Damascus Steel Carolingian Sword
(About): A Truly European Sword, Uniting A Frankish Damascus Blade with an Urnes-Engraved Hilt
Our Damascus Steel Carolingian Sword is a faithful reproduction of the Viking Age Carolingian swords that were the finest weapons available to European warriors between the 8th and 10th centuries. Carolingian master smiths had perfected subtleties of the blade, which elevated swords to the supreme weapon of status – all of their period features are reproduced meticulously in our Damascus Steel Carolingian Sword, completed by a stunning Late-Viking engraved hilt, cast in solid brass. Skål!
A Master-Forged Rhenish Blade
These fantastic blades were categorised as Type X by historian and medievalist Ewart Oakeshott. They are long, straight-edged cutting weapons, characterised by a flat and slender blade profile with a lenticular (lens-shaped) cross-section and a short point. The finest of these blades were made in the Frankish Carolingian lands (modern western Germany and France), and were highly sort-after by the Scandinavian warriors of the Viking North: they were highly adapted to defeating the armor of the age, which would mostly have been stout cloth, stiff wooden shields, and (for the wealthy) fine iron chainmail. These swords did not need to be highly-effective stabbing weapons, as the kind of heavy plate armors which required strong puncturing blows to defeat were not to emerge for another three or four centuries – thus their points were either very short or even wholly rounded, producing an extremely robust weapon. A handsome Carolingian sword made by a Frankish smith would include cutting-edge design features, like distal tapering, where the sword becomes narrower in cross-section toward the tip, meaning the point of balance moves closer to the cross-guard, creating a much more agile weapon. This was further aided by the Type X’s deep central channel or fuller – contrary to popular myth, these weren’t designed to channel blood but rather to reduce the weight of the sword. A fuller might reduce the weight of a blade by as much as a third compared to a similar unfullered one, and it could be used to alter the blade’s characteristics: by stopping the fuller short of the tip, a skilled smith could create an optimal point where the blade would provide maximum cutting strength, whilst remaining an extremely quick blade.
Our Damascus Steel Carolingian Sword is made from a pattern-welded steel alloy, designed to closely imitate the mysterious Damascus steel of the medieval era. It is a two-steel mixture of 1095 carbon steel and 15N10 nickel steel, which, when twisted and folded over and over, produces a stunning two-tone pattern that ripples and shimmers in the light (seriously – our images are beautiful, but in person it is absolutely breathtaking!). Our Damascus steel has been hand-folded through over 400 repetitions, producing an amazingly complex repeating pattern that is precisely unique to your sword and your sword alone. The blade has been tempered to a robust hardness of 58-60 HRc, and so will stand up to the knocks and scrapes of re-enactment and roleplay.
A Shining Golden Viking Hilt Inscribed with Powerful Mythology
The hilt of our Damascus Steel Carolingian Sword is a glorious late-Viking design from the last years of the dominance of the Carolingian sword. It conforms to Type Æ in Petersen’s typology, dating from the 11th century CE. This type of hilt, with a substantial double-curve cross-guard and D-shaped pommel, is a rarity, the few examples that have survived are highly-decorated works of high-status art, such as the mid-11th-century Suontaka Sword, which may well have belonged to the grave’s female occupant. Our interpretation of this hilt is a marvel, cast from solid brass and engraved with stunning Viking artwork in the Late Viking Urnes style, named after the amazing 11th-century wooden carvings on Urnes Stave Church, Norway. The cross-guard features two intertwined serpents, and the pommel features a third which is curled around a Valknut, a mysterious Germanic symbol that appears linked with the Norse god Óðinn. You could tie this imagery into the rest of your outfit with some of our authentic Norse jewellery, like our exquisite Urnes-style openwork silver pendant. The sword’s grip is a sumptuous red-stained wood, shaped to the hand and punctuated by a brass spacer. It is supplied with a red tooled-leather scabbard.
Overall, our Damascus Steel Carolingian Sword is a truly European weapon: a pattern-welded blade made by a Frankish master smith, seated into a stunning Viking hilt inscribed with the symbology of Norse myth. It would be a fantastic sword for a historically-authentic Viking re-enactment – but the mythical resonance of its magical steel blade and its mysterious engraving would lend themselves to the depiction of Dark Ages fantasy with aplomb. And, if you can’t bear to let it out of your sight, its bewitching Damascus pattern would be a hypnotising addition to your wall display.
(History): The Sword In The Age of Charlemagne
Although we most commonly associate the ‘Viking sword’ with the Norse peoples of Scandinavia, we should probably more accurately refer to it as the ‘Viking Age sword’, since comparatively few fine blades were made by Norse smiths. A big proportion of sword blades found buried with high-status Viking chieftains, shieldmaidens and warriors – and certainly the finest and best – were made by smiths along the Upper Rhine in the Kingdom of the Franks. And who was the towering figure of the age? King of the Franks and King of the Lombards, Holy Roman Emperor CAROLVS MAGNUS – Charles the Great, Charles le Magne, or to us, Charlemagne.
The Sons of Merovech
The Carolingian state was the military and economic powerhouse of Viking Europe. As far as we can tell, Frankia emerged as a political entity more or less whole from the withdrawal of the Roman Empire – the semi-mythical King Merovech of the Salian Franks brought most of Roman Gaul under his influence, and Clovis I (the son of Childeric I, the first certain Frankish King) successfully contested with the last Roman governor for regional dominance in 468 CE. This Merovingian line of Kings (descending from the likely legendary King Merovech) gradually expanded its borders to encompass almost all of modern France (excluding Brittany, which remained Brittonic, and Occitane, which remained Basque), as well as holding way over a good chunk of modern Germany. Merovingian Frankia was a highly developed feudal state, with a complex network of ruling families, a sophisticated legal framework called Salic Law (which remained the governing laws of France throughout the medieval era) and an advanced monetary economy based on gold coinage. The Merovingians petered out with the death of Theuderic IV in 737 CE, and the Mayor of the Palace Charles Martel became de facto ruler of Frankia. Martel was a brilliant military commander who had turned back the Umayyad invasion of Europe at the Battle of Tours in 732 CE, and though he never took the crown for himself, his sons would – they became the founders of the Carolingian dynasty. It is Martel’s grandson Charles who would become the hegemon of continental Europe, and the Holy Roman Emperor.
The First Knights
The spectacular success of the Frankish state can be ascribed to a significant degree to their military might, the speartip of which was their noble heavy cavalry. Frankish lords and their vassals were required by law to provide a certain number of brunia, a torso-armor of heavy chainmail, with their levies, and this required prodigious wealth to afford. This tradition of armored cavalry was the direct seed of the ideology of chivalric knighthood that would dominate the rest of the medieval period. The Carolingian sword was the inseparable symbol of this lineage: many ordinary Franks would use a seax, a single-edged shortsword related to the Roman gladius that was mostly used for utility and cooking – we have a fantastic reproduction Saxon saex of this type. By contrast, the handsome Carolingian sword was an expensive and regal weapon, long enough to be used from horseback, and a physical representation of the material superiority of the Carolingian ruling-class. It is unsurprising that the Norse peoples eyed these fine blades with envy – and clearly this became so much of a concern to the Kings of the Franks that Charlemagne was forced to outlaw the sale of weaponry to foreigners by royal decree!
So – if you wish to be the envy of every Viking warlord, there is no finer weapon than our Damascus Steel Carolingian Sword.
(Curiosity): Resurrecting the Lost Art of Damascus Steel
In the mists of the Dark Ages, a mysterious and powerful steel reputed to have magical properties began to emerge in Europe – its surface was marked with a beautiful rippling effect like water, and it was said to be indestructible, could smash other swords to pieces and could cut through dozens of foes at a single stroke. This material was known as ‘Damascus steel’. Of course, tales do tend to grow in the telling, and the lensing effect of history has somewhat blurred several different historical phenomena together into our idea of this mystical Damascus steel: we can pick apart the heritage of Damascus into traditional pattern-welding techniques and ancient crucible steels.
The Fingerprint of the Pattern Weld
Modern swords described as ‘Damascus steel’ – such as our beautiful Damascus Steel Carolingian Sword – are made from pattern-welding. This is a historically authentic technique that was invented by Celtic smiths in the pre-Roman Iron Age. It probably originally developed in order to overcome the limitations of early ironworking methods: simple clay iron bloomeries were temperamental and tricky to control, and produced iron of differing quality and characteristics – one way to even out these inconsistencies was homogenisation. Celtic smiths probably started by combining different grades of iron and steel, haphazardly at first – they did this by ‘piling’ together small rods of different types, then heating them up and hammering them into a single bar (forge-welding). Then, they would twist the new hybrid bar, resulting in a swirled pattern of the two (or more) different grades. Then, they’d cut the bar into smaller rods, pile them and forge-weld them again – each repetition of the process making the metal more homogenised, but also increasing the complexity of the beautiful repeating pattern. The swords made from this steel were not necessarily better then the best swords made with simpler techniques, but they were more consistent. Therefore, the beautiful shimmering patterns of the pattern-welded blade became associated with superior quality, to the extent that almost every Carolingian sword from the 8th to the 10th century features pattern-welding in at least one section of the blade. As time went, master smiths learned to better control the characteristics of the final blade – fine Carolingian swords are frequently made from a pattern-welded core of low-carbon steel or iron, with hard, higher-carbon steel edges forge-welded to it for superior sharpness and edge retention.
A Mysterious Eastern Steel
At the same time as the pattern-welding revolution in the West, a spectacular new kind of steel was being made in the East. Extremely strong, and very effective sword steel began to become available in very small quantities in Europe by the High Viking Age (c. 950 CE). The most likely candidate for this is the crucible steel known as wootz, which had started being made by South Indian and Sri Lankan metallurgists on the Indian subcontinent in the first millennium BCE. This steel likely made its way to Europe via the Islamic states in the Middle East, which were flourishing during the European Dark Ages – Viking traders began to kick-start pan-European trade out of its post-Roman slump from around the 9th century CE, and small quantities of wootz made their way into Europe. Damascus steel was a quantum leap better than the pattern-welded hybrid swords made by contemporary smiths in Europe – it is what is known as a ‘hypereutectoid steel’, the production of which was thought to have only been achieved in the early Industrial Revolution in the 18th century CE. Although the tall tales of these blades’ unbreakable strength and scything through one’s enemies are doubtless exaggerations, tavern brags and skaldic embellishment, a wootz steel blade would have been much harder than a similar low-carbon steel Carolingian sword – in the clash of steel, a Damascus steel sword would indeed be capable of notching, cracking or even potentially shearing an inferior or badly-smithed sword with little damage incurred in return. Frustratingly, the precise technique for making wootz steel has slipped from the historical record, and although some experimental archaeology attempts have managed to create hypereutectoid steels with medieval-era technology, the precise methods of the Eastern metallurgists still eludes us.
This means that our Damascus Steel Carolingian Sword is a fantastic historical recreation, melding all of these historical phenomena and mythical swords into a single blade.
Total length: 32 inches
Blade length: 24 inches
Blade material: 1095 steel, 15N20 steel ; Damascus folded x400-520
Blade hardness: 58-60 HRc
Guard and pommel material: Solid brass
Grip material: Wood