Falchion

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This article describes the medieval weapon. For the Finnish heavy metal band, see Falchion (band).
Falchion
Falchion from medieval painting
Image of the Battle of the Golden Spurs, showing men with falchions

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 Persian scimitar and the Chinese dao.

The weapon combined the weight and power of an axe with the versatility of a sword. Falchions are found in different forms from around the 11th century up to and including the sixteenth century. In some versions the falchion looks rather like the weapon-seax and later the sabre, and in some versions the form is irregular or like a machete with a crossguard.

Types[edit]

The blade designs of falchions varied widely across the continent and through the ages. 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] Two basic types 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 (e.g. the Westminster Hall mural, shown to the right) The type seems to be confined to the 13th. and 14th. Centuries.[2]
  • Cusped falchions: The majority of the depictions in art reflect a design similar to that of the großes Messer. A surviving example from England's thirteenth century (The Thorpe Falchion) was just under 2 pounds (0.91 kg) in weight. Of its 37.5 inches (95.25 centimetres) length, 31.5 inches (80.01 cm) are the straight blade which bears a cusped or flare-clipped tip similar to the much later kilij of Turkey.[3] This blade style may have been influenced by the Turko-Mongol sabres that had reached the borders of Europe by the thirteenth century. This type of sword continues in use into the 16th. century[4]

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 haft 1–2 ft (30–61 cm) long, sometimes ending in a curve like an umbrella. These are seen in numerous illustration in the mid-13th. century Maciejowski Bible.[5]

A number of weapons superficially similar to the falchion existed in Western Europe, including the Messer, hanger and the backsword.

Status[edit]

It is sometimes presumed that these swords had a lower quality and status than the longer, more expensive swords. It is possible that some falchions were used as axe-like tools between wars and fights, since they were practical pieces of equipment. While falchions are commonly thought to be peasants' weapons[6] this is not always the case; the Conyers falchion belonged to a landed family,[7] and the falchion is shown in illustrations of combat between mounted knights.[8] 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.[9]

References[edit]

  1. ^ The Conyers Falchion accessed January 27, 2007.
  2. ^ Oakeshott, Ewart (1980). European Weapons and Armour. Guildford & London: Lutterworth Press. p. 152. ISBN 0-7188-2126-2. 
  3. ^ http://www.myarmoury.com/review_mrl_falc.html
  4. ^ Oakeshott (1980), p.152
  5. ^ e.g. folio 3v., folio 14v
  6. ^ http://www.middle-ages.org.uk/falchion-sword.htm
  7. ^ Conyers Falchion, op cit
  8. ^ e.g.media:bannockburn.jpg
  9. ^ *Capwell, Tobias; David Edge; Jeremy Warren (2011). Masterpieces of European Arms and Armour from the Wallace Collection. London: Wallace Collection. pp. 98–9. ISBN 978-0-900785-86-3.  Catalogue Reference A710

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