Imperial Sword (Sword of St. Maurice)

Unknownscabbard: 2nd half of 11th century - Sword: 1198/1218

Treasury, Kunsthistorisches Museum Wien

Treasury, Kunsthistorisches Museum Wien
Vienna, Austria

The magnificent scabbard of this sword was probably produced
around 1084 in Italy for the coronation of Emperor Henry IV. Each
side depicts seven crowned figures, thus creating a series of fourteen kings
and emperors. This was apparently done to illustrate the continuous
sequence of rulers from Charlemagne to Henry III, which would be in
keeping with the tradition of the Salian emperors. However, the number
fourteen, i.e., twice the sacred number seven, could also have symbolic
meaning. In any case, the arrangement and orientation of these rulers,
chased in gold foil, clearly indicates that at festive occasions the Imperial
Sword was meant to be carried ahead of the ruler with its tip pointing
upwards. On both sides the cross-guard of the sword bears Latin inscriptions, which are taken from the laudes, hymns of praise sung after the
coronation. The pommel of the sword shows a coat of arms with the imperial eagle and the coat of arms of Emperor Otto IV (reigned 1198–1218). The design of the sword and the details of the inscriptions suggest that the weapon was created when he was count of Poitou and duke of Aquitaine in France. Thus the sword might have already been used when he was crowned Roman king in Aachen in 1198. For the scabbard, however, the magnificent golden sheath from Salian times was used.
From the 14th century onwards, the weapon was regarded as the sword
of the imperial patron saint Maurice (Latin: Mauritius), the great
prototype of all warriors. © Masterpieces of the Secular Treasury, Edited by Wilfried Seipel, Vienna 2008


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