History of Swords

Everything You Need to Know About Falchion Swords

Everything You Need to Know About Falchion Swords

During the Middle Ages, the falchion was a popular sword. Despite their weight and single, progressively wider blades (some resembled oversized knives, while others boasted a narrower profile), falchions found favor with agile troops like archers and spearmen. This preference stemmed from their exceptional chopping ability. Now, let’s learn about the types of falchion swords, their past, and how they were different from other medieval swords.

Types of Falchion Swords

During the later Middle Ages, there were two distinct types of falchion. The first type is similar to a butcher’s cleaver, while the other resembles a sabre blade. However, there may be several subtypes for several historical examples.

  1. Conyers Falchion

The Conyers falchion, named after its owners, resembles a modern cleaver or machete with a straight blade that widens towards the tip. Despite its user’s skill level, it could cause significant damage. They are one of the few remaining swords of this kind of falchion which dates back to the middle of the thirteenth century. Adorned with heraldic symbols, it holds historical significance. While falchion swords are common in medieval art, those with cleaver-like blades became less prevalent after about 1370. Today, the Conyers falchion is preserved in the library of Durham Cathedral in England.

  1. Thorpe Falchion

Named after its discovery location, the Thorpe falchion is a typical cusped falchion with a beak-like point, ideal for cutting and thrusting. Sometimes it had a straight or curved blade resembling a scimitar.

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The evolution of the falchion into a saber-like blade is unclear, but some historians suggest Eastern European sword influence. Though similar to the Sword of Charlemagne, an Eastern European saber, the Thorpe falchion is English.

The Thorpe falchion found lasting fame in medieval art, most notably in Antonio Pollaiuolo’s iconic 1470s engraving, “The Battle of the Naked Men.” While these single-edged swords saw use from the 14th to 16th centuries, their design evolved over time. However, they never achieved the widespread popularity of other weapons.

Characteristics of Falchion Swords:

Falchion swords are renowned for their chopping ability, with varying blade shapes throughout history. Inspired by historic examples like the Conyers and Thorpe falchions, modern replicas are often made of high-carbon steel for combat durability. These swords typically feature a single sharp edge and thick, wide blades suited for powerful chops. Their sizes vary, with an average length of 17 to 25 inches and a weight of 2 to 3 pounds, making them less nimble. Later falchions incorporated guards like crossguards or S-shaped guards, with some adorned with decorative designs on their guards and pommels.

History of the Falchion Sword:

Subtype of ‘umbrella hilted’ falchion, from the Morgan Bible. Image from Wikipedia

Throughout history, the falchion served not only as a weapon but also symbolized tenure and property ownership. The name “falchion” likely originates from the Latin “falx,” meaning sickle, and evolved from the Norse sax, a single-edged fighting knife. Falchions rose to fame during the Middle Ages, with the blades of the Conyers and Pollards families becoming legendary. Notably, the Wigmore falchion held a special place as a symbol of a land grant. Favored by infantry like archers and spearmen for their exceptional chopping power, falchions eventually lost ground to sabers by the 15th century. Though occasionally wielded by knights, falchions remained primarily infantry weapons.

Was The Falchion a Good Sword?

Falchions were practical and lethal chopping weapons, requiring minimal training for battlefield efficiency. Soldiers, like archers, aggressively attacked targets to swiftly defeat opponents, often using tactics from the flank or behind. Unlike other medieval swords, falchions were versatile for both war and hunting, serving as general tools outside of combat. Commoners also owned falchions, using them for tasks like wood chopping.

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