How heavy were swords from the Middle Ages and Renaissance? This common question is easily answered by experts but remains a mystery for many. It is often difficult to determine the true weights of these historical swords since people spread a lot of misconceptions. The article under analysis is designed to give the reader strictly factual information about the weight of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance swords and dismiss myths.

A Weighty Issue of Sword:

A Weighty Issue of Sword

Misinformation about the weight of medieval and Renaissance swords is rampant. Popular media often depicts these swords as heavy and cumbersome, leading to misconceptions. For instance, a respected academic on The History Channel once claimed that 14th-century swords could weigh as much as 40 pounds. This is far from the truth.

From hands-on experience, we know that swords were not excessively heavy. Most historical swords weigh between 2.5 to 3.5 pounds, with larger war swords rarely exceeding 4.5 pounds. However, major reference books often lack detailed weight information, contributing to the confusion.

The Reality of Historical Sword Weights:

The Reality of Historical Sword Weights

The Wallace Collection Museum in London provides valuable statistics. Most of their swords, including arming swords, two-handers, and rapiers, weigh less than three pounds. Leading sword expert Ewart Oakeshott confirmed that medieval swords were light and manageable. According to him, “The average weight of any one of normal size is between 2.5 lb. and 3.5 lbs. Even the big hand-and-a-half ‘war’ swords rarely weigh more than 4.5 lbs.”

Medieval swords were well-made, light, and agile. They could deliver powerful cuts and thrusts and were far from the clumsy weapons often portrayed in media. For example, the average weight of swords from the 10th to the 15th centuries was about 1.3 kg (2.9 lbs), and in the 16th century, it was around 0.9 kg (2 lbs).

Expert Opinions:

Many historical experts have stated that medieval swords were not heavy. Dr. Hans-Peter Hils noted that museum collections often feature heavy parade swords mistaken for combat weapons. These parade swords were not intended for actual fighting. Medieval swords were designed for functionality, not weight.

Misconceptions about the weight of medieval swords have persisted for centuries. For example, 18th-century fencing author Thomas Page described medieval swords as “enormous” and “unwieldy.” Similar views were echoed by later authors, contributing to the myth that these swords were heavy and clumsy.

Real Sword Handling:

Real Sword Handling

Handling real historical swords reveals their true nature. Swords were well-balanced and agile, not heavy and unwieldy. Charles Ffoulkes, a British arms curator, incorrectly described medieval swords as heavy and impractical. In reality, these swords were designed for effective combat and were well-suited for their intended use.

Respected historians like Kelly DeVries have also perpetuated the myth of heavy medieval swords. Despite evidence to the contrary, many continue to believe that these swords were cumbersome. However, handling real swords shows that they were functional and efficient weapons.

Subjectivity and Objectivity:

John Latham, a sword manufacturer, mistakenly believed that medieval swords were heavy because they were designed to deal with armored opponents. However, the actual weight of a sword is a balance between being light enough for maneuverability and heavy enough for effective strikes.

Medieval and Renaissance swords were carefully designed for their intended use. They had to have enough mass to support an edge and point, parry strikes, and deliver powerful blows. Imaginary tales of massive swords capable of cleaving through armor are myths. In reality, these swords were light and agile.


The belief that medieval and Renaissance swords were heavy and cumbersome is a myth. Historical evidence and expert opinions confirm that these swords were well-balanced and manageable. Understanding the true weight and handling of these swords allows us to appreciate their design and effectiveness in combat. Real medieval and Renaissance swords were not only functional but also a testament to the skill and craftsmanship of their makers.

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