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LOT 0474

GBP (£) 6,000 - 8,000
EUR (€) 7,000 - 9,330
USD ($) 7,740 - 10,320

Bid History: 1   |   Current bid: £6,000
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Medieval 'Templar's' Type XIIIA.2 Great Sword

Early-mid 14th century AD

An enormous iron longsword of Oakeshott's Type XIIIA.2 (Oakeshott, 1991, p.99), with style 2 cross and a style J pommel, with very nearly of two-hand sword proportions, fitted with a slender triangular blade with deep fuller and acute point, inlaid copper design to each face; one face showing the inscription SNGULIS; the other what seems the stylised image of a crab, but probably an omega mark; the guard is slender and pointed at the end; the long grip shows a slight taper and a strong consistent disc pommel with central inlaid, patterned like a four arm 'Templar' cross inside a circle; the point of the balance is well down towards the point, ideal for a weapon designed to deal slow, powerful slashing blows. 1.3 kg, 1.04m (41"). Fine condition. Very rare.

From an important private family collection of arms and armour; acquired on the European art market in the 1980s, and thence by descent; accompanied by an academic report by military specialist Dr Raffaele D'Amato.

See Oakeshott, E. Records of the Medieval Sword, Woodbridge, 1991; Nicholson, H., Knight Templar, AD 1120-1312, Oxford, 2004; Wagner, T., Worley, J., Holst Blennow, A., Beckholmen, G. 'Medieval Christian invocation inscriptions on sword blades' in Waffen- und Kostümkunde, 2009, 51(1): 11-52; Janowski A., Kurasiński T., Pudło P., A sign, a symbol or a letter? Some remarks on omega marks inlaid on early medieval sword blades, in Acta Universitatis Lodziensis Folia Archaeologica 29/2012, pp. 83-110.

This sword, belonging to the type of 'Great sword of Germany', finds an immediate parallel in the famous sword from the Thames, a river-find recovered opposite to the building of the Temple (Oakeshott, 1991, p. 99). Similarly to this one, there is a cross inlaid in copper on the central boss, which, according to the time of finding, pushed some scholars to consider the Thames’s sword like belonging to the Templar Military Order. In our specimen the cross is bigger, and very similar to the Templar cross visible on the Templar seals, paintings, images (Nicholson, 2004, pp.29, 46). However, as said by Oakeshott of the Thames sword, that suggestion that the cross means a the sword was owned by a Templar, is just a hypothesis, because, when these knights embellished things with crosses they tended to employ crosses in a form heraldically known as cross-crosslets, i.e. each arm of the cross has a short transverse bar at the right angles across it, just below the tip of the arm. The similarity of the cross on the pommel of our specimen with the Templar cross, can justify the attribution of the sword to a military order. From the other side, considering the cross as Christian element of protection, it can be a sign of Divine protection, as usual on the Middle Age swords. Nevertheless, the cross symbols on the swords, as well as the cross-shaped weapons were both, symbols of royal and divine power of which the sword was fitted ('potestas gladii'), items that were holy and indispensable to the noble warrior class. Swords were treasured status symbols that represented the so called 'cingulum militare' (“knighthood”): i.e. they were a tangible token of knightly awareness. A knight, awaiting the clash of arms, surely prayed with his dear sword in his hands. The chronicler Albert of Aix mentioned religious combat preparations in his 'Historia Hierosolymitana'. After the defeat of the Christians at Ramla 1102 AD, some knights took shelter in the tower of the urban fortification. Among them was Conrad, the stabularius of Emperor Henry III of Germany, a valiant and fierce champion with his sword ('…audacia et viribus incomparabilis, gladio precipuas Sarracenorum strages exercuit…' = without comparison for bravery and strength, performed a great slaughtering of the Saracens ). For three days they held out. Only then, they dared a desperate excursion 'after the name of Jesus was invoked and his grace' ('…invocato nomine Iesu et eius gratia…').

Most probably our specimen is coming from a battlefield or, most probably, a river find. The piece is in excellent condition. The puzzling inscription on the blade, where the word SNGULIS is clearly visible, it is difficult to interpret as comparison terms are missing. It is instead more probable that the mark on the other side of the sword is representing an Omega mark, linked with the Divine symbolism of Jesus Christ as the Alpha and the Omega, i.e. the beginning and the end of everything (Janowski, Kurasiński, Pudło, 2012, pp. 90-91). Inscriptions on Medieval swords are very common and served a variety of purposes. There are four kinds of inscriptions that are found on medieval swords, runic inscriptions, symbols, religious vocations, and periodic sequences. Runic inscriptions were frequently maker's marks, but also could have been the names of the owners, makers (their name being different form their mark), donators, carriers or the name of the weapon. Having a name was rare and was likely used for gifting swords. They could have also been to remind the bearer to show bravery or been written by sorceresses to give the blade magical powers. They were clearly used by pagans, before the conversion to Christianity, but some symbolism was preserved also after and kept on the inscriptions of Christian swords. Religious vocations would have been meant to give the wielders divine favour and protection in battle. They were the 'divina dicta', i.e. sentences from the Holy Bible or Gospel invoking the help of God upon the wearer, or even divina nomina, if the initials of Our Lord or of the Mother of God were incorporated. Symbols and ornaments were likely religious. Most writing on medieval swords has religious, magical, or other protective meaning. But because writing was very uncommon at the time, any kind of lettering would have a magical connotation. Some of the inscriptions could have been enigmatic meaning to be a magical language. Therefore, the meaning of many inscriptions is unknown. Professor Marek, very kindly, suggested a possible assonance of SNGULIS with an inscription found of some swords, SIGVINAIS, although this seems not to be the most precise parallel.

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Bid History: 1   |   Current bid: £6,000

Lot No. 0474

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