Cinquedea Shortsword

  • Dated: early 16th century
  • Culture: Italian
  • Measurements: blade length 57cm (22 1/2 inches)

The sword has a broad flat tapering blade formed with a pair of near full-length shallow fullers and a slender central flat on each face and decorated on each side with pairs of engraved roundels including the figure of Marcus Curtius leaping into the abyss.

The forte us engraved on the respective faces with a panel of scrolling foliage above the Judgement of Paris and a classical triumph. The panels are divided by the central slender flat engraved with the inscription ‘Virtus Omnia Vincit’ (Virtue Conquers All) on one side and ‘In Domino Confido’ (In God I trust) on the other. The forte decoration has traces of original gilding.

The iron hilt comprising arched quillons is engraved with classical profile roundels flanked together by a Pegasus to either side and scrolling renaissance foliage. The shaped tang is enclosed by a pair of gilt panels chased with the inscription ‘Nunquam Potest Non’ and ‘Esse Virtuti Locus’ (there must ever be a place for virtue).

The grip has on each side a shaped ivory panel over a horn fillet (both cracked and chipped, the ivory and horn perhaps later), the former being engraved with a laurel swag, pierced with four holes of differing size and each fitted with a brass collar, and three retaining their tracery rondels on each side (one missing).

The inscription around the tang is a quotation from Lucius Annaeus Seneca’s Medea. The form of the blade is similar to a cinquedea preserved in the Musée de l’ Armée, Paris (inv. no. MA J 34). For related examples see L. G. Boccia & E. T. Coelho 1975, nos. 190-238 and C. Blair 1966.

Source: Copyright © 2014 Thomas del Mar



[ ESSAY ] The Ongoing Challenge of Modern Sword Design and Sword Making

I’m neither a bladesmith nor sword-maker in any way whatsoever. I’m in awe of those who can take metal ore and through fire and sweat turn it into a fine example of my favorite of historical weapons. Students of the craft such as myself would be stuck using sticks and props if it wasn’t for the efforts of sword fabricators and bladesmiths.

Given what I do, though, I’m asked quite regularly to comment about modern sword design and sword-making. I refrain from making endorsements about reproductions and prefer to only make recommendations in person to my students and guild members about pieces of which I have personal experience.

I really can’t address the quality or work of commercial swordsmiths because their personal handmade pieces are simply outside the affordability of 99% of students and enthusiasts. Because of this, their work, in my opinion, simply never gets properly tested in the manner it should—that is, by skilled athletic practitioners who know how the originals should perform and function.

On top of this, I’m not qualified to address issues of metallurgy or tempering, but only characteristics of performance and handling in regard to shape and overall dimensions. My foremost concern is always how they relate to the proper dealing and warding of blows. I like to think the same was true for how historical swordsmen considered these objects.

That being said, there are a number of modern master swordsmiths who I greatly admire for their knowledge, craftsmanship, integrity, and dedication to their art. Yet, since I don’t own any of their hand-made pieces (nor have I been able to evaluate them in the manner I want), I can’t say how accurate any particular sword of theirs truly is.

Therefore, the only advice I can give my fellow arms enthusiast and connoisseur of historical swords is to recommend those manufacturers who produce decent quality machine-made replicas that are a good value for the money.

Even then, as their products and methods change from year to year, unless I handle everything I cannot say for sure whether for any given model what they make now is as good as what they made a few years ago or if it will be as reliable a year from now. This isn’t what people want to hear, I know, but the matter is more complicated than generally imagined.

I’ve been fortunate in that I’ve probably handled more historical swords than nearly any other serious practitioner alive today and I’ve actually practiced and even done cutting experiments with several authentic pieces. I also do a tremendous amount of cutting experiments with modern replicas on all sorts of accurate target materials.

That, combined with my long study of the genuine fencing methods, is what informs my views. That being said, in the same regard as the historical fighting man, who knew nothing about chemistry, temperature, trace elements, or reprocessing iron, but only what worked in a fine blade, I myself cannot address the science of it. I’m not a craftsman nor metallurgist nor smith; just a swordsman.


Source: Copyright © 2014 The Association for Renaissance Martial Arts