Two-Handed Sword

British or Western European

On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 373

This is one of fewer than twenty English two-handed swords known to survive from the fifteenth century, and the only example preserved in an American public collection. Well-balanced, comparatively light for its size, and subtly embellished with decorative flourishes including a faceted, pear-shaped pommel, a finely wrought cross-guard, and a blade incised and inlaid on both sides with the image of a running wolf and a shield, the sword is a practical yet elegant weapon and an important and rare example of the Late Medieval swordsmith’s craft.

As plate armor began to replace mail over the course of the fourteenth century, and as it became more sophisticated in design, swordsmiths created blades capable of piercing gaps in armor’s plates and splitting mail rings. An effective thrusting and slashing weapon, this sword’s double-edged blade, which tapers strongly to an acute point and has a four-sided flattened diamond cross-section and a distinct medial ridge running the entire length on both sides, was designed for these purposes and would have been an effective offensive weapon against the fully articulated head-to-toe plate armor in the first quarter of the fifteenth century. It was intended to be wielded with two hands.

The sword is similar to those that are associated with the so-called Castillon find—an important group of eighty swords said to have been found in two casks recovered in 1976 from the wreck of a fifteenth-century barge in the river Dordogne, near the town of Castillon-la-Bataille, close to where the battle of Castillon, the last battle of the Hundred Years War, was fought in 1453. Approximately four two-handed swords associated with the Castillon find are known, the most notable example preserved in the Royal Armouries in Leeds (acc. no. IX-1787).

Two-Handed Sword, Steel, latten or copper alloy, British or Western European

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Overall front