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Forum Index > Historical Arms Talk > Reversed Cross-guards? Reply to topic
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Joshua Waters




Location: South Carolina
Joined: 15 Dec 2013

Posts: 37

PostPosted: Sat 17 Jan, 2015 6:42 pm    Post subject: Reversed Cross-guards?         Reply with quote

Hello all,

I was examining 12th and 13th century manuscript illustrations when I noticed something odd about the cross-guards on a few of the swords depicted in some illustrations. The curve of the cross-guards on these swords are reversed towards the hilt, I find this very unusual. I wouldn't have thought much of it, except for the illustrations are from different manuscripts and times. I used the forums search function, but was unable to find anything about them, and Google wasn't helpful either.
I can't find any records of cross-guards like these, only these illustrations.

Does anyone know anything of cross-guards like these actually existing at those times? Or were they mistakes and/or fantasy's of the illustrators?

I also think cross-guards like that would be rather hindering with combat, and not practical at all.

Here are the links to the images:

http://manuscriptminiatures.com/4112/12074/

http://manuscriptminiatures.com/5006/15600/

http://manuscriptminiatures.com/5006/15592/

http://manuscriptminiatures.com/4449/11129/

http://manuscriptminiatures.com/4107/12197/

http://manuscriptminiatures.com/4748/10694/

http://manuscriptminiatures.com/5571/19850/

Thanks for looking.

Benedictus Dominus Deus meus.
Qui docet manus meas ad prŠlium, et digitos meos ad bellum.

Deus vult!
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J.D. Crawford




Location: Toronto
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PostPosted: Sat 17 Jan, 2015 7:55 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Those certainly are perplexing pieces of work. I don't recall seeing an existing specimen with a reverse curved cross from that period of European history. I believe it is seen later in the 15th century Swiss degen.

I've never handled such a sword, but expect it would only work with a 'handshake' grip and be more suitable for thrusting than chopping motions. This again seems out of place for the style of sword blade we associate with the 12th and 13th centuries.
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Mart Shearer




Location: Jackson, MS, USA
Joined: 18 Aug 2012

Posts: 1,276

PostPosted: Sat 17 Jan, 2015 10:13 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Many of the early basilards seem to have the same guard as the later Schweizerdegen.
http://manuscriptminiatures.com/4748/10671/

I'd noticed that feature in the ONB Bible before, but it seems to me the artist has a tendency to show the guards canted toward the point when sheathed, and towards the pommel when drawn.
http://manuscriptminiatures.com/search/?manuscript=4748

ferrum ferro acuitur et homo exacuit faciem amici sui
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Matthew Amt




Location: Laurel, MD, USA
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PostPosted: Sun 18 Jan, 2015 6:41 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

My guess is that a lot of these illustrations are Bible stories, or from ancient history. The first one is certainly the Sleeping Guards at the tomb of Christ, for instance. So the hilt shapes could just be details that the artist is trying to make look "archaic" or "Biblical". You'll also see things like unusual shield shapes, odd helmets, etc. It's probably best not to treat them as "real" objects.

Matthew
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Chad Arnow
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PostPosted: Sun 18 Jan, 2015 7:16 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

We discussed this a few years back: http://myArmoury.com/talk/viewtopic.php?t=18390 . Weird-looking stuff for sure.
Happy

ChadA

http://chadarnow.com/
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Mart Shearer




Location: Jackson, MS, USA
Joined: 18 Aug 2012

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PostPosted: Sun 18 Jan, 2015 8:53 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Matthew Amt wrote:
My guess is that a lot of these illustrations are Bible stories, or from ancient history. The first one is certainly the Sleeping Guards at the tomb of Christ, for instance. So the hilt shapes could just be details that the artist is trying to make look "archaic" or "Biblical". You'll also see things like unusual shield shapes, odd helmets, etc. It's probably best not to treat them as "real" objects.

Matthew


A lot of medieval art is dedicated to religious illustrations or ancient histories. That in itself can hardly be cause for disqualifying the images, or we'd have precious little left. If it is an attempt to show some ancient or "other" figure, there are usually other indications as you note. None of these appear in the Siegburg Lectionary miniature. Round top kite shields, half sleeved mail byrnies, and what are likely "Phrygian" style helmets all seem quite normal for the period in Europe. There are no oddly shaped shields, pteruges, scale armors, or other odd features to be seen in that miniature.

Further, if these reversed guards are an attempt to show some foreign or "other" figure as the symbol of evil, what Byzantine, Islamic, or Slavic sword has reversed guards and would serve as a model?

ferrum ferro acuitur et homo exacuit faciem amici sui
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Matthew Amt




Location: Laurel, MD, USA
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PostPosted: Sun 18 Jan, 2015 11:48 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Mart Shearer wrote:
Matthew Amt wrote:
My guess is that a lot of these illustrations are Bible stories, or from ancient history. The first one is certainly the Sleeping Guards at the tomb of Christ, for instance. So the hilt shapes could just be details that the artist is trying to make look "archaic" or "Biblical". You'll also see things like unusual shield shapes, odd helmets, etc. It's probably best not to treat them as "real" objects.

Matthew


A lot of medieval art is dedicated to religious illustrations or ancient histories. That in itself can hardly be cause for disqualifying the images, or we'd have precious little left. If it is an attempt to show some ancient or "other" figure, there are usually other indications as you note. None of these appear in the Siegburg Lectionary miniature. Round top kite shields, half sleeved mail byrnies, and what are likely "Phrygian" style helmets all seem quite normal for the period in Europe. There are no oddly shaped shields, pteruges, scale armors, or other odd features to be seen in that miniature.

Further, if these reversed guards are an attempt to show some foreign or "other" figure as the symbol of evil, what Byzantine, Islamic, or Slavic sword has reversed guards and would serve as a model?


All good points! It was just a guess, not based on any serious research, though I've certainly seen "archaisms" and "errors" before. It's the kind of thing I'd prefer to have a good archeological example on before saying anything more firm than "*maybe*..."

Matthew
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Mart Shearer




Location: Jackson, MS, USA
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PostPosted: Sun 18 Jan, 2015 5:34 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

J.D. Crawford wrote:
I've never handled such a sword, but expect it would only work with a 'handshake' grip and be more suitable for thrusting than chopping motions. This again seems out of place for the style of sword blade we associate with the 12th and 13th centuries.


Perhaps our understanding of 12th and early 13th century sword usage is inaccurate? The I.33 manuscript only shows up around 1300, but how much earlier can the techniques be traced? Perhaps more "thrust and slice" and less "chop" is usable with a "reversed" guard.

ferrum ferro acuitur et homo exacuit faciem amici sui
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Luka Borscak




Location: Croatia
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PostPosted: Mon 19 Jan, 2015 2:27 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Mart Shearer wrote:
J.D. Crawford wrote:
I've never handled such a sword, but expect it would only work with a 'handshake' grip and be more suitable for thrusting than chopping motions. This again seems out of place for the style of sword blade we associate with the 12th and 13th centuries.


Perhaps our understanding of 12th and early 13th century sword usage is inaccurate? The I.33 manuscript only shows up around 1300, but how much earlier can the techniques be traced? Perhaps more "thrust and slice" and less "chop" is usable with a "reversed" guard.


Than it would be logical we see more XIV's with downturned guard. But we don't. Neither in archeology or manuscripts. And not just XIV's, any swords of that period...
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Mark Griffin




Location: The Welsh Marches, in the hills above Newtown, Powys.
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PostPosted: Mon 19 Jan, 2015 4:13 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

new I'd seen at least 1 english effigy with a rear facing guard..

https://www.flickr.com/photos/roelipilami/1553601092/in/photostream/

and it only took me 2 hours to find! :-)

Currently working on projects ranging from Elizabethan pageants to a WW1 Tank, Victorian fairgrounds 1066 events and more. Oh and we joust loads!.. We run over 250 events for English Heritage each year plus many others for Historic Royal Palaces, Historic Scotland, the National Trust and more. If you live in the UK and are interested in working for us just drop us a line with a cv.
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Mikko Kuusirati




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PostPosted: Mon 19 Jan, 2015 6:53 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Mark Griffin wrote:
new I'd seen at least 1 english effigy with a rear facing guard..

https://www.flickr.com/photos/roelipilami/1553601092/in/photostream/

and it only took me 2 hours to find! :-)

Interesting!

Of course, it's not a very naturalistic depiction of a sword - IMO the artist clearly made it up based on his mental images of swords rather than reproducing an actual, specific sword.

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Luka Borscak




Location: Croatia
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PostPosted: Mon 19 Jan, 2015 8:40 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Such a guard which is basically straight and with just ends bent down makes much more sense functionally than if it was bent along the whole length.
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Joshua Waters




Location: South Carolina
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PostPosted: Tue 20 Jan, 2015 12:38 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

After reading all the the posts, and the link to the other article that Chad posted, guards like these seem to appear rarely in illustrations throughout the middle ages, and not just a small period.
I am very curious as to how one would fight with a guard like that, without it jabbing you in the wrist, and fowling up blade technique. I had one theory as to how they could be used. Maybe a type XI sword with a reversed cross-guard would have been used with a handshake grip for slashing attacks from horseback against unarmored foes?
I would think of them as an early form of civilian use sword, except almost all of the figures in the illustrations are armored, and not in casual garb, and there are no records from that time that come to my mind that mention anything like that.
I don't really think they would have been trusting weapons because a lot of the images come from before trusting swords like the XIV came into use, and type X's, XI's and XII's would not have been useful as a predominantly thrusting focused weapon.

Benedictus Dominus Deus meus.
Qui docet manus meas ad prŠlium, et digitos meos ad bellum.

Deus vult!
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Bryan Heff




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PostPosted: Tue 20 Jan, 2015 2:31 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Even with a hand shake grip, I still don't get why on earth you would design a cross facing the "wrong" direction. At least just go with a straight guard Happy . I am just trying to understand what a rear facing guard buys you besides bad ergonomics...I can't think of one thing.
The church is near but the roads are icy. The tavern is far but I will walk carefully. - Russian Proverb
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Mark Griffin




Location: The Welsh Marches, in the hills above Newtown, Powys.
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PostPosted: Wed 21 Jan, 2015 12:35 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Only one way to find out I suppose. Maybe one of our esteemed smithing colleagues could knock up a basic one and wave it about a bit with some learned friends...
Currently working on projects ranging from Elizabethan pageants to a WW1 Tank, Victorian fairgrounds 1066 events and more. Oh and we joust loads!.. We run over 250 events for English Heritage each year plus many others for Historic Royal Palaces, Historic Scotland, the National Trust and more. If you live in the UK and are interested in working for us just drop us a line with a cv.
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Mßrk Gy÷rgy Kis





Joined: 02 Jul 2013

Posts: 25

PostPosted: Wed 21 Jan, 2015 1:12 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

We have a few Byzantine depictions after the Millennium, and a few more around 13-14th c. Surely an Eastern feature.
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