Sword

2036.1

Although now in greatly reduced condition, this medieval sword was probably once the pride and joy of its knightly owner, around the time of the First Crusade. Running down the center of the blade is a trough known as a "fuller," serving to lighten and stiffen the weapon (not a "blood groove" as widely believed). The markings carved into the fuller once held inlaid decoration of a contrasting metal, possibly brass, in the shape of crosses and triple stripes. Such decorations, meant to bring good fortune in battle, were common on medieval swords.

Description

Iron blade (Oakeshott's type XA or XI). Double-edged, flattened hexagonal in section, with shallow central fuller on both faces extending to about 5" above tip. Fullers are about 1/3 blade width, with parallel sides tapering to point only from about 3/4 of length. At end of fullers blade becomes rather elliptical in section to the sharp point. Edges are parallel on upper third, narrowing in graduated curves to point. Tang is broad, made for 1 hand, & narrows acutely on its upper half. Flat, of rectangular section, & passes through top of pommel (Oakeshott's type A "Brazil nut"). This is wide, rather flat on bottom, triangular in section, with sharp top. Straight crossguard of square section, with no apparent taper. Fullers of blade are cut with deep grooves, apparently for inlays long lost. (See "Marks" above for description.)

Curator's Comments

Dr. Helmut Nickel (Retired Curator of Arms and Armor, the Metropolitan Museum of Art) has suggested that the groups of three cuts is talismanic in nature, representing the lucky number "3". The inscription style is Oakeshott's #2 (p. 140, fig. 128). Hoffmeyer, "From Med. Sword…" Those like ours in use ca. 950-1250, esp. 1100-1200. Natural continuation of Germanic "Viking" swords, found throughout Europe, particularly North and Central. Thicker, four-sided crossguards are earlier. Pattern-welded blades replaced by newer blade-making technique in 19th century. Best-known example of this type of sword is the so-called "St. Mauritius" sword in the Vienna Weltliche Schatzkammer, the Austrian sword of state. Pommel went out about mid-13th century, but examples found in art and sculpture as late as 1280.

Bibliography

Carl Claes sale catalogue (Christie's [London], 8 May 1929), perhaps lot 130.
Ada Bruhn Hoffmeyer, "From Medieval Sword to Renaissance Rapier," in "Art, Arms and Armour, an International Anthology Volume I: 1979-1980." (Chiasso: Acquafresca Editrice, 1979): pp. 52-79.
R. Ewart Oakeshott, "The Sword in the Age of Chivalry" (New York: Frederick A. Praeger, Inc., Pub., 1964).
Ada Bruhn Hoffmeyer, "Middelalderens Tvaeggede Svaerd," 2 vols. (Copenhagen: Udgivet af Tojhusmuseet, 1954). Our sword is noted on p. 40 of Vol. I, and described as no. 62 on p. 12 of Vol. II (although the crosses are incorrectly described as "0.")
Heinrich Müller & Hartmut Kölling, "Europäische Hieb-und Stichwaffen" (E. Berlin: Militärverlag der Deutschen Demokratischen Republik, n.d.), cat. no. 3 (inv. W 881, ex 05.119)

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