Messer (weapon)

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A Long Knife in the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna.

Messer (German for "knife"), or Langes Messer ("long knife"; also großes Messer, "great knife"; Hiebmesser, "hewing knife"; Kriegsmesser, "war knife," etc.), is a term for a class of single-edged bladed weapons, deriving from the medieval falchion and preceding the modern sabre, common in the German Late Middle Ages and Renaissance (14th to 16th centuries).[1]

Fighting with a Messer and a "Hungarian shield" (Gladiatoria Fechtbuch fol. 55r, mid 15th century)

Its hilt included a straight cross-guard and Nagel: a nail-like (Nagel literally means 'nail') protrusion that juts out from the right side of the cross-guard away from the flat of the blade, to protect the wielder’s hands. Quite notable in its construction was the attachment of blade to the hilt via a slab tang sandwiched between two wooden grip plates that were pegged into place. Also of note is that many pommels were 'drawn out' or curved to one side of the hilt (edge side), a feature known as a "hat-shaped pommel." Extant examples seem to have an overall length of 30 inches with a 24.5 in (62 cm) blade, and a weight between 2–2.5 lb (0.91–1.13 kg).

The Messer was part of the curriculum of several fencing manuals in the 14th and 15th centuries, including Lecküchner, Codex Wallerstein, Hans Talhoffer, Paulus Kal and Albrecht Dürer.[2]

Although often confused with the Kriegsmesser ("War Knife"), it has to be clearly distinguished from the Großmesser, being more than 1500 mm long and shaped more like a scimitar, originating as the Hungarian version of the German Zweihänder. Kriegsmesser were used by professional soldiers, typically Landsknechts. An example of this, also called a "Long Knife," is preserved in the Hofjagd- und Rüstkammer, Vienna.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Vesey, A.; B. Norman (1980). The rapier and small-sword, 1460-1820. Arms and Armour Press. pp. 68–71. ISBN 978-0-405-13089-2. 
  2. ^ Anglo, Sydney; B. Norman (2000). The martial arts of Renaissance Europe. Yale University Press. pp. 102–103. ISBN 978-0-300-08352-1. 

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