The German Branch sword is an exceptional example of the gothic bough form of decoration. Originally a pejorative term used in the early renaissance to disparage non-classical (hence, gothic) artistic forms that emerged first in France, and then across Northern Europe in the high Middle Ages. The gothic artistic influence was the most important aesthetic style of religious and secular art, architecture, arms, and armor, from the late 13th-15th centuries. It mirrored natural forms like branches and often had a twisted detail or chevrons.
The Arms and Armor German Branch Sword
The hilt of this elegant longsword is formed in this twisted or, writhen style, creating the illusion of a twisted branch or vine. This was a popular Germanic motif that survived well into the modern period, for example on hunting swords and hangers it is seen into the modern period. Below are photos of a custom gothic bough hanger we made several years ago, and our Writhen Rapier, both of which express this classic design.
The original sword that our German Branch Sword replicates is housed in the Royal Armories, Leeds UK. Object IX.949 dates from around 1450 and has gilt bronze hilt furniture. Though when we first encountered the sword it was still at the Tower of London prior to the museum at Leeds opening. It was an instant favorite and has never waned in our love of such a beautiful sword.
It is light and fast in the hand, and can be used in either one hand or two. The original was a high prestige weapon that was probably a riding or sword for court, though it certainly could have been used in battle. A sword with similar quillons is depicted in the hand of of the archangel Michael (below) in the 14th century St. Helen's Church in Norfolk, UK.
Helen's Church in Norfolk, UK
We have also seen at least one example of a very similar sword in a collection in Spain. Also an additional example has been heard of in a private collection but we have not confirmed that as yet. This would indicate that like many distinctive medieval styles there may have been a work shop that specialized in this style of hilt for high end customers.
German Branch Sword
This sword would be particularly stunning with a matching custom hard scabbard and sword belt with similar fittings.
Nathan Clough, Ph.D. is Vice President of Arms and Armor and a member of the governing board of The Oakeshott Institute. He is a historical martial artist and a former university professor of cultural geography. He has given presentations on historical arms at events including Longpoint and Combatcon, and presented scholarly papers at, among others, The International Congress on Medieval Studies.
Craig Johnson is the Production Manager of Arms and Armor and Secretary of The Oakeshott Institute. He has taught and published on the history of arms, armor and western martial arts for over 30 years. He has lectured at several schools and Universities, WMAW, HEMAC, 4W, and ICMS at Kalamazoo. His experiences include iron smelting, jousting, theatrical combat instruction and choreography, historical research, European martial arts and crafting weapons and armor since 1985.