Arms & Armor Schloss Erbach Sword
A hands-on review by Jason Elrod
One can not talk about the development of the sword without mentioning the development of armour, for each seems to have evolved as a direct result of the other. As early as the 13th century, mail was being reinforced with steel plates for added protection. By the end of the 14th century and well into the 16th century, full plate harnesses were being used for protection by medieval knights. As the armour changed so did the swords. With the advent of the plate harness, no longer were the shearing "Grete Swerdes" of the 13th through 14th centuries as effective as they once were. A more tapered and pointed sword was needed in order to thrust into the gaps of the plate harness. In response, the cut-and-thrust swords of the late 14th through the 15th century were developed.
Arms & Armor has recreated a late 15th century German-style bastard sword once housed in the armoury of Schloss Erbach. This original sword is documented as XVIIIa.10 in Ewart Oakeshott's Records of the Medieval Sword. Oakeshott makes specific mention to its uncharacteristically wide blade for its type.
This sword benefits from the diamond cross-section and pointed tip normally seen in Type XVIIIa swords according to the Oakeshott typology. Its unusually broad blade is more characteristic of Type XVIIIc swords. In fact, I would be more comfortable classifying the Erbach as a Type XVIIIc. Oakeshott, though, states that Type XVIIIc type swords seem to be characteristically Italian in style. The writhen (twisted) pattern featured on the pommel and cross-guard of the Erbach firmly places it within the German tradition of sword design. This makes this piece a perfect example of the difficulty one is faced with when trying to fit every sword neatly into Oakeshott's classification system.
Measurements and Specifications:
Replica created by Arms & Armor of Minnesota.
Whether used with one hand or two, the Erbach exudes power. This is not a finesse sword. This is a sword that wants to cut. Its forward balance point gives this sword a lot of blade presence which allows it to fall right into place during the cut. However, this same characteristic makes the Erbach somewhat hard to control during the thrust and sluggish during recovery. This is not to say that the sword is poorly balanced. It is simply not designed for the quick precision of unarmoured combat. In fact, the Erbach seems to be designed for powerful shearing blows from horseback. Gravity would help power the cut from above, tracking easily down onto and through the opponent on foot.
A very attractive piece, the Erbach has an even satin finish throughout. There are no grind marks present on the blade. Any pitting due to the casting process is minimal at best and not at all distracting to the presentation of the sword. The writhen pattern used in the pommel and guard is well-executed and very unique in the production sword market. There are no rough edges. The simple black leather grip seems almost coarse when compared to the refinement of the writhen pattern but does provide for a nice contrast to the furniture of the sword and as a simple reminder that for all of its elegance the Erbach is still a sword designed for war.
Designed for the battlefield, the Arms & Armor Schloss Erbach Sword's handling characteristics seem to have more in common with the "Grete Swerdes" of the 13th and 14th century than with the true cut-and-thrust longswords of the late 15th century. However, the ability to significantly change the handling characteristics through simple hand placement adds versatility to this powerful design. This combined with the beautiful writhen pattern makes the Erbach a wonderful addition to any collection.
About the Author
Jason Elrod is a retail manager with Borders Books in Dulles, VA. His sword obsession is tempered only by the knowledge that no matter how large his collection becomes, he still will not be able to use it to send his son to college.
Photographer: Jason Elrod