Humans have always been dreaming up new ways to slash, dice, hack, and slash. You wouldn’t want to tangle with any of the historically cursed swords in this gallery—especially the last one.
A curious sword has been embedded in the cliffs above the Notre Dame chapel in Rocamadour, France, for hundreds of years. The monks claim it’s Durandal, the sword of the paladin Roland. According to legend, Roland threw the holy sword to the mountain’s edge to prevent it from being caught by his enemies. The chapel has been a goal for sacred pilgrimages since the 12th century. In 2011, the local municipality dismantled the sword and presented it to the Cluny Museum in Paris.
But is it a Durandal sword? Though the battle in which Roland lost his life was a well-documented occurrence, the earliest mention of Durandal occurred in The Song of Roland,” written hundreds of years later—about the same time that the Notre Dame monks started to say that the sword was Roland’s. They presumably connected their sword to Durandal, as Rocamadour was the starting point for his quest, even though his final combat had taken place hundreds of miles away in the Roncesvaux valley. So, sadly, unless Roland threw a powerful fastball, the sword in the cliff is nothing more than a myth conjured up by the chapel monks. Even a complete mystery exists where the blade comes from.
Joyeuse, the famed sword of King Charlemagne, was said to change colours 30 times a day, and the sun shone very brilliantly. Since 1271, two swords named Joyeuse have been part of the French coronation ceremony. But because both blades cannot be the iconic Joyeuse, the mystery of which one is the Holy Roman Emperor’s real sword has persisted for centuries.
The Joyeuse living in the Louvre had experienced a significant shift in her life. The oldest portion is the apple, which was recently examined in the 10th and 11th centuries. Since Charlemagne died in 813, this puts him beyond the life of the Holy Roman Emperor.
The other contestant is the “saber of Charlemagne” in the royal treasury in Vienna. It is unclear how the weapon became part of the French Imperial Regalia, but the saber was dated back to the early 10th century—closer than the Joyeuse, but only after the time of Charlemagne’s famous sword. The Sable was presumably made up of Hungarian swordsmiths, who opened the door to other stories that it was the legendary “Sword of Attila,” which was said to have been awarded to Attila the Hun Mars, the god of the war. Unfortunately, this isn’t historically plausible either.
The Blade of St. Peter
There are many stories about the sword used by Saint Peter as he sliced off his servant’s ear to the high priest in Gethsemane’s garden. It was introduced to England by Joseph of Arimathea, along with the Holy Grail. In 968, however, Bishop Jordan took a sword to Poland—a sword he believed to have been the original sword of St. Peter. The Sword of the Priest, believed to be the real relic, remained in Poland and finally transferred to the Archdiocese Museum in Poznan.
Did the enigmatic sword belong to Saint Peter? It is believed that the blade may have been executed in the eastern borderlands of the Roman Empire in the first century. There is no evidence to prove it beyond the (maybe misplaced confidence of those who want to believe that the sword is an authentic relic. Poland’s blade is a falchion—a type of sword that is not likely to be used during St. Peter’s period. Metallurgy studies have also been dated too long after the death of the saint.
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In 1965, a fascinating sword was discovered in China’s watery tomb—despite being over 2,000 years old, and there was no rust on it. The sword was too unaffected by the time it even drew blood when an archaeologist examined the tip of the sword on his finger. Besides its unfathomable durability, the etchings’ craftsmanship was also amazingly precise for the sword crafted that long ago. It was a complete mystery for the time being.
In 1965, a fascinating sword was discovered in China’s watery tomb—despite being over 2,000 years old. There was no rust on it. The sword was too unaffected by the time it even drew blood when an archaeologist examined the tip of the sword on his finger. Besides its unfathomable durability, the etchings’ craftsmanship was also amazingly precise for the sword crafted that long ago. It was a complete mystery for the time being.
How did the blade survive in such a decent shape for over 2,000 years? Tests indicate that Yue’s swordsmiths had achieved such a high degree of metallurgy that they could integrate rust-proof alloys into their weapons. Their swords have also been treated with rust-resistant additives, allowing them to withstand comparatively unblemished centuries. Besides, in a stroke of genius luck, the scabbard of this particular blade was almost airtight, which avoided oxidation and allowed the famed sword to be found in such a pristine condition, two millennia after it had been enclosed in a tomb.
The Sword In The Stone
Although the Arthurian legend is still a mythology and myth product, there is proof that his sword in a stone tale may be very accurate. In the chapel of Monte Siepi, Italy, lies an ancient sword set in stone that may be the secret to finding the legend’s root.
It is assumed that Saint Galgano was a twelfth-century Tuscan knight ordered by Archangel Michael to give up his sinful ways. Arguing that the job would be as challenging as the cleaving block, Galgano tried to prove his point by cracking his sword on the surrounding rock. Legend claims that his sword was sliced into the stone as if it were butter. The sword in the stone now remains where Galgano left it along with his earthly ways.
Since the canonization of Saint Galgano, the news of his holy sword spread rapidly. Excalibur’s legend predates Galgano, but the blade’s addition to the stone occurred soon after Galgano’s time. It is theorized that his sword was a true-life inspiration for the sword of the Author in the rock.
Of course, it all depends on the authenticity of the sword. Whether or not the sword belonged to Galgano in Italy has been debated several times. However, Luigi Garlaschelli of the University of Pavia recently dated the blade to the 12th century – fitting for the life of Saint Galgano, if not absolute proof of the story’s authenticity.
The Sword of Wallace
Legend has it that William Wallace – the title character of Mel Gibson’s Braveheart – used human skin for the scabbard, hilt, and belt of his blade. The flesh donor was said to have been Hugh de Cressingham, treasurer of Scotland, whom Wallace had fled after beating him in the Stirling Bridge war.
One version of the legend talks of Wallace using a strip of Cressingham for his sword buckle. Other sources claim that Wallace and his men used Cressingham’s skin for saddle girths. When King James IV sent Wallace’s sword to replace its scabbard, belt, and apple with something more suitable to the sword of that stature, the legend spread even more. The blade, as it is today, carries the replacement pieces of the National Wallace Memorial.
Did Wallace ever have a Frankensword? Although Cressingham was most likely flattered, Wallace’s accounts use the unfortunate tax collector’s skin only for his sword belt, not the real sword. The tale mostly came from the English side and was presumably embellished to make the Scottish hero appear like a barbarian. Yet, we can appreciate Wallace’s grudge against tax collectors. It would not be an overstatement to suggest that he used one’s skin to decorate his sword. As in many stories, the evidence has been lost in time.
Legend has it that the “sword in the snake,” Kusanagi, was found in the body of an eight-headed serpent slain by the deity of storms and oceans. It is part of the Imperial Regalia of Japan, icons of the ancient imperial dynasty descended from the sun goddess – symbols of their sacred right to rule.
Kusanagi is said to be installed in the shrine of Atsuta in Nagano Prefecture, but it is not in public view and has not been seen in decades. The sword is rarely carried out for imperial coronation rituals, but it is still covered in wrappings. Even though it has never been observed and is documented only in collections of oral history and pseudo-historical records, the authorities have nevertheless continued to keep the world guessing about the Kusanagi by never publicly confirming or denying its existence.
The first official mention of the sword came during World War II—even though the late Emperor Hirohito had denied any claim to his divinity, it was also reported that he had instructed the keepers of the divine royal to “defend them at all costs.”
The Seven-Branch Sword
A mystical sword was discovered in Japan’s Isonokami shrine in 1945. The blade was of an exceptionally unique make, with six protrusions branching out from its sides (the tip is called it is seventh). The sword was in bad repair, but a fading inscription could be made around the direction. The precise translation has been debated several times, but what is apparent is that the sword was a present from the King of Korea to the King of Japan.
It mirrored the sword in the Nihon Shoki, a folklore-infused historical text cataloguing Japan’s early history. If this were the same seven-strong sword given to Jingu, a semi-mythical shaman empress, it would serve as a significant keystone marking where legend became a reality.
The blade dating matched reputable sources in Korea, China, and Japan. Isonokami shrine itself was also quoted in other records dating back to the time of the Nihon Shoki, so that the sword may have been left there since ancient times. Scholars now agree that the seven-strong blade is a mythical sword, granting the shaman empress Jingu an authentic place in history.
The Cursed Muramasa
According to tradition, Muramasa was an ancient Japanese swordsmith who prayed that his swords would be “great destroyers.” Due to his weapons’ extraordinary accuracy, the gods granted his wish and imbued them with a fierce spirit that would lead the wilder to murder or suicide if not content with combat. There are numerous tales of the Muramasans who are going insane or killed. The swords were thought to be cursed, and the imperial edict was prohibited.
The edict was made by Shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu, who denounced the swords after half of his kin had been destroyed. His grandfather had fallen to Muramasa, and the swordsmith’s blades had wounded both Ieyasu and his father. Eventually, both his wife and his adopted son were later executed by apparently cursed cutters. But were Muramasa’s blades still cursed, huh? Perhaps, Ieyasu’s trouble with the swords started simply because they were incredibly common. Muramasa was not the name of an individual, but the entire school of swordsmiths he created. Quality Muramasa blades have been made for nearly a century, and the Japanese warrior class has always used them. Muramasa’s swords were used in so many Shogun-related murders, while a coincidence, was not necessarily noteworthy.
The Honjo Masamune
The weapons of the famed priest and swordsmith Masamune are in contrast to Muramasa’s cursed swords. Legend has it that Masamune and Muramasa held a contest to determine the superior smith by throwing their blades in a drain. Although Muramasa cut anything it touched, Masamune refused to cut everything undeserved, including the air.
Although Masamune’s works are valued as Japanese national treasures, one of the swords has never been found. Following Japan’s defeat in the Second World War, the “Honjo Masamune” was turned over to an American soldier, Sgt. Cody Binmore, who most likely took it home with him as a war souvenir. Like the enigmatic G.I. Never been found, the whereabouts of the sword has also been lost. Given the sword’s undoubted importance (possibly worth millions), the sword hunters are no closer to discovering the mythical lost Masamune than they were on the day it vanished. Given the sword’s undoubted importance (possibly worth millions), the sword hunters are no closer to discovering the mythical lost Masamune than they were on the day it vanished.