Bearing sword

1901

This oversized sword was never meant for battle: it is a ceremonial weapon, possibly carried by a royal bodyguard. It is very similar to those carried by the bodyguard of King Henry IV (1399-1413) or Henry V (1413-22) of England. The huge blade and brass-inlaid decoration were meant to be visible from a distance on ceremonial occasions.

If you look carefully, below the inscription INRI, you will see an abstract animal shape stamped into the blade. This was the mark used by the blademaking center of Passau. Known for high-quality blades since the late Roman period, Passau’s fame spread beyond Europe and into Asia and Africa. It was later overshadowed by the city of Solingen, which adopted Passau’s trademark "running-wolf."

Description

Massive double edged blade of hollow ground, flattened hexagonal section tapering to slightly rounded tip. Shallow, wide axially central fuller on both faces, extending for about 3/4 of the length. The blade develops a flattened elliptical section from here to the slightly rounded tip. Both fullers have 6 incised calbalistic or talismanic symbols retaining traces of brass inlay. Forte of both sides of blade has a rectangular framing formed by incised floral decoration of later date now very worn, and ending in a fleur-de-lis at either end, pointed down the blade. Near this, and to either side of the fuller, is a pair of stamped marks on both faces. The mark is within a recessed shield which has a slight "neck" above and has a horizontal, flattened "s"-like base, from the neck of which arises a Latin cross. The fuller of these retains a very badly worn, largely illegible inscription in upper case letters. One face with Passau stamps of "bishop's crosier" & "running wolf" marks, also cut into both faces of forte. Cruciform hilt with long straight crossguard of flattened rectangular section decorated like forte. This floral decoration was believed by Claude Blair to be a working life addition, possibly of 17th century date. The cruciform hilt has a long iron crossguard which is straight and of uniform depth to its straight ends. It is of rectangular section, swelling at the blade. It is decorated en suite with the forte motif, and is also badly worn. Long wooden grip (possibly original, or working life) with necked swelling at mid-height & covered in worn red velvet. Stout octagonal pommel, faceted on front and rear, with shallow central depression on both faces. The tang of the sword protrudes at the top, and is peaned nearly flat.

Curator's Comments

The is part of a large series of very similar, purely ceremonial weapons. The "INRI" inscription also appears on the blades of the Brussels (ex Porte du Hal) swords; a blade (A621) in the Hofjagd- und Ruestkammer, Vienna, and a complete sword there (A21); two swords in the Royal Armouries Museum, Leeds (ix.1025, ix.164); another is in Westminster Abbey (shown in Laking, volume II: fig. 707), and another blade in our museum (acc. no. 3133, ex collection the duc de Dino and the Metropolitan Museum of Art). (WJK, 28 September 2000) Cf. blade to HAM 3133, ex MMA, duc de Dino.

Bibliography

de Prelle, "Catalogue des armes et armures du Musee de la Porte de Hal" (1902), cat nos. 121, 122; mark no. 27.
Heribert Seitz, "Blankwaffen." 2 vols. (Brunswick, 1965 and 1968). Seitz states that these were carried in procession as a statement of the ruler's power.
Hugo Schneider, "Griffwaffen I." (Zurich). Compare the mark to that found on a single-edged, 'bastard' sword in a private Swiss collection. See cat. no. 176, p. 126, ill. This is given as 1510-30, but the mark may be later.
Gamber, "Die Mittelaltlichen Blankwaffen…". The sword A21 is ex Ambras. He thinks it is possibly one of the so-called Sendchwerte, borme as a sign of judicial power, or housed in cathedrals or city halls. One in Rathaus of Munster.
Grabois, The Ill. Encyclopedia of Medieval Civilization. On Danube in West Bavaria. Duke Odilo established a bishopric there in first half of 8th century. In late 8th c., under reign of Charlemagne, became important trading center between Franks and Danube. 10th century on bishops were lords of city, and in 1217, made Princes of the Empire by Kaiser Frederick II.
Laking II: In England, ceremonial use as early as 978, later extended to mayors of cities and conferred as late as 1695 (Liverpool).
Norman, Rapier and Small-sword (decoration)

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