Many associate the Renaissance as being a period in which swords became lighter and rapier-like and that it is evidence of skill and swordplay evolving from brutish hacking of earlier centuries. This is barely half-true. In the Renaissance civilian swords did become thinner and focused on thrusting, but the 16th Century Renaissance battlefield was an entirely different affair. The battlefields of the Italian city states and German principalities could be characterized as a mass shoving affair between tightly packed formations of men-at-arms with pikes and halberds – it was a rebirth of the Grecian Phalanx.
Unlike civilian swords which became better suited for close-quarters duels, the martial swords of the Renaissance were largely a further development of more familiar medieval forms into blades intended to defeat armor and fight around and within mass infantry formations. There are too many specialties to go into detail with here, but among the most fascinating development was among the two-handed swords.
They varied in size from up-scale ring-hilt bastard swords (like the example offered here by Darksword) to massive wave-bladed weapons as tall as the man wielding it. They appear wholly unwieldy, but in skilled hands they were more agile and utilitarian than they appear. Massively powerful sweeping cuts can be made, and much of the additional protective rings and blunted, thick ricasso above the guard is made to facilitate a choked up grip. In closer quarters the skilled wielder would use the blade in sweeps to deflect weapons and could stab, chop and even pound at the foe with the guard quillons and pommel at point-blank range with the choked-up grip. The extensive guard is designed to not only protect the hand, but to even momentarily entrap an enemy weapon, leaving him open for the strike. Though brutishly powerful, there were schools of technique for the use of the two-handed sword and a skilled user could be surprisingly dextrous in the use of these grand swords.
These two handed swords had a special place in large-scale battles; they were used to disrupt the formations of pikemen. Moving ahead of their own formation, they would strike at the pikes, knocking the long unwieldy weapons aside and even in some instances breaking off the pike tips to create gaps for their own pikemen to exploit. Among the famed German mercenary landesknechts, these two-handed swordsmen were called Doppelsdner. Literally meaning Double-Soldier these men were paid double what their pike-brethren were paid for undertaking the dangerous job of challenging a hedgehog wall of pikes with his sword.
This 16th Century Two-Handed Sword from Darksword Armory is based on an original found in the River Thames, London and dates to 1500-1525. It has an unsharpened blade of high carbon steel. The guard and pommel are of steel and the grip is tightly wrapped in brown leather. It comes with a wood-core scabbard that has an integrated brown sword belt.