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Pamela Muir




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PostPosted: Mon 04 Apr, 2011 6:31 am    Post subject: Rosarial Swords         Reply with quote

Mr. Craig Johnson, Dr. Bill Ernoehazy and myself have been looking at a common engraving pattern on sword blades that is often described as a series of lines and dots most often running along side a fuller. These often terminate together in a cross depicted at the end in the center of the blade. We have come to the conclusion that this particular pattern may well be representative of a rosary or prayer beads.

I made this observation a few years ago when visiting the National Museum of the American Indian with Bill Grandy. You can read his report here.
The timing was such, that my older son had just recently been confirmed in the Catholic Church and one of his confirmation gifts was a wallet rosary. (I've attached a picture of one below.) Looking at these two swords at the NMAI, the resemblance stuck out.
Sword 1
Sword 2

Shortly afterwards I had the opportunity to discuss this observation with Mr. Johnson and Dr. Ernoehazy and they agreed that it was likely the case that this engraving pattern started as a depiction of a rosary. There is considerable variation in this pattern. The shape of the lines, the number of dots, even the type of cross is not consistent. Some later period swords have even simplified the design down to simply lines with a cross. At that point, the pattern may have simply become traditional and had lost its original meaning as a specific religious tool. It is even used on modern reproduction weapons, often in its simplified form of lines and a cross, such as that on Albion's Gallowglass.

Though we have been referring to these swords as rosarial swords as a means to identify them, the patterns do not necessarily depict a modern rosary recitation. They do, however, correspond with early prayer bead patterns and recitations. Prayer counters have been used historically by many world religions and even in the Christian religion their use predates the “Hail Mary” and the modern rosary prayer which includes specific meditations on the life of Christ. Some early prayer beads were used to count the number of repetitions of the “Our Father” and were called Paternoster beads.

Taking this idea that this engraving pattern of lines and dots was meant to be representative of Christian prayer beads of some sort, Mr. Johnson, Dr. Ernoehazy and myself would like to collect images of these swords and compare them to each other and the evolution of the pattern over time as well as comparing it to the beginnings of the rosary. I have attached a few images below that I scanned from books in the Library of Congress. We would also be very interested in any mention of this pattern in period commentary or scholarly mention of this pattern representing prayer beads in scholarly works. We would welcome input from myArmoury readers that would include more of these rosarial swords.



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wallet rosary

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Rapier_137_small.jpg
Cup-Hitled Rapier, Italy c. 1610-30, from Arms and Armor: The Cleveland Museum of Art

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Rapier_137_closeup.jpg
Close up of blade on the cup hilt rapier.

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Rapier_201_small.jpg
Rapier, blade from Spain, hilt from Italy c. 1580 – 1610 from Arms and Armor: The Cleveland Museum of Art

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Rapier_201_closeup.jpg
Close up of rapier blade

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Smallsword_57_small.jpg
Sometimes the pattern is made of piercings rather than engravings, such as that in this smallsword, c. 1650-1660, from The Art of Chivalry

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sword_280_282_small.jpg
The sword in the middle and the one on the right both exhibit the pattern and are both c. 1580-1620. From Imperial Austria : treasures of art, arms & armor from the state of Styria

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sword_280_282_closeup.jpg
Closeup of the blades.

Pamela Muir

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Jeremy V. Krause




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PostPosted: Mon 04 Apr, 2011 6:50 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

This is great Pamela!

As a fan of swords and of the rosary devotion I will be following your research. Very interesting indeed.
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Bill Grandy
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PostPosted: Mon 04 Apr, 2011 7:54 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

When Pameal first pointed this observation out to me, my eyes widened and I figuratively smacked myself on the forehead because I'd seen this decoration thousands of times, but never once did it occur to me that it meant anything more than aesthetics. I'd approached some other sword scholars and asked them if they'd ever noticed this, and they all had the exact same reaction as I did. Happy
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Jean-Carle Hudon




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PostPosted: Mon 04 Apr, 2011 8:51 am    Post subject: great work         Reply with quote

To Pamela and team,
great work! We take crosses on pommels for granted, but the link between prayer beads and sword is certainly unexpected, but when confronted with the importance of religion , and religious conflicts, in the time frame that these weapons cover, I end up having the same reaction as Bill, it now seems obvious. Keen eyes and good work.

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Ed Toton




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PostPosted: Mon 04 Apr, 2011 11:23 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Bill Grandy wrote:
When Pameal first pointed this observation out to me, my eyes widened and I figuratively smacked myself on the forehead because I'd seen this decoration thousands of times, but never once did it occur to me that it meant anything more than aesthetics. I'd approached some other sword scholars and asked them if they'd ever noticed this, and they all had the exact same reaction as I did. Happy


As much as I hate posting "me too" messages, I have to say, when she mentioned it to me I reacted the same way. I think she's on to something. Happy

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Chad Arnow
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PostPosted: Mon 04 Apr, 2011 11:42 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Pamela,
This is a great project. If you want to turn it into a myArmoury Feature article, let us know.

I'd suggest you contact forum member Don Stanko. I've photographed his collection of antiques and at least 3 swords have this type of decoration. I don't feel comfortable posting the pics without his consent, though. Also, he knows more about the dating of his swords than I do.

Happy

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Nathan Robinson
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PostPosted: Mon 04 Apr, 2011 12:00 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Pamela-

I think we've conversed about this as well in the past. I have collected photos of examples of this feature. When I find the time, I can gather them up and post them. It's been a fascinating subject to me for the last several years. I don't own any of the usage rights to the images and many that I have do not have source info available, but can post them on the forums under "fair use". Beyond that, it's going to be tough.

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Nathan Robinson
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PostPosted: Mon 04 Apr, 2011 12:53 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Pamela-

Collecting examples of these "rosary-inspired" designs found in blades was a project I had taken up a few years back. Unfortunately, due to the time constraints of work and other things, it's been abandoned. I'm glad to see some interest in the subject.

Here are an even dozen examples I had already collected and formatted. It's a start, at least.

























Click any of the photos to see larger versions

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Pamela Muir




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PostPosted: Mon 04 Apr, 2011 1:03 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Oh, wow, Nathan! Thank you! Those are fantastic.

Chad, thank you for the advice. It is much appreciated.

I would like to see this project become something of value to the community.

Pamela Muir

Founder/Lead Instructor
Academy of Chivalric Martial Arts


"I need a hero. I'm holding out for a hero 'til the end of the night. He's gotta be strong, And he's gotta be fast, And he's gotta be fresh from the fight." ~Steinman/Pitchford
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GG Osborne





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PostPosted: Mon 04 Apr, 2011 2:20 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The biggest problem I have with this theory - beyond the circumstantial illustrations - is that (historically) the devotion that is subscribed to the Rosary today and the Rosary in its present form is essentially a product of Spanish and French influenced 19th Century Catholicism. Certainly the Rosary existed before then having its origin in the "chotki" of the Eastern Church but the devotional aspect was not present in the 13th - 14th century nearly as much as today. Just a thought.
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Nathan Robinson
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PostPosted: Mon 04 Apr, 2011 2:32 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

GG Osborne wrote:
The biggest problem I have with this theory - beyond the circumstantial illustrations - is that (historically) the devotion that is subscribed to the Rosary today and the Rosary in its present form is essentially a product of Spanish and French influenced 19th Century Catholicism. Certainly the Rosary existed before then having its origin in the "chotki" of the Eastern Church but the devotional aspect was not present in the 13th - 14th century nearly as much as today. Just a thought.


This is a very good point. I can't recall seeing these symbols on sword blades pre-1450 and that's a generous statement in that I am struggling to remember anything pre-1520s. It's a very common thing to find on 16th century blades.

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Pamela Muir




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PostPosted: Mon 04 Apr, 2011 2:39 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I most certainly agree that these do not correspond to modern rosary devotions. As I said above, though, prayer beads were in Christian use well before the modern rosary. There certainly is no consistency to the number of lines and dots in these engraving patterns and thus certainly do not correspond to modern devotional decade recitations. We are using the term "rosarial swords" to illustrate to a modern audience what these symbols may mean. We could have also called them "Paternoster swords." Happy
Pamela Muir

Founder/Lead Instructor
Academy of Chivalric Martial Arts


"I need a hero. I'm holding out for a hero 'til the end of the night. He's gotta be strong, And he's gotta be fast, And he's gotta be fresh from the fight." ~Steinman/Pitchford
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Pamela Muir




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PostPosted: Mon 04 Apr, 2011 2:53 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Oh, and it is also why we are hoping some myArmoury members might have come across period commentary or scholarly mention of this pattern. Until then, yes, the evidence is only circumstantial.
Pamela Muir

Founder/Lead Instructor
Academy of Chivalric Martial Arts


"I need a hero. I'm holding out for a hero 'til the end of the night. He's gotta be strong, And he's gotta be fast, And he's gotta be fresh from the fight." ~Steinman/Pitchford
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Don Stanko




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PostPosted: Mon 04 Apr, 2011 4:00 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I think its a plausible theory. I've seen the marks referred to as "anchor marks" but that never made sense to me. The rosary explanation does seem to fit better. The earliest blade I have depicting this mark is from about 1550
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Chad Arnow
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PostPosted: Mon 04 Apr, 2011 6:38 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Don's given me his okay to post these, so here they are. Included first is a hilt shot, then a closeup of the blade marking for each. Don can fill in the details on dating/origin/etc.


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Rosary1.jpg


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rosary2a.jpg


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rosary2.jpg


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rosary3a.jpg


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Rosary3.jpg


Happy

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Don Stanko




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PostPosted: Mon 04 Apr, 2011 7:31 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Chad your photos turned out great!

The first sword is published in Leslie Southwicks Priceguide to Antique Edged Weapons, page 90. Its listed as circa 1650, Northern European Broadsword. The second is a Crabclaw Hilted Italian Broadsword, the blade Made by Enrique Coel or otherwise known as Heinrich Koll. He was active from 1588 till 1610 ( a German Swordsmith who worked chiefly in Spain). The third one is a Semi Swept-hilted sword, circa 1580. I'm not sure who made the blade, its marked with saltires down the fuller, no name and a common makers mark. All of the weapons, to the best of my knowledge are complete, not composites.
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Christian Henry Tobler
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PostPosted: Mon 04 Apr, 2011 8:37 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hello Pamela et. al.,

Is there any data suggesting these are a German (or otherwise) phenomenon, and what stretch of time is covered? Like Nathan, I don't recall much in the way of pre-16th c., but how late do they go?

Yours,

Christian

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Chad Arnow
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PostPosted: Mon 04 Apr, 2011 8:48 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I like this theory, but haven't we seen some German swords with this? I know our modern concept of "Germany" doesn't accurately reflect the kind of independent city states making up some/all of that area, but I'd be surprised to see such a Catholic symbol from what we think of as a more Protestant-leaning area.

Of course, I could be way off-base. Perhaps there aren't many German examples of these or those examples come from non-Protestant "German" areas. Or maybe the Protestants maintained some connection to a rosary-like item.

Just a lot of speculation on this interesting topic. Happy

Happy

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Nathan Robinson
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PostPosted: Mon 04 Apr, 2011 8:56 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Many of the longswords including several in my post above are Bavarian / South German in origin.
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Pamela Muir




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PostPosted: Tue 05 Apr, 2011 6:10 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Chad and Don, thank you so much for your contribution!

Christian, I don't know the answer to your questions, which is one of the reasons I have been asking for help on this project. My contribution thus far has been to say, "Hey, that looks like a rosary!" and spending some wonderful hours in the Library of Congress looking through picture books and collecting images.

Pamela Muir

Founder/Lead Instructor
Academy of Chivalric Martial Arts


"I need a hero. I'm holding out for a hero 'til the end of the night. He's gotta be strong, And he's gotta be fast, And he's gotta be fresh from the fight." ~Steinman/Pitchford
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