If you’ve ever played an RPG or watched any sort of Medieval-themed movie, you know just how destructive a two-handed sword can be. But now, you can see one for yourself, after a historian donated a legit 16th century beast to Heritage Malta.
“A double-handed sword dating from the first half of the 16th century, technically called Zweihänder, has been recently donated by Dott. Francesco Pegoiani Penna from his private collection to Heritage Malta’s Palace Armoury located at the Grand Master’s Palace in Valletta,” Heritage Malta announced today, probably before going to buy a copy of For Honour for themselves.
This is a perfect example of the type of sword that would’ve been used by the knights of the Order of St. John and by the mercenaries in the defence of Malta during the massive Great Siege of 1565.
Such epic weapons are documented in the wall-painted frieze by Matteo Perez d’Aleccio in the Grand Council Hall (Throne Room) at the Grand Master’s Palace in Valletta, as well as in the scenes showing the Piccolo Soccorso and the attack on the Post of Castile.
These types of swords were terribly feared since they could easily cut through the period armour and sever an opponent in two with just one blow
Anyone who knew how to wield the deadly sword back in the day would have to be trained in the particular skill – exactly like in the ‘Warrior’ skill set tree in most games.
“The Zweihänder or Doppelhänder (double-hander) or Beidhänder (both-hander) developed from the so-called bastard sword or montante (longsword) of the Late Middle Ages,” Heritage Malta said.
“It became a hallmark weapon of the German Landsknechte from the time of Maximilian I (d. 1519) and was popular during the Italian Wars of 1494–1559,” Heritage Malta continued. “This particular weapon represents the final stage in the trend of the increasing length of the blade which started in the 14th century. In its developed form, the Zweihänder acquired the characteristics of a pole arm rather than a sword. Consequently, it was not carried in a sheath, but across the shoulder like a halberd.”
42 similar double-handed or hand-and-half swords were found at the Palace Armoury in the late 18th century, but were probably taken by the British back to England in the early 19th century
Nowadays, the Palace Armoury holds two similar ‘hand-and-half’ swords which date to the same period. Those swords were used during the Great Siege, as were the large quantities of issue plate armour and pole arms that are still preserved in the Palace Armoury collection, all dating to the same period.
The donated double-handed sword is considered a historically important weapon since its date and typology has filled a lacuna in the present collection following England’s thievery of Malta’s historic swords.
The double-handed sword was received by the Curator of the Palace Armoury, Robert Cassar, and Senior Curator, Emmanuel Magro Conti. It is now at the Heritage Malta Conservation Laboratories to be prepared for display at the Palace Armoury in the section representing edged weapons from the early decades of the 16th century together with the above mentioned hand-and-half swords.