- Education and Science»
- History & Archaeology
The Coolest Swords in History
The Famous European Swords, Legendary, Historical, and Fictional
What is the greatest European sword?
The famous Excalibur as wielded by King Arthur. In Welsh the sword is called Caledfwlch, in Cornish, Calesvol. The sword gives the owner sovereignty over Great Britain. Excalibur in most legends is given to Arthur by the Lady of the Lake during the early part of his reign. The legendary sword is called "Excalibur" that is to say as Cut-steel. Excalibur's scabbard is said to have healing powers that would protect those injured, and if worn the warrior would not bleed at all.
Nineteenth century poet Alfred, Lord Tennyson described the sword as such,
There drew he forth the brand Excalibur,
And o’er him, drawing it, the winter moon,
Brightening the skirts of a long cloud, ran forth
And sparkled keen with frost against the hilt:
For all the haft twinkled with diamond sparks,
Myriads of topaz-lights, and jacinth-work
Of subtlest jewellery.
Excalibur is by no means the only weapon associated with Arthur, nor the only sword. Welsh tradition also knew of a dagger named Carnwennan and a spear named Rhongomyniad that belonged to him.
Clarent was a sword of peace used by King Arthur used for ceremonies and for knighting, but was stolen by his relative Mordred and was used to fatally wound King Arthur at the battle of Camlann. King Arthur was then moved by Morgan le Fay and three other queens to Avalon. There are many legends behind Mordred, that he may have been the illegitimate son of Arthur or his nephew, that this traitor to England also stole Arthur's wife, Guinevere, and also physically abused her setting King Arthur into a rage. Mordred is in the final circle of hell in Dante's Inferno where other famous traitors were cast such as Judas, Brutus, and Cassius. Clarent and its tale would be one of irony since it's purpose was for great peace, but then it was used in horrific ways to seize the golden age of Arthur and his purpose for medieval Britain.
Carnwennan is another of King Arthur's weapons. It was a dagger that supposedly could shield its user in shadow. Arthur uses Carnwennan to slay the witch Orddu, the Very Black Witch daughter of Orwen, by slicing her in half. This weapon along with Excalibur and Rhongomiant are listed as weapons given to him by God himself. Carnwennan is exclusive to Welsh tales of Arthurian legends.
In Culwch ac Olwen it is stated that, "Then said Arthur, "Since thou wilt not remain here, chieftain, thou shalt receive the boon whatsoever thy tongue may name, as far as the wind dries, and the rain moistens, and the sun revolves, and the sea encircles, and the earth extends; save only my ship; and my mantle; and Caledvwlch, my sword; and Rhongomyant, my lance; and Wynebgwrthucher, my shield; and Carnwenhau, my dagger; and Gwenhwyvar, my wife. By the truth of Heaven, thou shalt have it cheerfully, name what thou wilt."
There are five swords in the Crown Jewels of the United Kingdom including the Sword of Mercy (Edward the Confessor's Sword), the Jewelled Sword of Offering, The Great Sword of State, the Sword of Spiritual Justice, and the Sword of Temporal Justice.
The Sword of Mercy is a broken sword, according to legend the sword was broken by an angel to prevent a wrongful killing. The sword is a reminder for knights during a knighting ceremony to remember honor and mercy in the heat of battle and conflict. The sword is believed to have been made with the Sword of Spiritual Justice and the Sword of Temporal Justice for King Charles I coronation ceremony.
The Jewlled Sword of Offering is the only sword actually presented to the Sovereign during the Coronation (by the Archbishop of Canterbury, to signify that the royal power is at the service of the church). The sword is of great magnificence with a hilt and quillions almost entirely encrusted with precious stones. At the centre of the quillion is a very large and fine emerald. The scabbard is of gold ornamented with the badges of the United Kingdom, etc. in rubies, emeralds, sapphires and diamonds. A less elaborate sword was provided for the Coronation of Queen Victoria, but at the last three coronations the George IV sword has taken its place. (The Queen's Coronation: The Story of the Regalia by Lawrence E. Turner)
The Great Sword of State: the gilt handle has crosspieces representing the lion and unicorn and the scabbard is decorated with jewels in the shapes of the floral symbols of the United Kingdom: the rose for England and the thistle for Scotland.
Nægling is one of the swords used by Beowulf. He uses the sword to fight a dragon, but the sword snaps in half, not because of the dragon's strength but because of Beowulf's. The sword is often described as an old heirloom, grey, and excellent. The sword may be in reference to the Nagelring from the Vikina Saga, which this is only going to open up a wormhole for you reader, so go here if you want more information on history.
The Vorpal Sword is a Lewis Carroll creation in Alice in Wonderland in the "Jabberwocky" poem.
He took his vorpal sword in hand:
And later,One, two! One, two! And through and throughThe vorpal blade went snicker-snack!He left it dead, and with its headHe went galumphing back.The term is now used to mean a wavy, or unusually long sword. The term may also refer to a supernatural weapon used to sever heads.
The Sword of Godric Gryffindor is a goblin made sword addressed with rubies on the pummel. It was once owned by Godric Gryffindor, a founder of Hogwarts. Early in the series, Harry draws the Sword from the Sorting Hat to kill Voldemort's Basilisk. The sword also plays a large role in the Deathly Hallows, due to being imbued with the Basilisk's venom.
Because the Sword was goblin-forged, it is indestructible, and according to Griphook the goblin, the Sword was originally forged by the goblin Ragnuk the First and "stolen" by Gryffindor, as The Sword was stolen (or retrieved, as goblins would say) by Griphook when the Sword fell from Harry's grasp during the raid on Lestrange's vault in book seven. However, it again returned to wizard hands later in the book, when Neville pulled it out of the Sorting Hat and used it to decapitate Nagini, Voldemort's snake. This shows that apparently, no matter where the sword happened to be at the time, it will reappear in the Hat when a true member of Gryffindor house is in need of it.
Rowling has confirmed in her webchat that Gryffindor did not steal the sword from Ragnuk and that this belief is merely part of Griphook's goblin mistrust and prejudice against wizards. It was revealed on Pottermore that Godric Gryffindor commissioned Ragnuk the First to make the sword for him under his specifications. Once Ragnuk had made the sword, he was so fond of it that after he had presented it to Gryffindor, he told the goblins it had been stolen and sent minions to retrieve it for him. Gryffindor defeated the goblins using magic and instead of killing them, he bewitched them to go back to Ragnuk and say that if he tried to take the sword again, he would use it against them. The king took the threat seriously, but still insisted it had been stolen from him until the day he died.
In the end, Neville Longbottom uses the sword to defeat Nagini the Basilisk, the last horcrux that stood in the way of defeating Voldemort once and for all. Neville Longbottom was meant to parallel Harry in many ways throughout the series.
In the Chronicles of Narnia, Peter Pevensie received Rhindon and a shield from Father Christmas after meeting him on the journey to find Aslan, and is later knighted "Sir Peter Wolf's-Bane" by Aslan after he kills Maugrim, the wolf, chief of the White Witch's secret police, who was trying to kill Susan and Lucy. Latter in the series, Peter is yet again reunited with Rhindon in Prince Caspian, when the Pevensie children must defend Narnia.
The Wallace Sword is an antique claymore believed to be William Wallace's Sword, a Scottish knight who lived around 1285-1305. He led Scotland in independence from England during the Wars of Scottish Independence. After William's execution in 1305, it is believed the governor of Dumbarton Castle took the sword. The sword that is currently claimed to be the Wallace Sword is under great scrutiny, and the real sword is considered to be a lost relic of time. However, the bottommost piece has a flattened diamond cross-section, and so perhaps might be a 13th-century sword, and therefore there is some hope for those who think that Wallace's sword is there. Wallace was an incredibly young and powerful warrior for his time. England really did not like this fellow, giving him one of the most cruel execution in history... I can't place the details here.
It was said that no one could tell a lie or move, with Fragarach at his or her throat, thus the name 'Answerer'. It was also said to place the wind at the user's command and could cut through any shield or wall, and had a piercing wound from which no man could recover.
Crocea Mors was the name of Julius Caesar's sword. In Welsh versions, it is called Angau Coch ("Red Death") or Agheu Glas ("Grey Death").
The British prince Nennius acquired it when, during single combat with Caesar, it got stuck in his shield. It killed everyone Nennius struck with it. Nennius died fifteen days after the battle of a head wound inflicted by Caesar, and the sword was buried with him.
Durendal or Durandal is the sword of Charlemange's paladin Roland who went on many marches in the name of bringing Christianity throughout Europe. Durendal was said to have been blessed by many saints having with it in its golden hilt a tooth of Saint Peter, blood of Saint Basil, a hair of Saint Dennis, and a garment from Blessed Mary. The sword was considered to be indestructible, and Roland himself attempted to destroy the sword in case it fell into the wrong hands, but was unable to do so. Monks from Rocamadour, France attest that Durendal still exists and that it is embedded in a cliff wall. The sword is believed to have once belonged to Hector of Troy, and the sword was given to Roland by Malagigi another of Charlemange's paladins in the chansons de geste. He was said to be a great enchanter having won magical items, including the magical horse Bayard who was capable of carrying many riders at once.
Joyeuse was Charlemagne's personal sword. There are many legends about the origins of the sword, one being that it was made partly from the Lance of Longinus, the spear thrust into Christ's side at the crucification. Joyeuse is also said to have been made from parts of Durendal, Roland's sword. There are some controversy as to whether the proper sword exists, two different versions are held one at the museum the Lourve and the other at the Musée de Cluny. The sword has been said to have been used in coronation practices for kings from 1270 (King Philip III) to 1824 (Charles X). If the sword indeed has retained itself through so many French kings, it would be impressive indeed. At the core, the medieval blade consists of Oakeshott type XII, which was primarily used in the 10th century.
Joyeuse translates to "joyful."
Lobera, forged in steel, has a blade of 80 cm. and silver ornaments. It is a relic kept in the Capilla Real at the Seville Cathedral. Lobera means "wolf-slayer" it was wielded by Saint Ferdinand III of Castile. Pope Innocent IV named Ferdinand the "invincible champion of Jesus Christ." Don Juan Manuel writes that King Ferdinand III, lying on his deathbed, addressed him in these words: "I can bequeath no heritage to you, but I bestow upon you my sword Lobera, that is of passing worth, and wherewith God has wrought much good to me." Ferdinand greatly expanded the borders of Spain. His tomb is inscribed in four languages: Arabic, Hebrew, Latin, and an early version of Castilian.
Tizona and La Colada were swords used by El Cid of medieval Spain. The Tizona sword was ceremonial, owing to its adornment (which reflects its Castillian heraldry) and would have belonged to a member of the Castillian royalty or their family. After this mention in the inventory list there are no other historical notices, although the blade currently residing in the Royal Armory of Madrid could be the same one described in 1503. In the Cantar de mio Cid there are verses that describe each sword.
Martín Antolínez took his sword in hand,
it lights up all the field, it is so clean and bright,
he gave him a blow, he hit him a glancing blow,
it broke away the top of the helmet,
it cut away all the helmet straps,
it tore off the mailed hood, and reached the coif,
the coif and the hood all were ripped away,
it cut the hairs on his head, and it reached well into the flesh,
one part fell to the ground and the other remained.
When precious Colada has struck this blow,
Diego González saw that he would not escape with his soul,
he turned his horse to face his opponent.
At that moment Martín Antolínez hit him with his sword,
he struck him broadside, with the cutting edge he did not hit him.
Diego González has sword in hand, but he does not use it,
at that moment the infante began to shout,
-Help me, God, glorious Lord, and protect me from this sword!-
Gram is the name of the sword that Sigurd used to kill the dragon Fafnir in Norse mythology. Gram was forged by Volund and originally belonged to Sigurd's father, Sigmund, who received it in the hall of the Völsung after pulling it out of the tree Barnstokkr into which Odin had stuck it where no one else could pull it out. The sword was destroyed in battle when Sigmund struck the spear of an enemy soldier dressed in a wide brimmed hat and a black hooded cloak. Before he died, Sigmund instructed his wife to keep the pieces so that it might be reforged for the their unborn son (Sigurd), whom she was carrying. The sword was eventually reforged by Regin for Sigurd's use. After it was reforged, it could cleave an anvil in twain. Fafnir was the son of a dwarf who was turned into a dragon by the magical ring from Andvari.
Legbiter was the sword of Magnus III of Norway. When King Magnus was killed in an ambush by the Men of Ulster, his sword was retrieved and sent home. More legacy has been kept for this king in Ireland and Scotland than native Norway. In modern times a "Magnus Barelegs festival" has been held in Ireland and a beer named after his sword, Legbiter. It is unclear what Magnus' ultimate ambitions were, and the significance of his campaign has been downplayed by modern English historians.
"King Magnus had a helmet on his head; a red shield, in which was inlaid a gilded lion; and was girt with the sword of Legbit, of which the hilt was of tooth (ivory), and handgrip wound about with gold thread; and the sword was extremely sharp" (According to Snorri Sturlson).
Szczerbiec is the coronation sword used for king of Poland from 1320 to 1764. it is currently on display at the Royal Wawel Castle in Krakow as the only preserved piece of medieval Polish Crown Jewels.The sword is characterized by a hilt decorated with magical formulas, Christian symbols, and floral patterns, as well as a narrow slit in the blade which holds a small shield with the coat of arms of Poland. In English the sword is often referred to as "Notched Sword" or "Jagged Sword", although its blade has straight and smooth edges.
A legend links Szczerbiec with King Boleslaus the Brave who was said to have chipped the sword by hitting it against the Golden Gate of Kiev in 1018. (However, the Golden Gate was only constructed in 1037 and the sword is actually dated to the late 12th or 13th century.)
It was first used as a coronation sword by Vladislaus the Elbow-High in 1320. Looted by Prussian troops in 1795, it changed hands several times during the 19th century until it was purchased in 1884 for the Hermitage Museum in Saint Petersburg, Russia. The Soviet Union returned it to Poland in 1928. During WWII, Szczerbiec was evacuated to Canada and did not return to Kraków until 1959. (For more information)
The Sword of Osman was an important sword used during the coronation ceremony of the Ottoman Empire sultans. The sword was named after Osman I, the founder of the Ottoman Dynasty. The girding of the sword of Osman was a vital ceremony which took place within two weeks of a sultan's accession to the throne. It was held at the tomb complex at Eyüp, on the Golden Horn waterway Constantinople. The sword girding thus occurred on what was regarded as sacred grounds, and linked the newly enthroned sultan both to his 13th-century ancestors and to the very person of the Prophet.