Viking swords or Carolingian swords are types of weapons that were popular in the Northern and Western areas of Europe during the Early Middle Ages. These swords were crafted in the 8th century and the Merovingian swords were the basis for this. During the 11th and 12th centuries, the knightly swords of the Romanesque era were introduced.
Physical Features of the Viking Swords
The double-edged blades of the Viking swords were extremely sharp, and these weapons were mostly wielded with one hand. The length of the blades often ranged from 60 to 90 centimeters, and the typical size of these swords measured around 70 to 80 centimeters. In the later portion of the Viking period, the length of the blades increased to a total of a hundred centimeters. These also featured pommels and hilts that offered sufficient weight to the weapon’s grip.
History of the Viking Swords
During the rule of Charlemagne or Charles the Great, the price of a sword that featured a scabbard was set at 7 solidi, which is equal to $1300. Although swords have always been expensive, these were not as exclusive as those present in the Merovingian era and in Charlemagne’s royal ordinance; only the members of the cavalry who were able to maintain a warhorse were privileged to wield such weapons. From the late eighth until the early ninth century, the swords slowly replaced the sax and grave goods were no longer supplied in Francia, this caused continental finds to be strictly limited. The only surviving samples of such Viking swords became graves of the Northern and Eastern cultures where people still continued to follow the Pagan burial traditions.
In the ninth century, pattern welding was less favored since higher quality steel became present for weapon crafting. Improved steel also allowed the production to produce narrower blades. The swords from this century featured a more distinct tapering compared to the predecessors from the previous century. The Frankish Viking swords usually featured pommels that were shaped in a series of three to five rounded lobes; this was considered as a native Frankish innovation and these designs were often shown in the period’s pictorial art. Custom inlaid inscriptions on these Viking Swords were another advancement that dates back to the rule of Charles the Great, and also reached its peak and growing popular up until the twelfth century.
Scabbards of the Carolingian swords were usually made from wood and leather while the designs for these were depicted in numerous manuscripts such as the Vivian Bible, Utrecth Psalter, and Stuttgart Psalter. A number of miniatures also represented the sword’s system of suspension through its belt and while most belts and scabbards were never preserved, the metallic mounts of these swords have been obtained in numerous Croatian graves and Scandinavian silver hoards.
Notable Examples of the Viking Sword
The longest and heaviest existing Viking sword dates all the way back to the 9th century and was found in Flå. It is currently placed in the Museum of Cultural History in Oslo and it measures around 102.4 centimeters long and weighs a total of 1.9 kilograms.
The Sæbø blade is a 9th-century type C blade found in the year 1825 at a barrow in the Sogn region of Norway. This Viking sword became significant due to its blade inscription which has been interpreted as runic in 1867. While Viking swords are known to have hilts engraved with runes, inlaid inscriptions often appeared in the Latin alphabet.
The Lincoln sword, also known as the River Witham sword, was a weapon that dates back to the 10th century; in 1848, a piece was obtained from the River Witham and was categorized as a Petersen Type-L sword. It featured hilt fittings that were added by an Anglo-Saxon craftsman and was considered as one of the most wonderful Viking swords to date. The Lincoln sword was also considered as an exceptional sword, being one of the only two known pieces that bore a blade inscription Leufrit; the other piece was known to have been discovered in Tatarstan.
The Sword of Saint Stephen is a 10th-century blade classified as a Petersen Type-T piece; it features a walrus-tooth hilt with engraved Mammen-style ornaments. The sword was used in the Treasury of St. Vitus Cathedral in Prague as a coronation sword of Saint Stephen, the Hungarian king.
The Cawood sword is highly remarkable in the framework of describing the Viking blades and these fit neatly into the Viking sword category. However, Oakeshott (an English philosopher and political theorist) considers these swords as versions that arose from blades that date back to the 12th century.
The Sword of Essen is a sword from the 10th century that has been preserved at the Essen Abbey. The piece was said to be a gift from Otto III and represents the martyrdom of Cosmas and Damian, the patron saints of the said city.