The Doge Sword
(About): A Battle-Ready Renaissance Arming Sword on the Cusp of the Age of Gunpowder
In many ways, the Venetians were the inheritors of Rome. Wealthy and opulent, their city-state played a critical part in Eastern Mediterranean politics throughout the medieval era. They also inherited the Romans’ dogged suspicion of monarchy. The Venetian Republic was one of very few states in Middle Ages Europe to be steadfastly republican, electing its head of state, the Doge, and forbidding them to choose a successor. Yes, this was a post for life, and the electorate consisted only of the Venetian nobility. But this unique polity explains why Venice was at the forefront of the mercantile revolution and the burgeoning Renaissance of the 15th century.
In the armory of the Doge’s Palace, the surviving buildings of which mostly date from that same era, there is a brace of very unusual swords. Straddling the medieval arming sword and the Renaissance spada da lato or side-sword, they caught the imaginations of Darksword Armory’s master smiths. They have hand-forged a spectacular reproduction of these Venetian swords, and we bring it to you here: The Doge Sword.
The Cut and the Thrust of It
The blade of our Doge Sword is a stunning example of a Renaissance cut-and-thrust type that became extremely popular amongst men-at-arms in the 15th-century CE – this configuration conforms to Type XVIII in Oakeshott’s sword typology. The edges of this blade taper subtly until the final quarter of the blade, where they come together to a point of intermediate length. It is a reasonably wide blade at around 1 7/8th inches at the forte, especially when compared to later rapiers that were usually less than an inch at the widest. Yet it retains a very effective cutting point. This immediately marks it out as a sword designed to balance between effective cuts and powerful thrusts. This was the perfect sword for a Renaissance swordsman who would face a motley assortment of armors on the battlefield: from unarmored levies in stout cloth, to mercenaries clad in an assortment of chainmail and plate, to fully-armored knights in glorious harnesses of shining ‘white’ armor. At Medieval Ware, we have endeavoured to provide roleplayers and re-enactors with an excellent range of different types of armor – and this is perfect for depicting early Renaissance warfare, since you can mix and match to your heart’s content! With a cut-and-thrust sword, a warrior would always be able to pose some kind of threat. The blade of our Doge Sword is ‘hollow-ground’, its cross-section forming a slightly concave diamond. This gives the blade a ‘spine’, a distinctive mid-rib, that lends the blade stiffness and excellent resilience. Darksword Armory’s expert makers have hand-forged this Venetian sword blade from 5160 spring steel, hardened to a rugged 60 HRc at the edges, with a more flexible 48-50 HRc in the core for flex and resilience.
A Uniquely Venetian Hilt
The hilt of our Doge Sword is a fantastic historical insight into the arming sword as it gave way to the Renaissance side-sword and the rapier. It is made from hardy mild steel. In its design, it is an early forerunner of the swept-hilt seen later in the 16th century. The cross-guard has a long knuckle-guard protecting the hand, as well as a branch or ‘finger ring’ extending up to the blade. The finger ring was a well-established innovation in the sword world by the 15th century, allowing a wielder to hook their finger over the guard without fear of damage, permitting a greater degree of accuracy and control of the blade. The grip is a shouldered hexagonal single-hand grip, wrapped in oxblood leather. The spectacular pommel finishes this sword magnificently: we at Medieval Ware know of no other swords that reproduce this type; as far as we know, the ones in the Doge’s Palace armory are unique. The hilt has been constructed with a full-tang, hot-peened construction, where all of the hilt components are secured firmly to the tail of the blade. This means it is a fully functional, battle-ready weapon that will stand up admirably to light combat, re-enactment and roleplay. In terms of its handling, this weapon must be felt to be believed: these weapons were designed to be agile and swift to defeat the weapons of their opponents, and Darksword have captured this lightness with aplomb, especially for such a long single-handed blade.
This sword is a jaw-dropper. Its bewitching, unusual stylings that straddle the medieval and the Renaissance are unlike anything we’ve seen for sale, and the outrageous pommel style hits at Venice’s connections with the master smiths of the East. It would be a fantastic weapon for an authentic re-enactment of a Renaissance swordsman. But its style is so unique that it would be an excellent counterpart for a fantasy roleplay outfit. You could even pair it with our range of magical fantasy elfin armor. Could it be the sword of an exotic sword-dancer? Or a king’s gift from a far-off land? You decide!
(Curiosity): The Cut and Thrust Sword
By this era, large wooden shields had been almost completely discarded in Western Europe; poorly equipped levies would wield long pikes or halberds in close formations to keep enemies at bay, whereas the wealthy had plate armor to defend themselves. Thus, a cut-and-thrust sword would often be paired with a ‘buckler’, a small metal guard resembling a shield boss that could be used to ward off incoming blows and to deliver percussive punches. The tactical use of the cut-and-thrust sword had become a subsidiary one, a move away from the earlier frontline mainstay of knights wielding medieval arming swords. Amidst formations wielding pikes that were as long as 20 feet or more in length squaring off against one another, there was little point placing soldiers with three-foot-long swords in the van. Rather, men-at-arms with cut-and-thrust swords could be used as shock troops when pikes were deadlocked. The famous Spanish rodeleros (also known as the ‘sword and buckler men’) of the late 15th century were briefly kings of battlefield: at the Battle of Ravenna in 1512 they were deployed against German Landsknecht pikemen to devastating effect at close quarters as they were entangled in Spanish entrenchments. However, as the 16th century advanced, there was less and less place for the cut-and-thrust sword amidst combined formations of pike and shot – these magnificent Renaissance weapons gradually transformed into the side-sword and the slender rapier of the Early Modern era.
Total length: 40 inches
Blade length: 32 ½ inches
Blade width: 1.85 inches
Blade material: 5160 carbon steel
Blade hardness: 60 HRc at edge ; 48-50 HRc at core
Guard and pommel material: Mild steel
Grip material: Leather
Weight: 2 lbs. 10 oz.