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Object Title

Sword (Messer) - Grosse Messer

Sword (Messer) - Grosse Messer

Date

about 1500

Object Number

IX.634

Physical Description

The grip is formed from two pieces of wood, riveted on either side of the tang. The tang is ‘full width’ although appears to taper very slightly. The wood was originally covered in leather, small traces of which remain. A the end of the grip the wooden grip plates curved round to form as ‘beaked’ pommel, now broken off. There is some evidence that a cap once covered this pommel (see below). The wooden grip plates are held to the tang by three large rivets, the circular heads of which are engraved with a five-petalled flower (thee of the original six rivet heads are now missing). There is on additional large rivet (or seemingly later date) which shows evidence of having had circular heads. The Rotunda number 14:8 is painted on the grip and there is also a Woolwich Arsenal stamp.
The quillons and quillons block are forged in a single piece and attached to the blade by a single rivet passing through the centre of the quillon block. The forward quillon curved towards the hand to form a detached knuckle-guard, becoming flattened and spatulate in the plane of the blade edge, and terminating on a single scroll turn. The rear quillon curved toward the blade, and then form a short S-bend, with the terminal in the shape of a serpent’s head. There are etched Tudor roses at the centre of the quillon block, from which spring foliage scrolls, covering the entire surfaces of the quillons.
The curved, single edged blade has a shallow fuller running along its spine/back edge for two-thirds of its length. It is stamped four times on the outer face of the blade, three together on the forte and a fourth about a third from the tip. These marks appear repetitious, although if so the third is mis-struck. Towards the hilt is an etched and gilt panel containing on the outer face, St. Catherine, with wheel and sword; and on the other St. Barbara, with palm and tower. The etching is crude.

Featured in

Techniques

Etched, Gilding

Dimensions

OverallDepth3 mm
OverallLength1219 mm
OverallWeight1.46 kg
OverallWidth22 mm
BladeLength991 mm

Inscriptions and Marks

14:8 [Rotunda number]Outside face of grip
Painted
St. Barbara, with palm and towerInner face of forte
Etched and gilded
St. Catherine, with wheel and swordOuter face of forte
Etched and gilded
Maker`s mark
Three squares, with elongated corners, each containing a circle. The last circle appears like a crecent (possibly it has been mis-struck, if the marks are meant to be the same). These are on the forte. A fourth mark of the same form is 1/3 of the way from the tip.
Outer face of blade
stamped
Woolwich Aresnal stamp

Bibliographic References

G Rimer, T Richardson and J P D Cooper, Henry VIII: arms and the man, Leeds, 2009, p.223

Officaial Catalogue of the Museum of Artillery in the Rotunda, Woolwich, p.136, class XIV/8

J. Hewitt, `Unique example of a sabre with a finger-guard, of the beginning of the sixteenth century`, in The Archaeological Journal, Vol. XIX (1862), pp. 318-322.

J.B.L. Carre, Panoplie, ou, Reunion de tout ce qui a trait a la Guerre depuis l'origine de la nation francaise jusqu'a nos jours, Paris (1783, but published 1795), Plate V, figure F.

A.R Dufty, European Swords & Daggers in the Tower of London, HMSO 1974, Plate 35, figure a & Plate 108 (marks)

C. Blair, European & American Arms, London 1962, plate 158.

Notes

The appearance of the weapon in Carré was unknown to Hewitt and to the Woolwich catalogue. This suggests that it was then in the Musée d’Artillerie, Paris, which provided most of Carré’s material. It almost certainly came to Woolwich in 1815 as part of the consignment of arms taken from Paris by the allies. The list of arms taken included 18 ancient swords and sabres, but this particular piece was not listed separately (WO 44/616). Weapons of this type are frequently shown in Flemish and South German illustrations of the period c.1490-1520, and then style of engraving may reasonably be compared with Flemish work of the period (e.g. on the Silvered & Engraved armour, II.5). The bladesmith’s mark is noted on the paper catalogue as “being an extremely common one, apparently used by several different smiths, including some at Solingen”. This needs substantiating (HY, 2020).
Hewitt in 1862 suggests the presence of St Catherine may be a reference to Katherin of Aragon. This possible connection to Henry VIII and Katherine is possibly supported by roses decoration and fact that a very similar weapon to IX.634 is engraved on the `silvered and engraved armour`, II.5, the decoration of which commemorates the marriage of Henry and Katherine.
In Carré’s 1783 drawing it is shown with a cap over the beaked ‘pommel’, but this is now missing. However, the grip indicates that the leather covering of the wood did not include the ‘pommel’, supporting the accuracy of Carré’s drawing.
Transferred from the Rotunda, Woolwich, 1927.

Thumbnail image of Sabre about 1500. IX.634
Thumbnail image of Sabre about 1500. IX.634
Thumbnail image of Sword (Messer) - Grosse Messer Large sword of Messer type and hand-and-a-half size: Grosse Messer; Langes Messer; Kriegs Messer.
Curved, flat grip; recurved quillons and long, curved, single-edged blade.
Thumbnail image of Sword (Messer) - Grosse Messer Large sword of Messer type and hand-and-a-half size: Grosse Messer; Langes Messer; Kriegs Messer.
Curved, flat grip; recurved quillons and long, curved, single-edged blade.
Thumbnail image of Sword (Messer) - Grosse Messer Large sword of Messer type and hand-and-a-half size: Grosse Messer; Langes Messer; Kriegs Messer.
Curved, flat grip; recurved quillons and long, curved, single-edged blade.
Thumbnail image of Sword (Messer) - Grosse Messer Large sword of Messer type and hand-and-a-half size: Grosse Messer; Langes Messer; Kriegs Messer.
Curved, flat grip; recurved quillons and long, curved, single-edged blade.
Thumbnail image of Sword (Messer) - Grosse Messer Large sword of Messer type and hand-and-a-half size: Grosse Messer; Langes Messer; Kriegs Messer.
Curved, flat grip; recurved quillons and long, curved, single-edged blade.