Ancient Civilisations, Ancient History, Ancient Japan, Ancient Warriors, History of the Sword, Legendary Swords, Ninja, Sword Terms, Swords, The History of Weapons, Weaponry
The clash of swords is not for the faint-hearted.
A favored weapon among those using, studying
and collecting such items;
many have become Legendary.
Our World Legends.
Truth and Myth combined in a blade.
Though the true history and usage of each
is sometimes unclear they ALL
captivate and charm.
Stuck in a stone… or not,..
…some may indeed have helped shape Our
12 LEGENDARY SWORDS .
10. The SWORD IN THE STONE .
While the Arthurian legend is mostly a product of folklore and myth, there is evidence that its Sword in the stone tale might be very real. In a chapel in Monte Siepi, Italy lies an ancient Sword embedded in stone that could be the key to deciphering the origin of the legend.
According to legend, the “Sword in the Snake,” Kusanagi, was found in the body of an eight-headed serpent killed by the God of Storms and Seas. It’s part of the Imperial Regalia of Japan, icons of the ancient Imperial family’s descent from the Sun Goddess––the symbols of their divine right to rule.
8. The DURANDAL .
For hundreds of years, a mysterious Sword had been embedded in the cliffs above the Notre Dame chapel in Rocamadour, France. The monks say it is Durandal, Sword of the paladin Roland. According to legend, Roland hurled the holy blade into the side of the cliff to keep it from being captured by his enemies.
Muramasa was an ancient Japanese Swordsmith who, according to legend, prayed that his Swords would be “great destroyers.” Because of the exceptional quality of his blades, the gods granted his request and imbued them with a bloodthirsty spirit that—if not sated with battle—would drive the wielder to murder or suicide.
In contrast to Muramasa’s cursed Swords are the blades of Legendary Priest and Swordsmith Masamune. Legend has it that Masamune and Muramasa held a competition to decide the superior smith by placing their blades in a stream. While Muramasa’s cut everything it touched, Masamune’s refused to cut anything undeserving, even the air.
While Masamune’s works are valued as Japanese National Treasures, one of the Swords has never been found. Following the surrender in WWII, the “Honjo Masamune” was given to an American soldier, Sgt. Coldy Bimore, who most likely took it home with him as a war souvenir. As the mysterious G.I. has never been found, the Sword’s whereabouts have likewise been lost.
Despite the Sword’s doubtless worth (it is potentially worth millions), sword collectors are no closer to finding the legendary lost Masamune than they were the day it disappeared.
5. The JOYEUSE .
Joyeuse, King Charlemagne’s Legendary Sword, was said to change colors 30 times every day, and was so bright it outshone the sun. Since as early as 1271, two Swords called Joyeuse have been part of French Coronation Ceremonies. But since both Swords can’t be the famed Joyeuse, the mystery of which one is the true Sword of the Holy Roman Emperor has lingered for centuries.
The Joyeuse residing in the Louvre has suffered heavy modification over its considerable lifetime. The oldest section is the pommel, which recent tests place sometime between the 10th and 11th centuries. Since Charlemagne died in 813, this puts it just outside the Holy Roman Emperor’s lifetime.
The other contender is the “saber of Charlemagne” housed in the Imperial Treasury in Vienna. It is unknown how the Sword became part of the French Imperial Regalia, but the Saber is dated to the early 10th century—closer than the Joyeuse, but still just after the time of Charlemagne’s Legendary Sword.
The Saber was probably fashioned by Hungarian Swordsmiths, which opened the door for additional legends of it being the famed “sword of Attila,” which was said to have been given to Attila the Hun by Mars, the God of War. Sadly, this isn’t really historically plausible either.
4. The SWORD OF ST.PETER .
There are several legends about the Sword used by Saint Peter when he cut off the ear of the servant to the high priest in the garden of Gethsemane. English lore has it brought to England by Joseph of Arimatheaalong with the Holy Grail.
In 968, however, a Sword was brought to Poland by Bishop Jordan—a Sword which he claimed was the actual Sword of St. Peter. The Bishop’s sword, considered the true relic, remained in Poland and was eventually moved to the Archdiocese Museum in Poznan.
Did the mysterious Sword belong to Saint Peter?
There are claims that the Sword could have been made in the Eastern borderlands of the Roman Empire in the first century, but there is little evidence to substantiate them except the (perhaps misplaced) faith of those who want to believe the sword is a genuine relic. The Sword in Poland is a falchion—a type of sword likely not in use during Saint Peter’s time.
Metallurgy tests have also dated it to long after the saint’s death.
3. The WALLACE SWORD .
Legend has it that William Wallace––the titular character of Mel Gibson’s Braveheart––used human skin for his Sword’s scabbard, hilt, and belt. The flesh’s donor was said to have been Hugh de Cressingham, treasurer of Scotland, whom Wallace had flayed after defeating him in the battle of Stirling Bridge.
One version of the legend speaks of Wallace using one strip of Cressingham for his Sword belt. Other accounts say Wallace and his men used Cressingham’s skin for saddle girths.
The legend spread even further when King James IV sent the Wallace Sword to have its scabbard, belt, and pommel replaced with something more befitting a Sword of such stature. The Sword as it is now, in the National Wallace Monument, bears the replacement parts.
Did Wallace have a Frankensword? While Cressingham was most definitely flayed, accounts have Wallace using the unfortunate tax collector’s skin only for his Sword belt, not the actual Sword. The story also came from the English side, and was likely embellished to make the Scottish hero look like a barbarian.
Still, we can certainly understand Wallace’s grudge against tax collectors. It might not be a stretch to say he used the skin from one to decorate his Sword. As with many legends, the truth has been lost to time.
2. The SWORD OF GOUJIAN .
In 1965, a remarkable Sword was found in a damp tomb in China—despite being over 2,000 years old, there wasn’t a spot of rust on it.
The blade was so untouched by time it even drew blood when one archeologist tested its edge on his finger. Besides its unearthly resilience, the craftsmanship of the etchings was also unbelievably detailed for a Sword forged so long ago. It was, for the time, a complete mystery.
Further study of the etchings concluded that it was a Sword belonging to the Yue king, Goujian, and is believed to be the legendary blade mentioned in The Lost History of Yue. According to the text, when King Goujian had his Sword collection appraised, there was only a single Sword of merit. This Sword was so magnificent it was said to have been made with the combined efforts of Heaven and Earth.
How did the Sword stay in such excellent condition for over 2,000 years? Tests show the Swordsmiths of Yue had reached such a high level of metallurgy they were able to incorporate rust-proof alloys into their blades. Their Swords were also treated with rust-resistant chemicals, helping them survive the ages relatively unblemished.
In addition, and in a stroke of brilliant luck, the scabbard of this particular blade was nearly airtight, which prevented oxidation and allowed the Legendary Sword to be found in such pristine condition—even two millennia after it was enclosed in the tomb.
1. The SEVEN-BRANCHED-SWORD .
In 1945, a mysterious Sword was found in Japan’s Isonokami shrine. The Sword was of exceedingly unusual make, with six protrusions branching out from its sides (the tip is considered its seventh).
The Sword was in poor condition, but a faded inscription could be made out along the blade. The exact translation has been questioned numerous times, but what is clear is that the Sword was a gift from a Korean king to a Japanese monarch.
This matched a Sword found in the Nihon Shoki, a folklore-infused historical document cataloging the early history of Japan. If this was the same seven-branched Sword given to a semi-mythical Shaman Empress, Jingu, it would serve as an important keystone marking where legend became fact.
The dating on the blade matched reliable sources in China, Korea, and Japan. The Isonokami shrine itself was also mentioned in other documents dating from the time of the Nihon Shoki, so the Sword could well have been left there since ancient times.
Scholars now believe the seven-branched Sword is the actual Sword from the legend, giving the shaman Empress Jingu an authentic place in history.
+. The LA TIZONA .
La Tizona was the Sword of legendary hero El Cid, who fought for both Christian and Muslim armies in Spain. In a museum in Burgos, Spain, there is a controversial Sword which the museum claims is none other than El Cid’s own blade.
The Sword was said to have been given to the Marquis of Falces by King Ferdinand in 1516. It was then passed down through his family until it was given to the Madrid Military Museum in 1944. There it remained, its legitimacy unchallenged, for sixty years until the current Marquis sold it to the Castile and Leon region for display in the Museum of Burgos.
Upon its sale, the Culture Ministry––which is connected to the Military Museum––launched a scholarly attack against the Sword, saying it was forged centuries after El Cid’s lifetime. Castile and Leon launched a counterattack, upholding the Sword’s authenticity in a different study and saying the Ministry was only jealous because it lost the Sword.
In the epic poem, the “Lay of El Cid,” La Tizona was said to have terrified unworthy enemies into a swoon at mere sight. The Sword in Burgos may not have made any museum visitors swoon, but it certainly seems to have the power to spark controversy.
The Sword’s authenticity remains a fierce debate.
+. The ULFBERHT .
Though mostly forgotten in modern times, there was a type of Sword prized by Vikings that far exceeded any European weapon of its day. The Ulfberht Swords were a thousand years ahead of their time, and wielded only by the elite of Viking Warriors.
What made the Ulfberht blades so advanced? While most Viking blades were found to have been composed of slag-ridden, low-carbon steel, these blades’ metal was comparable to the strength of modern steel. They were inscribed with the signature “+ULFBERH+T,” and their like would not be seen again in Europe until the industrial revolution. The mystery was how the Vikings created these blades while the rest of Europe was still making steel that could shatter like glass.
Scholars now believe the secret to the Ulfberht blades was crucible steel, which the Vikings imported from Iran and Afghanistan. We can’t be certain who Ulfberht was––or even if he was just one man––but he was the only European smith of his time to work crucible steel.
And that made his swords arguably the most advanced weapons of their time and place, ever.
For those interested in viewing footage
of modern blacksmith reproductions of such
The MAN at ARMS crew is highly recommended.(click)
and… for those interested…
JAPANESE SWORD COMPONENTS visual aid. Njoy.