The sword of Charlemagne or the saber of Attila?
Hungarian sabers before the Ottoman wars
Early Hungarian sabers were different from the ones that we used during the Ottoman wars. The name “saber” spread in the world, coming from the Hungarian language but only after the 15th century. Before, these slightly curved blades had been called just “swords”.
As for the Ottoman wars, it is believed that the Kumans and other soldiers of Hungary may have used similar sabers until the late 14th century.
However, the new Eastern-style sabers soon became popular, assumedly because of the Ottoman military clashes. Then, the Hungarian sabers began their own development, being slightly different from Turk and Persian sabers. Not to mention the Polish branch of this family.
Below, here is the so-called Sabre of Charlemagne (742 – 814). Total length – 90.5 cm, blade length – 75.8 cm, blade width – 2.8 cm.
It is said to be an early saber of the Hungarian (Magyar) type (presumably made in the early 10th century or before). Part of the Aachen regalia of the Holy Roman Empire. According to tradition, Otto III recovered the weapon when he opened Charlemagne’s grave in AD 1000.
On the other hand, according to Tóth Zoltán, it was gifted to Prince Otto Northeim by the mother of King Salamon of Hungary in 1063, in exchange for his military help, he cites:
“Notatum autem est Hun ipsum gladium fuisse, quo famosissimus quodam rex Hunorum, Attila, in necem chistisnorum atque in excidium Galliarum hostiliter debachatus fuerat” – briefly, it says that the saber had belonged to the Hunnish Attila.
Anatoly Kirpichnikov (USSR) has suggested that in the decoration of swords participated Russian masters but Professor László Gyula said it may have been made in Levedia just before the Magyar tribes arrived in the Carpathian Basin in the 9th century.
Some other historians call this weapon the saber of Attila and think that it had been taken from the Avars by the Franks.
If you regard late-Avar tribesmen as proto-Hungarians, then we can trace back the sabers of chief Árpád’s nomads until that age. Although this particular saber was said to have been Attila’s saber, it is thought to have been made centuries later.
According to a Hungarian Székely legend (the Székelys regard themselves as related to the Huns), it was the youngest son of King Attila, Csaba who inherited the famous sword. Csaba took it to the steppes of Scythia, and it was Chief Árpád (845-907) who brought it back to the Carpathian Basin, after a few centuries. Then, it was King Salamon of the Árpád Dynasty (1053-1087) who gifted it to the Austrians.
Later, this particular saber became a ceremonial weapon of the Holy Roman Emperor and had its role in his coronation.
When they crowned the son of King Habsburg Ferdinand as Emperor in 1562, he had a chance to take it into his hands. Having examined this saber, Ferdinand said it was a Hungarian work:
“Darnach nahme Keys. Mt. S. Caroli Magni Schwerd, zoge es auss der Scheiden, besahe es fleissig und sagt, es ware ein Vngarischer Sabel” (It was quoted from Noppius ” Aacher Chronik”, Köln, 1632.)
(Sources: Historical Weapons Research Journal; Also, try to get the article from 1930 by Tóth Zoltán: “Attila’s Schwert” – Studie über die Herkunft des sogenannten Sebels Karls des Grossen in Wien. -Budapest.–. Also: read the article of Lükő Gábor at
I have added a few more sabers (the last one of them is a replica of Szántó Szabolcs) to show you more of these kinds of blades, including early medieval Bulgarian sabers…
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