Bastard Sword

The late medieval longsword, also colloquially referred to as Bastard Sword or hand-and-a-half sword, is a type of straight-bladed European sword. Contemporary terms included Langschwert ("long sword") in German, spadone ("large sword") in Italian and montante in Portuguese.

Use of these swords lasted from roughly 1350 to 1550, declined in the late 16th century, and they were obsolete by the early 17th century.


Terminology and Definition

In modern use, the term "bastard-sword" refers to a specific sort of longsword, most commonly a compromise between the smaller one-handed arming sword and larger two-handed sword that was primarily used in "cut and thrust" type of sword play. Typically, the bastard sword was heavy enough for battlefield use, while still being light enough for the quick moves found commonly in cut-and-thrust fighting and/or dueling. This compromise is accomplished by a distal taper of the blade, and a carefully balanced pommel and grip.

Similarly, the term "hand-and-a-half sword" is modern, and suggests that the swords were designed equally for one and two-handed use. This is not necessarily the case: the impression probably arose in comparison with the enormous Zweihänder swords. Many types seem primarily intended for two-handed use, while even the regular "one-handed" arming swords were occasionally used two-handed, when the fighter's shield had become useless, or in the final stages of a fight, when he was too tired to continue one-handed use.

Most 15th century fechtbücher teaching use of the langes schwert show two-handed use, either with both hands on the grip, or in half-sword, with the left hand gripping the center of the blade, in combat in Plate Armor. The Flos Duellatorum shows the longsword being used both as a one-handed and two-handed weapon, and historical artwork outside of such manuals frequently depicts one-handed use. During predominately two-handed use, however, the left hand may be removed from the hilt in order to grapple the opponent or seize his sword.

In this article, the term "longsword" will be used as it is correct and unambiguous in a late Medieval context.

The evolution of the sword was gradual; there is no obvious classification of various types. As the Early Medieval Spatha gradually evolves into the High Medieval arming sword, so the arming sword gradually evolves into the longsword. The decisive characteristic is the length of the grip. Indeed, some blades can be made into either a typical arming sword, or a typical longsword, depending on the hilt that is attached to it. As a general rule, if, when handling the sword with both hands, the left hand does not fit on the grip entirely, but holds part of the pommel, it is considered an arming sword. If the left hand fits entirely on the grip, it is a longsword. The grip will frequently have a distinctive 'bottle' shape to facilitate this. If the grip is as long as or longer than the wielder's lower arm (ell) it is a usually considered a two-handed sword proper, e.g. a zweihänder.


The longsword began its rise in the early 1300s, and according to Ewart Oakeshott, after 1350, about 9 out of ten swords produced were longswords (i.e. had long grips). An early depiction of the half-sword technique appears on a late 14th century drawing of the Battle of Poitiers (1356). Before the 14th century, longswords were relatively rare, due to the widespread use of shields, but they did exist. A late Viking Age (ca. 11th century) sword with a handle which could be considered untypically long for the period was found at Grobina, Latvia. However, it is possible that part of the pommel may be missing, which could account for this discrepancy. This seems likely, as Viking fighting style included very few two-handed weapons; usually a combination of shield and spear, one-handed axe or sword was used.

Use of the longsword thus was at its peak in the century between 1350 and 1450. From the later 15th century, it began to decline, although it remained in use well into the 1500s, before it fell out of use and was replaced by the rapier as a civilian sidearm, while on the European battlefields, it was replaced by shorter weapons such as the baselard or katzbalger among infantry, and the broadsword or sabre for cavalry.


In the basic typology of Oakeshott's classification system the Types XVa, XVIa, and XVII manifest themselves as longswords, as do certain sub-types of 15th-century Type XVIII, XIX, and XX swords.

Late medieval long-sword combat

While a living tradition of long-sword fighting has not survived to our day, manuscripts written by the masters of the art still exist. Modern scholars often divide them into the German school, beginning with MS 3227a (ca. 1389, containing the system of Johannes Liechtenauer), followed by some 50 others, notably Hans Talhoffer's illustrated manuscripts of the mid 15th century of the German school, and the Italian school, with Fiore dei Liberi's Flos Duellatorum (1410) and Filippo Vadi's De Arte Gladiatoria Dimicandi (1485). Both schools declined in the late 16th century, with the later Italian masters focusing on rapier fencing. The last known German manual to include longsword teaching was that of Jakob Sutor, published in 1612. In Italy, spadone instruction lingered on in spite of the popularity of the rapier, at least into the mid-17th century (Alfieri's Lo Spadone of 1653), with a late treatise of the "two handed sword" by one Giuseppe Colombani, a dentist in Venice dating to 1711. A tradition of teaching based on this may have survived into 19th and 20th century Italy stick fighting, e.g. with Giuseppe Cerri's Trattato teorico e pratico della scherma di bastone of 1854. However, there can be no doubt that the heyday of the longsword was over by 1500.

Bastard Swords in Castlevania

The Bastard Sword is a basic Sword commonly found in Castlevania. Its relative power varies by game. In Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, it is one of the strongest Swords. In Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow, it is one of the first Swords found and one of the weakest (but at least not as short as a Short Sword. In Curse of Darkness, it is the most powerful sword that can be easily created.

Appearance in Symphony of the Night

The Castlevania: Symphony of the Night version of the Bastard Sword is a basic sword slightly stronger than the Damascus Sword, and slightly weaker than the Talwar. It is the first basic sword you will encounter after discovering the Reverse Castle. It is found in the long hallway above the upside-down throne room. It is the last item among many rewards in that hallway which includes a Heart Vessel, Life Vessel, another Heart Vessel, a Royal Cloak, another Life Vessel, another Heart Vessel, and yet another Life Vessel. Like the Broadsword, you can also obtain this sword earlier from either Spectral Sword.

Appearance in Aria of Sorrow

The Bastard Sword in Aria of Sorrow, like the Castlevania: Symphony of the Night version of the Gladius, is the first decent-length horizontal-swinging sword in the game and a good replacement for the Short Sword and Rapier. Like Symphony's Gladius, it can be found after the second boss battle. It swings just like it does in Symphony of the Night and is a big relief to find for those used to that game's standard swords. To get to the sword as soon as possible, be sure to go left instead of down when first entering the Study. It is at the dead-end of two floor winding hallway. The fact that you will have to back-track once you reach the weapon significantly increases the amount of ground you will have to cover before reaching the next save-point, so attempting to get the sword right away is taking some sort of a risk. If not obtained on the way in, it will likely be found while attempting to explore the rest of the Study before heading back out to the Chapel. The sword may be the best sword of its class for a long time if you choose not to spend your gold on an upgrade to a Gladius or Gram, which otherwise can only be found as drop items.

Appearance in Curse of Darkness

The Bastard Sword is the longest and most powerful of the standard one-handed swords that can be easily created. It is created by simply adding Ceramics to a Short Sword. This can be created as soon as a Skeleton Trooper or Rapid Sniper drops some Ceramics in the Aiolon Ruins. This adds all the combo moves available to the Short Sword. Since this sword can't be upgraded any further (except in combination with all the other one-handers to form the Laser Blade) and is near the top of its class, this sword will likely be in the inventory for much of the duration of the game.

Creating one from scratch requires two Bronze and a single Ceramics. The selling price of a Bastard Sword is $750 compared to the selling price of $130 of its component materials. Since you will likely have quite a few Ceramics by the end of the game, converting them to Bastard Swords is an excellent way to make a lot of money.

Item Data

Item Data: Bastard Sword
Image Name - Game
Type / Users Attributes / Consume Statistics / Sell Found Notes
Bastard Sword Icon Bastard Sword (jpn) - Symphony of the Night [edit]
Standard sword Sword
Attrib: Cut
ATT +20
Find: Reverse Keep
Drop: Spectral Sword
Bastard Sword AoS Icon Bastard Sword (jpn) - Aria of Sorrow [edit]
Long sword with a broad blade and hilt. Weapon
Attrib: Sword
ATK +16
Sell: $640 
Find: Study
Bastard Sword Bastard Sword - Curse of Darkness [edit]
An extremely well-balanced weapon that can both cut and thrust. Large, but can be used with one hand. Sword (One-Handed)
ATK +35
Sell: $750 
Create: Short Sword + Ceramics
Evolve: Laser Blade
Bastard Sword Icon Bastard Sword - Harmony of Despair [edit]
A standard blade. Sword
#hands: 1
ATK +12
Sell: $1,500 
Rarity: **
Find: Chapter 3, 5, 6


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