Venetian bladesmith

Venice, early in the 17th century

Material: Iron

Size: 114 cm long

Review by Gherardo Turchi

Widely known as “Schiavona”, this haughty Venetian sword was realised by some skilled armourers working in a Venice thriving workshop early in the XVII century.

As a typical Renaissance sword, it was created by Slavic people living along the coasts of Venice Serenissima Repubblica. They were said to forge it starting from a broadsword model.

Slavic people were mercenaries fighting for Venice Republic throughout the entire XVI century. They were employed as marine soldiers against the Ottomans and the Uskoks on the one hand and as Doge’s own horseguards on the other.

Although it was created for the heavy cavalry at first, the sword quickly spread to the rest of the troops. It was the archetype for the following European basket-shaped hilt swords. If compared with the English mortuary sword and the Scottish basket-shaped hilt claymore, for instance, has a special space, starting from the cage to the hilt, for the user’s thumb.

Its blade is very wide with a particularly pronounced central groove extending to three quarters of the whole lenght. The Schiavona was intended to be the sword for Venetian soldiers serving on Venetian army war or merchant boats. An easy to use sword was needed to get each on board daily work done as, for example, to cut a rope quickly.

However, any esthetic detail was ignored to realise such a sword. The typical  seventeenth century cage was improved by getting its original design more complex: it recalls the triangle-shaped one of a common dagger. Its flat squared pomels are made of bronze or iron and are usually realised in the shape of a “cat head”. The two tiny extremities on its top are said to recall the ears of an alerted cat as well.

Because of its iron pomels and its deeply interwined cage, the Schiavona is said to be created not only as an on board sword, but also as a fighting one. Such a cage made the user able to protect his hand and to punch his opponent when he was too close. We can’t ignore, in the end, its original leather scabbard.

For more details, please see G.TURCHI, Regina Belli, Tipografia Etrusca edizioni, 2017, pp. 70-71.

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