A menacing long sword that was wielded by several Swiss and German mercenaries, the Zweihander (A.K.A the Doppelhander 'double-hander' or Bihander 'two-hander') became an influential weapon throughout the 16th century. Learn more about the origin of this mighty sword and its various uses, courtesy of American BladesPro.
Based on the longswords used during the Late Middle Ages, the Zweihander was initially forged in 1500 for German mercenaries named the Landsknechte (which translates to 'servant of the land'). Although Swiss mercenaries adopted the sword, it was eventually banned due to the extreme damage it could cause. From the time Roman Emperor Maximilian I hired the Landsknechte to serve in the Holy Roman Army, the Zweihander became the mercenaries primary weapon. The regiment of soldiers used the sword during the Italian Wars too from 1500-1559.
Every mercenary within the Landsknechte that wielded the hulking blade, received a special training program to master its abilities. If the mercenary completed his training, he would be honoured by the Marx Brotherhood with the title, Meister des langen Schwertes (translated to 'Master of the Long Sword'). Overall, the Landsknechte placed 2,000 of these talented swordmasters on their frontline and had an additional 17,000 soldiers assisting them in battle.
A modern drawing displaying the fierce group of German mercenaries, the Landsknechte.
Size and Abilities
Larger than the longswords forged before the 16th century, the Zweihander is classified as a polearm since it can be used to attack enemies from a long-range and its length resembled a pike. Weighing over 2kg (4.4lbs), measured at 1.4m (4 ft 7 inch) and with a grip 25cm (9.8 in) wide on average, the Zweihander is one of the biggest swords ever forged. Surprisingly, there are bigger versions of the sword designed for ceremonial use. Many of these enormous swords weigh above 4kg (8.8lbs).
An image of a traditional Zweihander. Due to its cultural significance, the sword is still forged by various bladesmiths.
Including the swords huge size, the Zweihander also has several combat abilities. Its extreme power and razor-sharp blade have contributed to the death of several soldiers on the battlefield. Frisian pirate and rebel leader, Piers Gerlofs Donia, is said to have decapitated two enemies with one swing of the mighty sword. Donia's sword was unlike most Zweihanders, it weighed a monstrous 6.6kg (15lbs) and was 213cm (84in) long. His famous blade currently on display at the Fries Museum in the Netherlands.
Influence on Modern Martial Arts
Various historical European martial arts groups use modified versions of the sword for duelling and training. These types of Zweihanders are named feders because they are training swords. Feders are made out of metal much like a real sword but weigh less and aren't sharpened to do damage. Additionally, modern versions of the Zweihander generally have longer crossguards beneath the blade since some sword academies teach students how to attack with both sections of the sword.
If you've loved learning about the history and purpose of the Zweihander, be sure to browse through our double-edged sword range. Similar to the famous German sword, we have many blades that are also double-edged. Click Here to scroll through our variety of these stylish swords.
Appearances in Video Games
Several video games such as Dark Souls 3 and Final Fantasy allow players to wield the Zweihander. Along with featuring in these famous franchises, the sword had a role-playing game named after it called Zweihander. If you've ever wondered what it would be like to carry the monstrous sword into battle, get your hands on these games and experience its full potential.