A falchion ([fɔːlʃən], from Old French fauchon, ultimately from Latin falx "sickle") is a medieval one-handed, single-edged sword of European origin, whose design is reminiscent of the Persian scimitar and the Chinese dao. The weapon combined the weight and power of an axe with the versatility of a sword. Falchions are found in different forms from around the 11th century up to and including the sixteenth century. In some versions the falchion looks rather like the scramasax and later the sabre, and in some versions the form is irregular or (as is the case in the picture to the right) like a machete with a crossguard. While some propose that encounters with the Islamic shamshir inspired its creation, these "scimitars" of Persia were not developed until long after the falchion. More likely, it was developed from farmer's and butcher's knives in the manner of the larger Messer.
The blade designs of falchions varied wildly across the continent and through the ages. They almost always included a single edge with a slight curve on the blade towards the point on the end; they also were affixed with a quilloned crossguard for the hilt in the manner of the contemporary long-swords. While one of the few surviving falchions is shaped very much like a large meat cleaver, or large bladed machete (the Conyers falchion), the majority of the depictions in art reflect a design similar to that of the großes Messer. A surviving example from England's thirteenth century was just under two pounds in weight. Of its 37.5 inches (95.25 cm) in length, 31.5 inches (eighty centimeters) are the straight blade which bears a flare-clipped tip similar to the much later kilij of Turkey. This blade style may have been influenced by the Turko-Mongol sabres that had reached the borders of Europe by the thirteenth century.
Unlike the double-edged swords of Europe, few actual swords of this type have survived to the present day; fewer than a dozen specimens are currently known. It is presumed that these swords had a lower average quality and status than the longer, more expensive swords. It is also possible that falchions were used as tools when they were not pressed into service as weapons. Although it is commonly thought that falchions were primarily a peasant's weapon, some were very ornate and used by nobility. In particular, there is a very elaborately engraved and gold plated falchion from the 1560s. This weapon is engraved with the personal coat of arms of Cosimo de' Medici, Duke of Florence. In Act V Scene III of William Shakespeare's "King Lear", the mad king alludes to his falchion.
These swords were produced in their hundreds by blacksmiths. They were generally made from iron with steel edges.
^ The Conyers Falchion U.R.L. accessed January 27, 2007.
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