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Legandary Swords from History

History is jam-packed full of stories, legends, fables and rumours of mystical and powerful swords. Quite often, the weapons described in these tales have a certain amount of grounding in reality. In this article we’ve brought together 10 of the most fascinating legendary swords from history, each has an interesting if not fully understood saga with tales of incredible feats, mystery and intrigue.

The Sword in the Stone

The legend of Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table is known to be a tale with more myth and legend rather than facts. However, a small sanctuary located in Monte Siepi, Italy plays host to a real world ‘Sword in the Stone’. The legend states that the sword once belonged to a 12th century Tuscan Cavalier who later became Saint Galgano. Before the sainthood stuff happened, Archangel Michael appeared to Galgano and ordered him to cease his sinful ways.

Galgan being a man that enjoyed a little bit of sin now and then protested at the Archangels demands, saying that stopping his ways would be as stabbing a stone with a sword. In order to illustrate his point, he thrust his weapon at a nearby bolder, but rather than snapping, then buried itself in the stone all the way up to the hilt where it remains to this day. Needless to say that Galgan turned his life around and even became a Saint in the process. It’s easy to understand why this sword is often considered to be the inspiration for the legend of Excalibur.

The Kusanagi

The Kusanagi is a true mystery with very little in the way of solid evidence and a very mysterious mythical origin story. According to the well-known folklore, Kusanagi or the “Sword in the Snake”, was originally retrieved from the remains of an eight-headed serpent which had met its demise at the hands of the god of seas and storms. This is understandably a little bit out there in terms of verified histories, however, the sword in all likelihoods did exist. It’s an essential component in the ceremony and imperial regalia of Japan. The sword is meant to be a sign that the imperial family is descended from the sun god and cements their right to a rule. 

Legend also states that a monk stole the sword during the 6th century but it was later lost at sea when the monk’s boat sank. A group of dedicated Shinto priests recovered the sword from the seabed and it was returned to the imperial family.
Given that the sword has not been seen since and the priests refuse to let it see the light of day, in all likelihood the sword remains lost.

Durandal

For millennia a mysterious sword has been lodged into the cliffs located behind and above the Notre Dame chapel located in Rocamadour, France. The legend states that the sword was previously owned by the paladin Roland, who had named the sword Durandal. 

When surrounded and with little chance of escape or victory, Roland is said to have thrown the sword at the cliffs in order to save it from being taken and used by his enemy. The sword pierced the cliffs and remains there to this day. 
The chapel is something of a pilgrimage site with many making the journey to pray and see the sword with their own eyes. The sword was temporary moved in 2011 for an exhibit taking place in the Cluny Museum in Paris.

The Cursed Muramasa

The Muramasa swords are a fascinating piece of history. The tale goes that Muramasa wanted to his swords to be the most prestigious weapons around. He was already an accomplished swordsmith, but he increased their potency by praying for his swords to become ‘prodigious destroyers’.

As the gods were already impressed by his significant skill as a swordsmith they imbued his weapons with a malevolent and dangerous spirit with a lust for blood. If the blades were not regularly sated with combat they would eventually drive the owner to commit atrocious murders or commit suicide. There are many tales of previous owners being driven mad and being killed out of necessity. Such was the conviction that the swords were cursed that an imperial decree forbade the swords from being owned by anyone. 

Many examples still exist today, so even if you can’t own a cursed sword you can still see one.

St. Peter’s Sword

There are more than a few legends surrounding the sword said to have been used by Saint Peter to slice off the ear of a deserving high priest in the Gethsemane gardens. One version of the story has the sword being transported to England by Joseph of Arimathea accompanied by the Holy Grail.

However, there is another version of the story which has the Bishop of Jordan taking the sword to Poland in 968 AD. The Bishop’s sword is considered by many to be the authentic version and is now relocated to the Archdiocese Museum in Poznan. 

The Wallace Sword

If you’ve seen the film Braveheart then you’re probably well aware of the story of William Wallace and his rebellion against the English. What you might not know is that there are rumours that William Wallace used the flesh and skin from a defeated opponent to create the sheath, hilt and belt. The unlucky donor was said to have been Hugh de Cressingham who was defeated by Wallace at the battle of Stirling Bridge.

Other twists on the same tale say that Wallace and his comrades used Cressinghams skin for their sword sashes and flesh for their saddle girths. However, modern analysis of the Wallace sword indicates that this is unlikely to be the case.

The Sword of Goujian

In 1965, and absolutely outstanding discovery was made when a pristine sword was unearthed in a moist tomb in China. Despite the swords dating back nearly 2000 years not a hint of rust or corrosion was found on the sword, despite the unfavourable conditions it was stored in.

Additionally, the blade remained exceptionally sharp, a point that was proven when an archaeologist cut his finger when testing the edge of the blade. The workmanship of the sword was incredibly detailed and used techniques and methods that many believed didn’t come into existence for many hundreds of years later. 

The sword is engraved which translated as ‘King of Yue" and "made this sword for his personal use’.

While it is true that sword incorporated methods which would provide some protection against corrosion, the real reason why it’s barely aged is down to some good fortune. The scabbard of the sword was able to create an airtight seal around the sword which prevented the elements from reaching the blade. It’s for this reason why it lasted so long and in such good condition.

The Seven-Branched Sword

In 1945 a very mysterious and unusual sword was found in Japan’s Isonokami shrine. The sword was a peculiar design, boasting six protrusions from the sides of the sword. The sword itself is well weathered and the inscriptions are hard to decipher, but it is thought that the sword was presented to the Japanese monarchy by the King of Korea.

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