Francisca.

Aug 2019
137
Netherlands
AFAIK There are no intact Frankish shields and there are no texts that detail their method of construction. How did this "documentary" determine their weight?
The development of germanic warfare was well on it's way during the time when the francisca was introduced. We are talking about ages of shield making and developing successful Frankish warfare, like the development of their heavy cavalry later. Don't you think those guys would walk around with something substantial? Lamination construction is a technique that is light and strong, bow makers used it too, I believe. Those round shields weren't that heavy, 3 to 4 kg in general, the frankish ones were even lighter as they were smaller than the average ones. An axe hanging in such shield would be noticed.
 
Last edited:

martin76

Ad Honorem
Dec 2014
6,817
Spain
Francisca was a great weapon, A one handed axe. The characteristic form of a Francisca was of an "S" shape form. From the top of the head the lower edge curved inwards. The center of the ax's head formed an angle of 90 to 115 degrees to the handle.
Most of the Franciscas measured between 50 and 60 cm. long, and weighed between 200 and 1,300 grams. Multiplying that mass by the great speed they acquired when thrown, they were very powerful at combat.



"S" form



A Francisca.
 
  • Like
Reactions: PADDYBOY and Deano
Aug 2019
137
Netherlands
Francisca was a great weapon, A one handed axe. The characteristic form of a Francisca was of an "S" shape form. From the top of the head the lower edge curved inwards. The center of the ax's head formed an angle of 90 to 115 degrees to the handle.
Most of the Franciscas measured between 50 and 60 cm. long, and weighed between 200 and 1,300 grams. Multiplying that mass by the great speed they acquired when thrown, they were very powerful at combat.



"S" form



A Francisca.
Interesting shape and I assume that is a functional design. Giving it more angle, it would be more convenient for close range striking when spaces would be tighter i assume but less force can be applied. But most important I think, it would also stick better to a shield when thrown, now the handle would prevent more the axe falling off. This indicates for me that they wanted it to stick to the shield.
 
Last edited:
  • Like
Reactions: martin76

Dan Howard

Ad Honorem
Aug 2014
5,033
Australia
The development of germanic warfare was well on it's way during the time when the francisca was introduced. We are talking about ages of shield making and developing successful Frankish warfare, like the development of their heavy cavalry later. Don't you think those guys would walk around with something substantial? Lamination construction is a technique that is light and strong, bow makers used it too, I believe. Those round shields weren't that heavy, 3 to 4 kg in general, the frankish ones were even lighter as they were smaller than the average ones. An axe hanging in such shield would be noticed.
There are plenty of ways to make a shield and most of them were practiced in Europe. How do we know which method the Franks used?
 
Aug 2019
137
Netherlands
There are plenty of ways to make a shield and most of them were practiced in Europe. How do we know which method the Franks used?
Which exact concept was not the point in the conversation. Wether it was wood laminated, layers of skin, reinforced with metal strips, or a combination. There was a thought behind this and those shields in my opinion would not fall apart after a hand axe been throwed at it if they were laminated, not even close. The design of the francisca also tells me that there was a thought behind it to tackle that important 1st line of defense of the defenders. In short, as a major tribal force, thinking and inventing smart ways to tackle enemy shields while using simple unlaminated shields yourself against quite strong rivals like saxons doesn't sound logic to me.
 
Last edited:

Matthew Amt

Ad Honorem
Jan 2015
3,011
MD, USA
Francisca was a great weapon, A one handed axe. The characteristic form of a Francisca was of an "S" shape form. From the top of the head the lower edge curved inwards. The center of the ax's head formed an angle of 90 to 115 degrees to the handle.
Most of the Franciscas measured between 50 and 60 cm. long, and weighed between 200 and 1,300 grams. Multiplying that mass by the great speed they acquired when thrown, they were very powerful at combat.



"S" form



A Francisca.
Interesting that the reconstruction does not match the drawings! The main characteristic of the francisca is that the cutting edge is more or less parallel to the handle, while the back of the head "droops" in a curve to meet the handle at a wider angle than 90 degrees. I suspect sometimes the cutting edge was angled somewhat to the handle, but that happened on other axes, too. And even other kids of axes had heads that were wide at the edge, narrow in the middle, and wide at the back, typically making a curved bottom edge. And all of those can be thrown.

Given all of that, I still don't see the francisca as some kind of hyper-specialized throwing axe. Though if the guys using it thought it was better for throwing, great!

It would also be interesting to see a comparison of artifacts that shows how often the blade was wedge-shaped rather than thin and flat--*tools* for splitting wood are better if wedge-shaped, while *weapons* meant to move quickly and cut flesh are more often flat. That's not engraved in stone, and clearly a handy tool can make a perfectly adequate weapon. I just wonder how much of this might be assumptions by modern writers, looking at the wrong artifacts.

Matthew
 
  • Like
Reactions: martin76

Matthew Amt

Ad Honorem
Jan 2015
3,011
MD, USA
Interesting shape and I assume that is a functional design. Giving it more angle, it would be more convenient for close range striking when spaces would be tighter i assume but less force can be applied. But most important I think, it would also stick better to a shield when thrown, now the handle would prevent more the axe falling off. This indicates for me that they wanted it to stick to the shield.
Not sure I'm following your logic. Any axe can have that range of angles between edge and haft. And I'm not sure why you figure "less force can be applied", nor why one would want to apply less when throwing anything--it has to reach the target, yes? Also not sure why any sort of handle would make the axe *less* likely to fall off a shield.

But again, *my* overall goal in battle would be to stick that axe in a MAN. There's not a chance of me "shattering" his shield in the 2 seconds before he arrives in my face at high speed. But if I can make him cover up with his shield, cutting his vision as we meet, I've got a much better chance of going home this evening. If you are determined to stick your axe in a shield, stick it in one before you leave camp, pick up your SPEAR, and go fight...

Matthew
 
  • Like
Reactions: Olleus

Matthew Amt

Ad Honorem
Jan 2015
3,011
MD, USA
At one of my group's Roman events in 2003, one of our members had a francisca with which he made a few throws at a scutum (after it had a falx tested on it!). I seem to have only the 2 small photos below, sorry. One is bouncing off, the other seems to have stuck. In both cases you can see a lot of motion by the shield--it was held to that rig by bungy cords in order to allow more motion as if held in a soldier's hand. BUT I remember being a bit shocked at how large and massive the axe was, and I suspect it was a rather over-sized reproduction, not accurate in size and weight. Don't know for sure!

frncsca2.jpg

frncsca1.jpg

Matthew
 

Dan Howard

Ad Honorem
Aug 2014
5,033
Australia
while using simple unlaminated shields yourself against quite strong rivals like saxons doesn't sound logic to me.
What doesn't sound like logic is being stupid enough to deliberately hit an opponent's shield with your axe.