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More than Metal: Knightly Swords as an Identity

Authors: Krause, Jimmy
Kaplan, Nira
Issue Date: 2022
Abstract: Throughout the Middle Ages, despite tremendous advancements in weapons, armor, and even battle tactics, the sword remained the knight’s primary weapon in battle. While the sword remained a constant in the armory of these knights, it also became a part of their identity. While land and title were of utmost importance, a social marker was needed to distinguish knights from others, and even amongst themselves, something that was visible to anyone who came upon them, an object that undeniably established power and prestige; something like the sword. The ascribed status of the sword would have never been possible without the rise of the knight to a noble status, and with that their ability to commission the forging of knightly weapons, win them in combat, or receive them as endowments. It was only after the emergence of chivalry that the sword took on new meaning. Aside from the physical attributes that conveyed wealth, such the incorporation of jewel and precious metals, the sword began to take on figurative meaning for those that possessed them. The sword has withstood the test of time, consistently finding its place in the hands of warriors and nobles perhaps more than any other weapon, becoming a historical object and in many cases its own historical character. This is not only because it was a practical and useful weapon, but because it became a part of medieval society, especially among the nobility. While much focus is paid to the physical attributes of the sword, they were so much more. The knightly sword of medieval Europe represented months of labor by skilled craftsmen who, by servitude or by trade, brought these simple objects of steel and gave them value, monetary and socially.
Rights: Copyright 2022
Appears in Collections:NYU SPS Capstone Spotlight 2021-2022

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