Brescia, 17th century
Size: 36 cm long
Review by Gherardo turchi
Rare engraved iron dagger commonly known as “misericorde”; a name that derives from its use. The dagger was usually used by the clergy to give a quick and sudden death to those who could not be treated on the battlefield: the stroke of mercy. History teaches us that at the end of the battles, many warriors remained seriously wounded without any possibility of treatment on the battlefields. Thus, in the Lord’s name, some priests (usually engaged in blessing weapons and soldiers before battles) had the unrewarding task of this practice during the end of the Sixteenth century. During the first quarter of the Seventeenth century, a suitable weapon for this merciful act was born.
This practice, however, was frowned upon by the upper echelons of the Church. Therefore, these ecclesiastical symbols are only rarely found on such weapons. However, these symbols were used on all those weapons sent by the Temporal Power to rulers and protected.
With a triangular blade, it did not let the wound heal. The misericorde, since was used by priests and not by warriors, was usually kept inside the sleeve of the cassock in order to be hidden and shown only in case of necessity.
One might say that the maxim “to make a virtue of necessity” has never been so appropriate.
During this century, Brescia was one of the most fervent areas for the production of weapons and therefore also the misericorde dagger found its first and most fervid birth in this place.
It was precisely during this period of the early Seventeenth century that this weapon was made. The dagger has a triangular blade with a pearl-shaped narrow neck at its ricasso. The grip is made of engraved iron and turned on a lathe with a double baluster-shape, decorated with leaf motifs and reinforced with a central ring. The cross-guard, straight and grooved in order to remember the sign of the Christian Cross, presents a phytomorphic decoration which is consistent with the grip on the final part, such decoration can be found on the pommel as well.
The weapon is in excellent state of preservation and it was published in the book “Regina Belli” by Gherardo Turchi, ed. Etruscan Typography, 2017, pag. 58.