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Falchion
Time Period: 11th-16th century
Location: Europe
Common Construction: Wooden Grip, Iron or Steel Blade


The falchion is a single bladed sword whose identification and purpose are difficult to verify. There is not a great deal of agreement as to where it originated, what it was used for, or what the "typical" falchion looked like. Combined with the fact that there are very few surviving examples to study, and we have a modern mystery.

Historians can agree that the following characteristics make a falchion; a single edged blade, with a sword-like hilt that weighed between 2 and 3 pounds. However, the shape of the blade is not universally agreed upon. It can have a curved or straight back, and may or may not widen towards the tip. The common perception of the falchion is that it has a widening blade such as the Conyers Falchion pictured above, but some believe that this is not a "typical" falchion. Other falchions have a universally slender blade and those that widen at the tip are believed to be a subset of the weapon.

The heritage of the falchion is also a matter of debate. Authors have ascribed the falchion's ancestry to many weapons such as the Chinese dao, the Egyptian khopesh, the langseax, the Persian shamshir, the Turkish kilij, and Mongol sabers. It may not be possible at this time to determine the blade's origins with any certainty.

The design of the falchion is to combine the striking power of an axe with the defensive capabilities and precision of a sword. It is heavier towards the tip to provide more weight at the point of impact and therefore add more force to the blow. Construction of the falchion was likely similar to that of the European long sword. Early falchions were made of iron with a lower carbon content and wood grips. Metallurgical advances improved the quality of the blades and late era falchions were steel construction.

Usage of the falchion is also not clear. There are very few surviving blades to study, and this has led some to believe that the falchion was a lower quality sword used by common foot soldiers or peasants. However, historical evidence indicates that this was a weapon that was also used by the nobility, so that hypothesis does not seem likely.

Long swords were already in use during the falchion's appearance, so some believe it may have developed as a specialized blade designed to penetrate heavy leather armor and chain mail. This theory would coincide with their decline in the 16th century is a direct result of their inability to pierce plate armor. Regardless, the falchion is quite adept at producing deep cutting wounds against lightly armored opponents.

The falchion is thought to have developed into the saber or scimitar, however with so little being known about the falchion's origins, it is by no means a definitive statement. There are still more questions than answers, and the falchion remains a sword that has yet to surrender all its secrets.

CE 11th Century, CE 12th Century, CE 13th Century, CE 14th Century, CE 15th Century, CE 16th Century, History, Medieval Europe, Sword, Weapon


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