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The Historically Authentic Executioner Sword

Written By: Jolene Sim
Updated: January 26, 2024
Edited by: Juliana Cummings

In the early 1500s, only noble people were usually beheaded. In England, they often used an ax for this. But in Central Europe, especially in Germany, they used swords for many years. That’s why people often talk about the ‘German executioner sword’.

Today, nobody uses these swords anymore. But, they have some interesting history that might make them worth collecting or talking about with other history fans.

What is an Executioner Sword?

Executioner’s swords were made just for beheading, not fighting. They were kept in royal collections. These swords were about 31 to 35 inches (80 to 90 cm) long, needing two hands to use but without a sharp point.

The first special executioner’s sword appeared around 1540. They were used in Europe until the 1700s or 1800s, with the last use in Switzerland in 1868.

Today, they’re not used, but Saudi Arabia still does beheadings with long swords. These swords often had special designs and were sometimes used in religious ceremonies to show the power of law.

Can Executioner Swords Be Used for Combat?

Executioner's Sword.
Executioner’s Sword. Bronze mounts, wooden grip, pommel and quillons en torsade with etched inscriptions in German. ( Source)

Swords are usually made for close fighting. They have sharp edges, points, and guards for defense. But executioner’s tools, like swords or axes, aren’t for fighting.

They’re meant to end life quickly. You could use an executioner’s sword like a regular one, but it’s heavy and needs both hands.

These swords from Europe are made from big pieces of steel or iron. They don’t have a sharp tip and have a heavy blade.

The handle is made more for chopping, not close fighting. The lack of a sharp tip shows it’s not for stabbing. Unless needed for fighting, these swords were only used for what they were made for.

Why Were Executioner Swords Preferred Over Other Tools?

Executioners often chose the sword over the ax. They thought the sword was more honorable. Also, with a sword, the person being executed could kneel upright. This was seen as a better way to die. It was like praying, which made it seem more respectful.

But, with an ax, the person had to lean forward while kneeling. This way of dying was seen as less honorable, like how an animal might die.

Uses of Executioner Swords

Most people think the executioner’s sword is for scary things, but it’s also good for other stuff. If you’re dressing up as an adventurer, this sword is great for pretend battles against monsters that need their heads chopped off.

This sword is also good for heavy chopping. It’s not as strong as an ax, but it’s better than a regular sword.

Maintenance of Executioner Swords

Taking care of an executioner’s sword was simpler than other types of swords. It didn’t need much sharpening because its weight made cutting easier. However, some executioners chose to sharpen theirs for quicker, cleaner cuts.

To prevent rust, these swords had to be kept dry. They were cleaned and dried after each use, then stored in their scabbards.

Even though they were made of strong steel or iron, they were usually stored either standing on their handles or lying flat, not on their tips. These maintenance methods helped keep the swords in good condition historically.

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