A Slavic sword for a Maltese Corsair

Malta Maritime Museum

and an international conglomeration of Corsairs

When the Order of St. John arrived on the island they set about in turning the Maltese harbour into a base for commerce raiders. It was simple, get men and women interested in contributing money to buy a ship, arm it with cannons and weapons, recruit a captain and crew, buy food for the crew and unleash your private warship onto Ottoman shipping. Plundered Ottoman, Egyptian, Tripolitan, Tunisian and Algerian shipping was dragged back to the island and sold off at auction. Eventually it would be trans-shipped to Europe.

Slaves, cinnamon, saffron, coffee, rice, damask, pepper were brought into the island by these intrepid commerce raiders. The Order instituted a whole economy based upon the principals of Holy war, yet it boiled down to simple economics. Protect the private ships with stupendous fortifications in Malta, encourage their raids by providing weapons and dockyards and ask for a 15% tax. Ten per cent went to the Grandmaster and another five percent went to the cloistered nuns of St Ursola as thanks for their continual prayer for the success of the raids.

For years Malta became home to Corsairs who made a name for themselves upon the high seas. Many were feared, loathed by their Greek and Ottoman victims. Many of the Corsairs became rich from their exploits, some became so affluent that their dinners aboard ship were consumed on silver plate. Cigars after a meal were smoked through amber cigar holders and they wiped spilt coffee off their jackets with fine French linen. Even their fighting equipment was as sophisticated.

Corsairs came from all over the known world to fly the flag of the Order of St. John or that of the prince of Malta. At the Malta Maritime Museum a manuscript exists that helps us understand that men that worked and toiled on these ships came from everywhere. In 1777 Guglielmo Lorenzi the Schiavone wielding captain had a crew of men coming from Malta, Italy, Spain, England, Albania and Montenegro. There was even evidence of Ottoman subjects coming to Malta revoking their religion and becoming catholic in order to join the Corsair crew.

The Slavic Sword

Captain Guglielmo Lorenzi had nothing short of a small armoury in his cabin: a sword with its belt, two Turkish muskets, a sword with a silver guard, two silver-plated pistols, three pairs of pistols, a sword in the schiavone style (similar to the sword at the Malta Maritime Museum), a carbine, a musket and pistol in the Albanian style, a pair of hunting muskets, and a small blunderbuss.

It would be interesting to know which combination of weapons Captain Guglielmo Lorenzi used during an engagement. Weapons were the means with which the corsair captain conducted his business, and having personal weapons helped them conduct their job better. This job was conducted nonetheless in some style, as Lorenzi’s weapons go to prove.

Weapons were the means with which the corsair captain conducted his business, and having personal weapons helped them conduct their job better. This job was conducted nonetheless in some style, as Lorenzi’s weapons go to prove.

The adventures of such men are not very well remembered but the records contain numerous maritime feats.

Such information is scattered across Malta and Gozo in untapped documents found in records of Parish Churches around the island, the Notarial Archives, the National Library, the Mdina Cathedral Archives and the National Archives.

The Grand Master, who had already convened the council of war, decided to send out the four galleys of the Order. The galleys proceeded out of harbour in battle formation until communication with the strange ship was established. Immediately the news of this strange ship was communicated to the astonishment of those on board the galleys. The galleys immediately escorted the ship into harbour so that the wounded on board could be seen to by the Order’s surgeons.

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