Hand-and-a-Half Sword

Date: ca. 1400–1430

Culture: probably German

Medium: Iron, copper alloy

Dimensions: L. 49 1/8 in. (124.8 cm); L. of blade, 38 1/2 in. (97.8 cm); Wt. 3 lbs. 7oz. (1560 g)

Classification: Swords

Credit Line: Gift of Laird and Kathleen Landmann, in memory of Edmund Roy Hofmann, 2006

Accession Number: 2006.564


This sword is one of the most elegantly proportioned and complete examples known of its type, which was in use throughout western Europe from the late fourteenth through the fifteenth century. Only the leather-wrapped wooden grip and the scabbard are missing. The steep point of the blade, indicating that it was intended primarily for thrusting, and its extreme stiffness, achieved with a relatively thick, flattened lozenge cross section, made it sturdy enough to puncture or pierce the gaps between the plates of an opponent's armor. The design was a direct reaction to the ever-increasing sophistication of plate armor, which by the 1420s had been developed to cover the wearer from head to foot in articulated and form-fitting steel. From the purely aesthetic standpoint, the form of the sword is further enhanced by the slight horizontal reverse curve and dimpled decoration of the crossguard and the faceted and engraved outer face of the pommel, which bears the word MARIA, a pious invocation of the Virgin Mary. Protective religious inscriptions often featured prominently in the decoration of armor and weapons, not only in Europe but around the world.