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Encyclopedia > Zweihänder

The Zweihänder (German for "two hander") is a massive two-handed sword, designed to capitalize on brute force and shock effect, at the expense of some finesse. It is also known as "Bihänder" or "Bidenhänder." A two-handed sword, used as a general term, is any large sword that requires two hands to use. ... In computer science, a brute-force search consists of systematically enumerating every possible solution of a problem until a solution is found, or all possible solutions have been exhausted. ... finesse is a parameter characterizing a Fabry-Perot interferometer. ...

While implemented in Germany in the 14th century, it gained renown during the sixteenth century as the hallmark weapon of the Swiss Confederates. It was also employed by the german Landsknechts mercenaries of Maximilian I. (13th century - 14th century - 15th century - more centuries) As a means of recording the passage of time, the 14th century was that century which lasted from 1301 to 1400. ... Landsknechts (German, Land land, country + Knecht servant: i. ... Emperor Maximilian I Maximilian I of Habsburg (March 22, 1459 - January 12, 1519) was Holy Roman Emperor Life and reign in the Habsburg hereditary lands Maximilian was born in Vienna as the son of the Emperor Frederick III and Eleanore of Portugal. ...

The zweihänder could be up to 6 feet (1.8 m) long from the base of the handle to the tip of the blade, with a 4 to 5 foot (1.2 to 1.5 m) blade and 1, 1 1/2 foot (300 to 450 mm) hilt. The weight could range between 2.8 and 5 kg. For other uses of the word blade, see Blade (disambiguation) This article needs to be wikified. ... See also: Hilt (band) and Peter Hilt The hilt of a sword is its handle, consisting of a guard, grip and pommel. ...

Most were shorter, though - especially earlier versions had an overall length of about 5 feet (1.5 m), weighing in at as little as 1.5 kg.

Guards could be plain or ornate - while hilts usually ended with heart or pear shaped heavy pommels. When it originally debuted, in the 14th century, the construction was very similar to that of a scaled up longsword.

Occasionally a blunted portion of the forte, the ricasso (often covered with leather) at the base of the blade allowed a hand to be placed above the upper guard to 'shorten the grip' and make the weapon faster. By the 16th century a second smaller upper guard was forged into the blade rather than the hilt, to protect this hand hold.


The earlier, more practical zweihänder types were used to break up pike formations, first by smashing the pikes and then by hitting the pikemen themselves. Wielding it effectively not only required brawn and stature but also proper training and great courage; soldiers capable of such a feat were usually fielded as shock troops. They earned twice the pay of a common footman and were called "Doppelsöldner."

The bigger, later zweihänders were mostly used for ceremonial purposes; many do not even have proper edges. Those zweihänders that survive in museums are typically of this variety.

External links

  • Essay by Anthony Shore (http://www.ejmas.com/jwma/articles/2004/jwmaart_shore_1004.htm) (Journal of Western Martial Art)



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