The basic components of the medieval sword are the blade and the hilt. The hilt is composed of the cross-guard, the grip, and the pommel.
— Lower third of the blade towards the hilt. Term is Italian, meaning “strong.”
— Blade shoulder segment closest to the hilt, an area which remained unsharpened to allow the wielder to grasp the blade with a finger for added leverage. In larger medieval swords this area could be long enough for an entire hand to grasp the sword’s shaft. Makers’ marks were often inscribed in this area.
— Center third of the blade. “Third” in Italian.
— Ending third of blade at the point. Term means “weak” in Italian.
— A groove or trough in the center of the blade shaft extending from the hilt down through part or the entirety of the blade. The fuller was employed to lighten the blade and also to add strength and resiliency in much the way an H-girder performs. Makers’ marks of a medieval sword could be found in this area as well as decorative incised designs.
— Also referred to more simply as the “guard” or the “cross.”
— Center of the cross-guard.
— Extended arms of the cross-guard. In a simple, functional cross-guard the quillons might extend straight out from the block. In other designs the quillons might curve towards the hand, or they might curve towards the blade to protect the ricasso (see above) and provide a “blade-trap” for the opponent’s weapon. Sets of quillons could curve in both directions on the same sword. In the basket style hilt several quillons are “woven” to protect the entire hand.
— Portion of the blade shaft that extends into the hilt under the grip. It is fastened to the pommel (see below).
— Handle portion of the medieval sword. The tang could be covered with leather, bone, horn, ivory, wound wire, or shagreen (untanned leather embedded with seeds or stones creating a granular suface) for a secure grip.
— The ending piece of the hilt, this component appeared in various shapes or sizes, but it served to counterbalance the weight of the blade, support the hand, and fasten the tang of the blade securely into the hilt.
For information on other armor or weapons see our main Armor and Weapons page.