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Toni Lozica




Location: Rotterdam, NL / Korcula, HR
Joined: 13 Dec 2006

Posts: 32

PostPosted: Thu 05 Jun, 2008 2:41 pm    Post subject: Some othr speculations remarks on origins of Spada Schiavona         Reply with quote

On another topic I read that someone wanted to order a custom made sword by Patrick Bartha.
He was doubting on schiavona on which I clicked on link in this post and saw there an article on Schiavona and some speculations about it's origin.
Herewith I would like to write in short something on that topic.

Schiavona is in my view definitely a sword used by Dalmatians and probably also Istrians in military service of Venetian republic.
Its name has nothing to do with naming a sword after a lady. Word "spada" for sword in Italian, is femininum with the adjective Slavonic. Consequently it only means a Slavonic Sword (Venetian word for Slavs = Schiavoni) is in Italian logically Spada Schiavona.

On my native island of Korcula in almost each village still exists a sword dance called Kumpanjija. In a village of Zrnovo it is called Mostra (what is Italian word used for troops inspection). These dances are performed with Schiavonas. In the past they were performed by village's able bodied men organized in a sort of village militia company called Kumpanjija or Kunpanija.

The dances used to be performed once or possibly several times per year depending on each village's tradition and in most beautiful clothes as a sort of show off for local ladies and also to show their fighting readiness. Nowadays they are performed for turists and much more often, specially in the summer months.

Purpose of these companies was the defence of villages against the pirates, mostly Turkish or other Islamic raiders during Venetian authority.
Furthermore this whole area used to be known, as far as from Greek and Roman times, to be infested by Ilyrian pirates. Later on, this trade has been taken over by Croats who assimilated Ilyrians and took over whole area somewhere in 7th century AD.
Many of the villages on the coast used these companies not only for defence but most probably also as themselves being a raiding force attacking ships thet were sailing along Dalmatian littoral.
This whole area has been sweeped of piratery only somewhere in 15th or even as late as 16th century or 17th century. Note that this coas was a part of Silk Road and many merchants and ships sailing between Venice and Constantinople or other cities in the Mediterranean fel pray to these pirates. Concerning this tradition it would be more then logical that many of these men were recruited to serve in Venetian army.
Dalmatians were known to be the most fierce warriors Venice has ever had. They have even have had Il Gonfalon di San Marco (Venetian war fleet banner) in their custody all the way through the centuries till the very fall of the republic caused by Napoleon in 1797.
This banner is still kept in a niche under the altar of a church in Perast in Boka Kotorska (today part of republic of Montenegro but still integral part of Dalmatia).

Most probably the Venetians took this type of sword over or at least they were producing it in larger quantities in their more advanced smithies in Venice and elswhere on Venetian mainland. Maybe they have perfectionised its design and started mass production in order to supply Slavonic troops defending Dalmatian mainland during many Turkish-Venetian conflicts.
This could clarify many various designs types and subtypes. I would not be surprised that Schiavonas were made to fit the hand of its owner as there are so many types existing. But also there were rougher types that were used by larger bodies of troops.
Its design was perfect to make it very practical for use by simple militiamen or other not so well equipped footsoldiers as there was no need to use more expensive gauntlets. Also I suppose that it must be much easier to hold the sword with bare hand then using a glove of any kind as most gloves no matter how refined still cause more fatigue to a hand.
I suppose that the art of smithing schiavonas has been lost at the same time when most weapon smiths lost their function with the arrival of modern times.

As far as I know there have never been any serious research on this type of sword on the terrain in Dalmatia and other territories held by Venetians during high tide of La Serenissima Republica di San Marco.
Very soon I'll be able to possibly conduct some research there by myself and will probably will publish it here if possible. However it could take some time.....

See links on Youtube showing dancers from villages of Zrnovo, Blato and Pupnat:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8-FgkVFgP2U&feature=related

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9K88dEiaYak

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ADJXJhPT8y4

Parce mihi Domine quia Dalmata sum!
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Russ Ellis
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Joined: 20 Aug 2003
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Posts: 2,607

PostPosted: Thu 05 Jun, 2008 2:54 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Very interesting, thanks for sharing the information and thoughts!
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Bruno Giordan





Joined: 28 Sep 2005

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PostPosted: Fri 06 Jun, 2008 3:47 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

An important area of mass production was obviously the brescian territory.

I have a large book, well documented, there is a part on the schavona.

Another zone of production was Belluno.

It seems that what was illyrian was the schiavonesca in the XV century: the basket hilt is a later improvement.

I have pics of an early and rare illyrian schiavonesca as well as of a rare schiavona for marine infantry dating back to the date of the Lepant battle.


Going to post in the week end along with some text.
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Russ Ellis
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Joined: 20 Aug 2003
Reading list: 42 books

Posts: 2,607

PostPosted: Fri 06 Jun, 2008 6:01 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Bruno Giordan wrote:

I have pics of an early and rare illyrian schiavonesca as well as of a rare schiavona for marine infantry dating back to the date of the Lepant battle.


Going to post in the week end along with some text.


Excellent! Don't be shy with such things. Happy

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