A 17th century masterpiece
by Jean Binck
The Schiavona came from the 16th century sword of the Venetian Doge guard which largely consisted of Dalmatian Slavs (Schiavoni).
This sword combined the full hand protection of a deep basket hilt made up of a number of connecting iron bars, and a very efficient blade that allowed both cut and thrust.
During the 17th century, due to the trade with northern Italy, the “Schiavona” won a wide popularity in other European armies as well. Fitted with a long blade, it became the favourite sword of the heavy cavalry.
Here is a description of such a sword which is the private property of a collector friend who kindly allowed me to take these pictures and to handle and measure this wonderful item.
The blade is straight, two-edged 932 mm long and 34 mm wide at the ricasso and 4.5 mm thick. It bears a maker mark on both sides that I could not identify.
The grip is covered with leather and has the typical flat “cat’s head” brass pommel both sides of which are ornamented.
The hilt is a complex assembly of iron bars which forms a basket 103 mm wide. On the inner side of the cross-guard is a iron thumb loop.
The sword is 1071 mm long and weighs 1125 grams.
By comparing with items in museums, there should be a leather cap attached to the cross-guard which covers the mouth of the scabbard when the sword is sheathed. This leather cap also protects the index finger that grips the cross-guard and rests against the edge of the blade, which would be painful if not protected.
On the examined item, this leather cap as well as the scabbard were missing.
I had the opportunity to handle the “schiavona”, and I can tell you that it is certainly not only a sword maker masterpiece, but also a magnificently well balanced and efficient soldier’s sword which certainly deserved its wide popularity among the 17th century cavalry.
WAGNER E. , Cut and Thrust Weapons, Hamlyn, UK (1969)
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Version: March 3, 2001