swords that were designed more for cutting than thrusting. Possessing wider and heavier blades than the Victorian smallsword, modern scholars have often erroneously classified them as broadswords.

Arming swords correspond to Oakeshott types XI, XII, XIII, and XIIIa.

Most of Wikipedia's text and many of its images are licensed under the
Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License (CC BY-SA)

Return to Main Index