[hu]bs khaza'in al-silah bi-thaghr [al-iskanda]riyya ayyam al-a[mir] ...
'Donated to the armoury at the frontier city of Alexandria during the time of al-Amir ...'
This magnificent fourteenth century Crusader sword pertains to a group of European examples deposited in the Mamluk arsenal of Alexandria. The majority of these, as Ludvik Kalus notes, were donated during the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, and are mostly of typical form, with long double-edged blades, straight cross-guards and disc-shaped or wheel pommels (L. Kalus, 'Donations pieuses d'épées médiévales à l'arsenal d'Alexandrie', Revue des Études Islamiques, vol.I, Paris, 1982 (1991), p.1-174).
Though their original provenance is disputed, it has been suggested that they were taken in the aftermath of the final crusader attack on Alexandria, which was led by King Peter I in 1365. In any case, the presence of such weapons in the city is noted in a report by Guillebert de Lannoy. In 1422, travelling from Burgundy to procure information for a possible crusade, de Lannoy wrote: 'They have [at Alexandria] a house full of antique armour of the Christians; and all the modern which is presented to the Sultan, or won by him from the Christians, is deposited there' (Guillebert de Lannoy, 'A Survey of Egypt and Syria, undertaken in the year 1422, by Sir Gilbert de Lannoy', Rev. John Webb (tr.), in Archaelogia: or, Miscellaneous Tracts relating to Antiquity, vol. XXI, 1827, p.369).
Characteristically similar to the swords published by Kalus, the current lot falls under a sub-group of models with long grips, most of them now at the Military Museum in Istanbul (see D. Alexander, 'European Swords in the Collections of Istanbul Part I: Swords from the Arsenal of Alexandria', in Waffen und Kostümkunde, vol.27, 1985, pp.81-118). Its inscription, engraved on the forte, is only partly legible and the name following the word "a[mir]" cannot be authoritatively deciphered. It is important, however, to note that a very similar sword has been interpreted as bearing the name of Amir Faris al-Muhammad and is one of three Alexandria Arsenal examples now housed at Leeds Castle. Nonetheless, no other related inscriptions with the name Faris are recorded by Kalus in his article (Kalus, op.cit., 1982).
Attention can also be drawn to the gold inlaid maker's mark, which is also visible on the forte and could suggest that the blade is of German origin. Yet the possibility of Italian manufacture must not be dismissed, as a similar knightly sword with an analogous grip now in the Nasser D. Khalili Collection in London is considered to have probably been made in Milan (see D. Alexander, The Arts of War, London, 1992, no.31, pp.76-8).
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