A question about two handed swords.
So I've been doing some research recently on the development of the renaissance two handed sword from the more familiar longswords/bastard swords of the 14th and 15th centuries.

One interesting piece of information that I've come across is from chapter 7 of Ewart Oakshotte's book "European Weapons and Armour: From the Renaissance to the Industrial Revolution". But It left me with more questions than answers.

In the passage Ewart suggests that the parrying lugs on renaissance two handers possibly developed from the early 15th century spanish espadon, and then describes a surviving example which sounds to me like a description of an iberian montante - that is "a grip and cross very long in proportion to the blade, a long ricasso and parrierhaken" while only being as long as a contemporary "War Sword". This example is apparently now in the Royal Armoury of Madrid.

This is interesting because it suggests a 15th century sword with all the characteristics of weapons only really dated from the renaissance, this is made even more interesting when he describes a "Bastard sword" dated to 1450 with two parrying lugs below the ricasso which is now at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto.

I was wondering if anybody here has experience with any of these "Transitional" examples of weapons or even photographs of the exhibits described here. And if anybody can shed some light on this passage.

On a side note, what is the consensus on the development of the more dramatic zweihanders, as Oakshotte here suggests that swords first gained the stylistic characteristics such as the large cross/grip and parrying lugs before attaining the huge size of some later examples. With Montante/Spadones being representative of the earlier styles of this sword leading into the large Landknecht weapons that are more well known.
Re: A question about two handed swords.
Kristian Vrahlioti wrote:
This is interesting because it suggests a 15th century sword with all the characteristics of weapons only really dated from the renaissance, this is made even more interesting when he describes a "Bastard sword" dated to 1450 with two parrying lugs below the ricasso which is now at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto.

I've visited this museum more than once and don't recall any sword that fits this description...

The parrying lugs definitely appear in the 15th century however, but Oakeshott has neglected to mention the best proof of this. The Real Armeria possesses several "blessed swords" - ceremonial swords awarded by the pope to various nobles in recognition or encouragement of good deeds in defense of Christendom. The inscription on one blade indicates that it was given by Pope Callixtus III to King Enrique IV of Castile in 1458. The blade has the parrying lugs, however the hilt is completely lost - though it would have been of two-handed length judging from the length of the tang.

Callixtus III was himself a Spaniard, or more properly, a Catalan - the first Borgia pope, ruling between 1455-58. Documents in the Vatican Archive record that the sword for Enrique IV (and others) were manufactured in Rome by the "Catalan goldsmiths" - two artisans brought or summoned by Callixtus, who continued working for the papal court long after his death. As they are always specifically described as "goldsmiths" it is possible (likely?) that they were only responsible for the golden hilt and gilded inscription on the sword, and the blade itself might have been locally sourced.

The sword in the the Real Armeria that Oakeshott refers to (if I have guessed correctly) has a blade which is essentially identical to Enrique's, only plain and without any inscription. The two swords even have the same maker's mark, but there is no way of knowing for sure if it indicates a Spanish or Italian origin. A very similar two-handed sword appears in an altarpiece in Sardinia painted probably in the 1490's. This painting is attributed to the Master of Castelsardo - thought to be Italian, but Catalan-influenced. Note as well that in the 15th century Sardinia was ruled from Spain, being a possession of the kingdom of Aragon.

Just in this short discussion we can see that weapons, craftsmen, and influences were crossing between Spain and Italy pretty freely... I suspect that wherever the parrying lugs first appeared, distinguishing whether they are a "Spanish" or "Italian" feature may not be very meaningful.

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Thank you for illuminating me on the subject. I've been digging for a while but had found no provenance aside from the vague "Montante existed from the late 15th well into the 17th century". So your information about Pope Callixtus was much appreciated and very interesting.

Unfortunately I haven't had the opportunity to visit many continental museums having only been to the Royal Armouries Collection in Leeds and the Tower of London Royal Armouries. These I found to be quite lacking in 15th century swords compared to other collections I've seen. Another thing I've noticed is that due to the renaissance creeping on at different rates in Europe starting in the 15th century there's often a lot of confusion in dating arms and armour from that period, as it's chock full of transitional styles and various regional differences that can muddy things.

I wasn't trying to imply however that there was a definitive country of origin for these styles, just trying to find dating information for them prior to the usual 1530s date that's given to a lot of earlier looking two handed swords.
Hi Kristian, if you are interested in 2-handed swords you may like to know that a book specifically on the history, design and use of the 2-handed sword is due to be published next autumn, which may answer your questions.
Neil
Really? Where might this be found? I'd be interested also. :) .....McM
This book is due to be published next autumn, september-ish 2018, in the U.K. by Pen & Sword. Their books seem to be widely available, even in Texas! Keep your eye on their web site.
Neil
Will do---most certainly. Thanks, Neil! :) ........McM

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