The Ulfberht Sword: one sword to rule them all!
Made in Europe between the 9th and 11th centuries, the sword we're going to talk about today is a true masterpiece of craftsmanship. Renowned for its quality and solidity, it wasn't until the 18th century that swords of equivalent quality appeared! Here's a look back at an emblematic weapon that has thrilled warriors as far afield as Europe!
A little history!
Ulfberht is considered the founder of the workshop that created his swords. Given the large number of swords found all over Europe, we can assume that the brand enjoyed a very high reputation throughout the continent.
But doubts remain as to the identity of the creator. Indeed, despite all the research that has been carried out, the name Ulfberht is not mentioned in any book or text of the period. For some historians, it is possible that these swords were made in a monastery in Germany or France.
Nevertheless, it is still considered a Viking sword, as several models have been found in Scandinavia.
An unrivalled reputation!
If Ulfbreht swords are still famous today, it's mainly due to their superior quality, which was unrivalled at the time! As we mentioned earlier, we'll have to wait until the 18th century to see swords of this quality again! What's more, the "Ulfberht" engraving on the blade attested to its authenticity.
But then, what was the secret behind the production of such a resistant, high-quality weapon?
According to the various historians who have studied the subject, the main secret lies in the steel used in its manufacture. The steel would not have come from Europe, but would have been imported from India or Persia.
The reason for this is that European forges of the time lacked the technology needed to manufacture such robust steel. In fact, medieval swords were made from soft steel containing little carbon, whereas Ulfbreht swords, in contrast, were made from carbon-rich steel. This ensured greater shock resistance and gave the wearer a distinct advantage on the battlefield.
Steel was imported in ingots from Asia via trade routes through the Middle East, Russia and eventually the Baltic Sea. From there, steel arrived in the various major trading cities of Northern Europe, where it was sold.
It should be noted that the manufacturing technique is purely European.
Get your crown ready!
We've always associated the axe with the Viking weapon par excellence, but the most prestigious weapon a Viking could desire was the sword! Indeed, due to their superior craftsmanship, Ulfberht swords were highly prized by the wealthiest warriors.
Extremely expensive, their value could vary from a house to a small castle! It may sound insane, but many swords broke on the battlefield, which, let's face it, meant your death.
It was therefore essential for lords or elite warriors to have the best possible equipment. Due to their robustness, they were capable of breaking opposing blades, easily extracting themselves from shields and blunting much less quickly.
A little anecdote: you can obtain Ulfberht's sword in the Ubisoft game Assassin's Creed Valhalla, set in the Viking world! The boss fight in question is one of the hardest in the game!
Specific features of Ulfberht swords
Despite the variety of swords that have been found in the course of research, the Ulfbreht swords have identical characteristics that enable them to be identified.
- The blade: 80 cm long, it was mounted on a 10 cm handle with a 20 cm guard. To rediscover this manufacturing secret, which has been lost over the centuries, blacksmiths have set out to understand how to reproduce this famous blade.
- The signatures: the experts who studied the specific features of this sword deduced that there were three Ulfbreht models: those bearing the signatures +ULBERHT+T or +ULFBERHT+ were authentic, while the others were counterfeits!
A sword much imitated but never equalled!
Due to its reputation, it didn't take long for hundreds of counterfeits to emerge and circulate across the entire European continent! In trying to imitate the original models, the engraved inscriptions were poorly written and often full of mistakes, which is how the counterfeits came to be identified!
Not just anyone can be Ulfberht! It's worth pointing out, however, that these swords weren't shoddy, they simply lacked the quality and strength for which Ulfberht swords are renowned.