Monday, July 11, 2011

Varde - Artillery Museum. Denmark's Wars. Sword History

Varde and its Military Museum

A.  Denmark's military history - a long span, and gradual chipping away of lands.

The grandeur of the old Denmark began to fall away forcibly in the early 19th Century.  Denmark had supported Napoleon, and in 1801, Britain won the Battle of Copenhagen, with huge bombardments.  There were more bombardments in 1807, and Britain then hauled away the Danish fleet.

Denmark then was penalized further:  as part of the peace settlement in about 1814, Denmark had to give up Norway.

There had been national bankruptcy in 1813.

Frugal times followed, see biography, the Hans Christian Andersen, Life of a Storyteller , for the impact on regular people, at page 52, this biography by Jackie Wullschlager, published by Knopf in 2001.

B.  Varde is a quiet place to catch a breath overnight.

C.  Varde

Varde Artillery Museum -- Small towns and small institutions can be far more flexible than the large touristy places.  The Artillery Museum here opened for classes of recruits early in the morning, but let us go through the exhibits anyway.

So: on to the exhibits - Dan heads for the heavy artillery.  See museum site.

More delicate:  Size and variation of swords, eras of use, see

D.   Sword history. Swordsmanship, distinctions.
1.  Cutting Swords

1.1  Viking or Scandinavian sword:  double-edged blade, straight blade, single hand (other hand held a shield).  Hack and thrust.
1.2.  Cruciform sword:  a cross piece at the grip, a "quillon" - demonstrating the power of the Cross the better to Christianize you with

Small portion, swords exhibit, Varde Artillery Museum, Denmark

3.  Medieval Thrusting Swords --

3.1  Two Handed, The Great Swords --  very rare. 
3.2  1200's  The Hand-and-a-Half, The Long Sword, -- also called the Bastard Sword. The double-edge straight sword evolved into a tapered end, the better to pierce your mail with, and other armor, whether plate or chain (get in the joints).

It was also strengthened for cutting.

Example at bottom is curved, like Samurai, but note that Samurai swords have no hand guard? Is that so?  

1300-1700 -- see the Scots Claymore, for cutting, double edge, two handed, but with special sloping cross guards. 
Sturdy, to go through muscle, bone, arms, armor. Expensive to make because they were expected to last.
4.  Early Renaissance.  Cutting swords for power and fashion.  The warrior sword evolved into the symbolic, nobleman's sword, for dress occasions, or in civilian dress. Merchants also took up the sword.  Purposes:  sport, duels, fencing to learn defense,

Top sword:  style of Excalibur, flat, angled point?
1400's - Side Sword.  Back to thrusting. Slender shape for the cruciform -  better because armor also had improved, so thrusting was more effective than cutting. Fencing guilds arose to make the swords. Germany became known for that.
1500's - peak in the 1600's -- Rapier, for robe sword or dress sword.  Evolving:  hand protections, finger ringholds, top shields, and moves were standardized -- parry, thrust, etc
And in Scotland, the basket-hilt -- also helped balance the blade
1700's - Rapier became the "small sword", and the "foil" that was used for practice and with a flattened tip. Target areas on the body for practice were limited, protected by a mesh
1800's - Small sword, that had produced many casualties, became the dueling sword with no cutting edge; and its practice sword, the epee.
The foil is different from the epee.  The foil is a teaching tool for fencing, and intended to teach self-control see  
There are rules of give and take, priorities, the proper behavior that is not part of a life-and-death struggle at the time, but teaches skills that enable one to survive and prevail in such a struggle. Discipline. Discipline.  Digress:  Obergruppenfuhrer Reinhard Heydrich, the assassinated mastermind behind the Final Solution, the Holocaust, the Protector of Bohemia and Moravia, failed the discipline side of foil. 
At a fencing tournament in Dresden for German officers, Heydrich loses his temper, strikes too vigorously, allows a riposte so that his helmet is touched, and he is out -- first round.  He smashes his saber on the ground.  There, however, the designation is for a saber, not a foil.  Intentional?  See HHhH, new novel by Laurent Binet about Operation Anthropoid in Prague, assassination of Heydrich, translated from the French into English by Sam Taylor, see  Scroll down the review:  the impact of the novel appears after a misleading first few paragraphs.

The point of the exhibit is made:  swords each serve a purpose, require a set of skills.
Swung swords:  the backsword, the sabre, the cutlass Yaargh.  Etc.  See site.  Now, name these swords.  Most famous named swords:  see  
Meet Excalibur, King Arthur: Durendal, sword of Roland; Joyeuse, sword of Charlemagne; Hrunting, sword of Beowulf; Skofnung, sword of Viking Danish King Hrolf Kraki (find his saga at;

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