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A großes Messer (meaning “great knife”, also called Hiebmesser = “cutting knife”) was a type of German single-edged sword, similar to a falchion, that was used during the 14th, 15th and 16th centuries. Großes Messer, or simply Messer, was the term used in the 15th century, and the weapon in the 16th-century evolved into a type of training weapon known as a Dussack.
Much less expensive than other types of available swords, it was the weapon of the common man. Used for menial work in addition to battle, the großes Messer sported a blade with a single curved edge that led to a clipped-back tip (like a kilij). Its hilt included a straight cross-guard and Nagel (a nail-like – Nagel literally means ‘nail’ – protrusion that juts out from the right side of the cross-guard away from the flat of the blade) to protect the wielder’s hands. Quite notable in its construction was the attachment of blade to the hilt via a slab tang sandwiched between two wooden grip plates that were pegged into place. Also of note is that many pommels were ‘drawn out’ or curved to one side of the hilt (edge side), a feature known as a “hat-shaped pommel”. Extant examples seem to have an overall length of 40-46 inches (1.0-1.2 m), with a 31-inch (79 cm) blade, and a weight between 2.5 and 3 pounds (1.1-1.4 kg).
The Messer was part of the curriculum of several fencing manuals in the 14th and 15th centuries, including Lecküchner, Codex Wallerstein and Albrecht Dürer, and was displaced by the Dussack in the 16th.
Although often confused with it, the Langes Messer (“Long Knife”), also known as the Kriegsmesser, has to be clearly distinguished from the Great Knife. Lange Messer were more than 1500 mm long and shaped like a scimitar, originating as the Hungarian version of the German Zweihänder. It was typically used by Hungarian infantry officers during the Renaissance. An example of these is preserved in the Hofjagd- und Rüstkammer, Vienna.
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