Dennis v d Meent
Joined: 06 Apr 2014
|Posted: Thu 24 May, 2018 5:44 am Post subject: Order of the Dragon sword - missing details
In short: I'm commissioning a bladesmith to create a replica of KHM A 49, also known as 'ceremonial sword of the Order of the Dragon'.
I find the information provided on the KHM's object page ( http://www.khm.at/de/object/34a0f62cda/ ) rather limited.
The most important questions for me are:
1. the age of the sword: was the sword fashioned at once in the state that we have it now, or have parts of it been added/changed through the ages? And what year/decade would be most likely?
2. the words in the blade: [confusion starts here, prepare for long text]
The inscriptions “COLOMANVS.EPS” and “REX.HVNGARIE” are bothering me to no end.
“COLOMANVS.EPS” is medieval Latin for “Bishop Kálmán”. Kálmán, or Coloman (1317-1375), Bishop of Györ, Hungary, was the illegitimate son of Robert Karoly (1288-1342), also known as Charles I, King of Hungary(“REX.HUNGARIE”), or King Kálmán. Note that they are both known by the name of Kálmán. Both the father and his son died long before the foundation of the Society of the Dragon (1408). Why are their titles (“king of Hungary” and “Bishop Colomanus”) engraved in a sword that is believed to be made around 1433?
The Kunsthistorisches Museum of Vienna states on its object page for this sword that it believes this sword to date from around 1433, and attributes the sword to Sigismund I, who was King of Hungary from 1411 to 1415 and crowned emperor of the Holy Roman Empire on 31 May 1433 by Pope Eugenius IV in Rome. After the coronation, Sigismund I knighted many lords and knights on his journey homewards to the Order of the Dragon. Even though the Society of the Dragon was initiated by Sigismund in 1408, it was only until 24th of July 1433, 25 years since its founding but only two months after his coronation, that the Order of the Dragon’s constitution was approved by the same pope.
Wendelin Boeheim argued in her works from 1894 on the KHM's collection that due to the gilded etching “it can hardly be made before 1500; but it proves that even then the blade itself was considered to be so old as to be attributed to the named king [Coloman], who ruled from 1095 to 1114. Age of the handle about 1505; it is probably Venetian work.”
This statement must be incorrect, as COLOMANVS.EPS refers to the bishop and not to King Coloman the Book-Lover (1070 - 1116).
The KHM describes the etching of the blade as ‘extremely early and therefore most likely to originate from Northern Italy’.
The Franklin society states that the sword must have been a gift from Charles I to his son Coloman, or that the artist who made the etchings in Bishop Coloman’s sword added the REX part by mistake as it was actually just meant for the bishop and not for his father King Coloman.
Neither of these three stories can connect the choice for the names of the inscription with the exact age of the sword.
Another question that remains in relation to the age of the sword, is the shape of the blade. When referring to Oakeshott’s typology, which, truth be told, is not my field of expertise, it may be an XIV at earliest, or an XXII at latest. Both types have a short yet wide blade, tapering to a point. The XXII’s fuller style is seen on the original sword: twin short fullers, covering perhaps 1/4th of the blade’s surface.
And I won't even start about the eared pommel...
When I put the pieces together, I find the following to be a plausible scenario:
Charles I, King of Hungary, gave a sword to his son the bishop, but perhaps not in the form that we know the sword today. The bishop died, the sword remained within the Church and was at some point sent to Rome.
Almost sixty years later, upon the coronation of Sigismund I, the pope presented to Sigismund the sword that once belonged to his predecessor-King of Hungary. The sword may have been ‘upgraded’ with gilded etchings spelling REX.HVNGARIE COLOMANVS.EPS to underline the historical ties between the King of Hungary and the Church. The same may go for the dragon-shaped crossguard, as Sigismund must have informed the Pope about the Order of the Dragon. After all, the Order was of great importance to the Catholic Church, as it served as a ‘European border defense’ against the attacks of the Ottoman Empire.
The Pope must have undoubtedly been willing to affirm his support with such a lavish and symbolic gift. Eugene IV was known to have great interest in art and learning; in 1431 he re-established the Studium Urbis university in Rome (now Sapienza University), and he consecrated Florence Cathedral on 25 March 1436. His artistic interests may have led to the very modern design of this sword, if he was involved in its shaping at all.
Sigismund I accepted the sword and may have used it as a ceremonial sword within the Order of the Dragon, starting from the moment he journeyed back home after the coronation.
Mind you - this is just a scenario that came to my mind, based on the sources I have at my availability. It is most likely that I am far away from the truth. Any and all input regarding the history of this sword is more than welcome!
Fronti Nulla Fides & Knights of Frisia re-enactor from The Netherlands.