Blessed sword and hat

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Blessed sword
Jakob Frey, A Blessed Sword and Hat.jpg
A blessed sword and hat lying on a cushion, etching by Johann Jakob Frey the Elder
TypeCeremonial sword
Place of origin Papal States
Service history
In service14th–19th centuries

The blessed sword (Latin: ensis benedictus, Italian: stocco benedetto[1] or stocco pontificio[2]) and the blessed hat (also: ducal hat,[3] Latin: pileus or capellus,[4] Italian: berrettone pontificio[5] or berrettone ducale[6]) were a gift offered by popes to Catholic monarchs or other secular recipients in recognition of their defence of Christendom. Each pair was blessed by a pope on Christmas Eve in St. Peter's Basilica in Rome. The sword was an ornate ceremonial weapon, usually large, up to 2 metres long, with the hilt embellished with the pope's coat of arms, and the blade with the pope's name. A similarly ornate scabbard and belt were added to the sword. The hat was a cylinder made of red velvet with two lappets hanging down from its top. The right-hand side of the hat was decorated with a dove representing the Holy Spirit embroidered in pearls, while a shining sun symbolizing Christ was embroidered in goldwork on the top.[7]

The earliest preserved blessed sword, now located at the Royal Armory in Madrid, was given by Pope Eugene IV to King John II of Castile in 1446. The latest preserved of the blessed swords, now at the National Museum of the Middle Ages in Paris, was blessed in 1772 by Pope Clement XIV and presented to Francisco Ximénez de Tejada, Grand Master of the Knights Hospitaller.[7] Not all recipients are known; among those whose names have been preserved, there were at least twelve emperors of the Holy Roman Empire, ten kings of France, seven kings of Poland, and six kings of Spain. Additionally, three or four blessed swords and hats were given to kings of England, two or three to kings of Scots, and three each to the kings of Hungary and Portugal. Recipients also included various princes, including heirs-apparent, archdukes, dukes, noblemen, military commanders, as well as cities and states.[8]

History[edit]

Allegory of the secular power receiving a blessed sword and hat from putti, as painted by Gregorio Lazzarini, c. 1720

The tradition of distributing blessed swords and hats by the popes is not as old as that of another papal gift, the golden rose, but it does date back at least as far back as the 14th century. The earliest recipient of a pontifical sword and hat who is known for certain was Fortiguerra Fortiguerri, a gonfaloniere of the Republic of Lucca, who received it from Pope Urban VI in 1386. However, papal account books record payments for the manufacture of such gifts as early as 1357, and even then it seems to have been a long-established practice.[9] Some historians push the origin of the tradition even further back. According to Gaetano Moroni, Pope Innocent III presented a sword and hat to King William the Lion of the Scots in 1202.[10] Lord Twining dismissed this proposition as legendary, but accepted that the tradition originated with Pope Paul I's gift of a sword to King Pepin the Short of the Franks in 758.[11]

Starting with the pontificate of Pope Martin V (reigned 1417–1431), detailed payment records exist for the manufacture of swords and hats for every year, although the recipients are not always known. During the 15th century, popes gradually moved from the practice of presenting the swords and hats to noblemen or princes visiting Rome at Christmas time towards sending them to distant monarchs as either reward or encouragement to defend Christendom and the interests of the Catholic Church. The practice accelerated under Pope Nicholas V (r. 1447–1455), who used the gifts to promote a military alliance against the Ottoman Empire.[12]

Description[edit]

Approximate cost of one pair of blessed sword and hat
in the 15th century (in Italian gold florins)[13]
Item Cost
Blessed sword with scabbard and belt
Blade (ready-made) 3.00 ƒ
Wooden frame of the scabbard 0.50 ƒ
Silver for the grip, pommel and the filigree work on the scabbard 90.00 ƒ
Gilding of the sword and scabbard 20.00 ƒ
Crimson lining of the scabbard 2.00 ƒ
Cloth of gold for the belt 15.00 ƒ
Silver for the clasp and buckle of the belt 15.00 ƒ
Manufacture of the sword, scabbard and belt 30.00 ƒ
Blessed hat
Pearls 35.00 ƒ
Ermines 6.00 ƒ
Embroidery 5.00 ƒ
Gold band 5.00 ƒ
Manufacture of the hat 4.00 ƒ
Total 230.50 ƒ

Sword[edit]

The blessed sword, with its scabbard and belt, of King John III Sobieski of Poland

The blessed sword was always a two-handed one,[14] sometimes more than 2 metres (7 ft) long.[7] The hilt was made of silver and covered with elaborate repoussage in gold.[14] The pommel was decorated with the pope's coat of arms surrounded with images of the papal tiara and pallium. The blade was embellished with intricate engravings. They included an inscription running along the length of the blade, indicating the pope's name and the year of his pontificate in which he blessed the sword. The accompanying scabbard and belt were similarly sumptuous and ornate, covered in velvet and studded with precious stones,[3] and also bore the papal coat of arms. The identity of the recipient, on the other hand, was never indicated on the sword in any way. This practice stemmed from the Church's stance that the pope himself was the true defender of the faith, while the prince bestowed with the sword was merely the pontiff's armed arm.[7] The symbolic significance of the sword was connected to the papal claim to both supreme spiritual and temporal power, derived from the Biblical story of Saint Peter using a sword to protect Jesus during his arrest in the Garden of Olives.[15]

Hat[edit]

The blessed hat of King John III Sobieski of Poland

The hat had the form of a stiff high cylinder surrounded by a deep brim, which curved upwards to a point at the front. In the back hanged two lappets, similar to those in a bishop's mitre.[16] The hat was made of beaver pelt[3] or velvet, typically dark crimson in colour, although grey and black are also mentioned in some accounts. It was sometimes lined with ermine. A haloed dove, symbolizing the Holy Spirit, was embroidered in goldwork and adorned with pearls on the right hand side of the cylinder. On top of the hat, a shining sun with alternatively straight and wavy rays that descended towards the brim, was likewise picked out in gold thread.[16] The image of a dove symbolized the Holy Spirit protecting and guiding whoever was wearing the hat.[3][15] The Holy Spirit together with Christ the Sun God may also be interpreted as symbolic references to God's incarnation, a mystery celebrated on Christmas, on the eve of which the hat and the sword were blessed by a pope.[7]

Ten blessed swords from the 15th century have survived to present times, and about a dozen from the 16th century, although in some cases only the blade remains, while the more valuable hilt and scabbard have been lost. The hats, made of less durable materials, have been preserved in still smaller numbers, the earliest being from the second half of the 16th century. It is even impossible to ascertain whether the hat had always accompanied the sword from the beginning of the tradition or if it was a later addition.[14]

Ceremony[edit]

A doge of Venice receiving a sword from a pope, as painted by Francesco Bassano in 1592

Popes used to bless the sword and the hat on every Christmas Eve. The blessing took place just before the matins in a simple ceremony conducted by the pope either in one of the private chapels of the papal palace or in the sacristy of St. Peter's Basilica. The pope, vested in an alb, amice, cincture and white stole, blessed both items held before him by a kneeling chamberlain by reciting a short prayer, the earliest form of which is attributed to Sixtus IV (r. 1471–1481). Then, the pope sprinkled the sword and hat with holy water and incensed them thrice before putting on a cappa (a long train of crimson silk) and proceeding to the basilica.[17]

If the person whom the pope intended to award with the blessed sword and hat was present, he was invested with them immediately. Dressed in a surplice over his secular robes, the recipient was brought before the pope, who addressed him with Sixtus IV's brief Solent Romani pontifices, explaining the symbolism of the gift.[18][19] It ended with the following words:

"[...] we appoint you, holy prince, as another sword of the Holy See, which has, we declare by this fine gift, a most devout son in you, and also by this hat we declare that you are a fortification and bulwark to protect the holy Roman Church against the enemies of the Faith. Therefore, may your hand remain firm against the enemies of the Holy See and of the name of Christ, and may your right hand be lifted up, intrepid warrior, as you remove them from the earth, and may your head be protected against them by the Holy Spirit, symbolized by the pearly dove, in those things deemed worthy by the Son of God, together with the Father and the Holy Spirit. Amen."[20]
Papal chamberlain carrying a blessed sword and hat during Christmas matins

The sword was then girded over the recipient's surplice and he was dressed in a white cope. The morsel of the cope was fastened on his right shoulder so as to free his arm for drawing the sword later in the ceremony. The prince kissed the pope's hand and slipper as a sign of obeisance and, with his sword and hat, joined the procession to the basilica.[21] During the matins, the recipient sang the fifth lesson,[22] beginning with the words In quo conflictu pro nobis inito, taken from the homily of Saint Leo.[23] An exception was made for emperors, who sang the seventh lesson,[19] which begins with a quote from the Biblical account of the Census of Quirinius, Exiit edictum a Caesare Augusto ut describeretur universus orbis ("In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered"; Luke 2:1), deemed more appropriate because of the imperial connection.[24] Before singing the lesson, the prince removed his hat and handed it to his servant, then unsheathed the sword, struck it against the ground three times, then brandished it in the air, again three times, and replaced it in the scabbard. As the matins ended, the recipient took leave of the pope and returned to his residence in Rome, preceded by a man-at-arms carrying the blessed sword and hat, and followed by cardinals, prelates, papal chamberlains, ambassadors to the Holy See, friends and retinue.[25]

If the prospective honouree was absent at the ceremony, the sword and hat, after being blessed, were carried by the chamberlain before the cross in the procession and placed on the epistle side of the altar in the basilica.[8] The gifts were then dispatched by the pope by a special emissary to present them to their intended recipient in a ceremony extra curiam (outside of the Holy See). The protocol was modelled on that prescribed for bestowing the golden rose outside Rome.[25] The emissary, entrusted with the sword and hat, instructed about the proper protocol, equipped with the pope's letter to the honouree, as well as a safe conduct pass, set out with a small retinue, usually in the spring following the blessing ceremony. When the emissary was within a day's journey from his destination, the recipient was expected to send forth a delegation to escort the emissary to his lodgings. The papal brief was delivered to the prince who then had to choose the venue and date of the ceremony. Typically, the ceremony took place on a Sunday or a major feast day in a cathedral or the major church of the town. A solemn mass was celebrated either by the emissary or by a local bishop or abbot indicated by the pope. The pope's letter was solemnly read during the mass, following which the prince received the blessed sword and hat from the hands of the celebrant. When the ceremony was over, the recipient returned to his residence in a procession, as it would happen in Rome.[26]

Recipients[edit]

Year blessed Year bestowed Pope Recipient Image of the sword and/or hat Notes Current location References
1202 Innocent III William the Lion, King of Scots Disputed Burns 1969, pp. 161–162
1204 Innocent III Peter II, King of Aragon Disputed Burns 1969, pp. 151, 162
1347 1347 Clement VI Charles IV, Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire Uncertain Burns 1969, p. 161
1365 1365 Urban V Louis I, Duke of Anjou Presented personally Müntz 1889, p. 409;
Warmington 2000, p. 109
1366 1366 Urban V John I, Count of Armagnac Presented personally Müntz 1889, p. 409
1371 1371 Gregory XI Louis I, Duke of Anjou (again) Presented personally Müntz 1889, pp. 409–410
1386 1386 Urban VI Fortiguerra Fortiguerri, Gonfaloniere of the Republic of Lucca Burns 1969, p. 160;
Pinti 2001, p. 3
1414 Antipope John XXIII Sigismund, Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire Müntz 1890, p. 281
1419 Martin V Charles, Dauphin of France (future King Charles VII) Uncertain Warmington 2000, p. 109
1422 Martin V Louis III, King of Naples Warmington 2000, p. 109
1432 Eugene IV Vladislaus II, King of Poland Disputed Lileyko 1987, p. 123
1434 Eugene IV Republic of Florence Müntz 1890, p. 281
1443 Eugene IV Vladislaus III, King of Poland and Hungary Probably lost in the Battle of Varna Warmington 2000, p. 110;
Lileyko 1987, p. 123
1446 Eugene IV John II, King of Castile
Blessed sword of John II of Castile
Oldest preserved blessed sword Spain Warmington 2000, p. 110;
Lileyko 1987, p. 123
1449 1450 Nicholas V Francesco Foscari, Doge of Venice
Blessed sword of Francesco Foscari
Blade preserved Italy Warmington 2000, p. 110;
Pinti 2001, p. 4
1450 1450 Nicholas V Albert VI, Archduke of Austria Warmington 2000, p. 110;
Pinti 2001, p. 7
1454 Nicholas V Count of Sant'Angelo, ambassador of Naples Presented personally Warmington 2000, p. 110
1454 1455 Nicholas V Ludovico Bentivoglio, ambassador of Bologna
Blessed sword of Ludovico Bentivoglio
Sword and scabbard preserved Italy Müntz 1890, p. 283;
Pinti 2001, pp. 4, 19
1456 1457 Calixtus III Charles VII, King of France Warmington 2000, pp. 123–128
1457 1458 Calixtus III Henry IV, King of Castile Blade preserved Spain Warmington 2000, pp. 123–128;
Müntz 1890, p. 284
1458 1459 Pius II Frederick III, Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire Warmington 2000, pp. 123–128
1459 1460 Pius II Albert III Achilles, Margrave of Brandenburg-Ansbach Presented personally at the Council of Mantua. The sword later became the Electoral Sword (Kurschwert) of Brandenburg, preserved to this day. Germany Warmington 2000, pp. 123–128;
Kühn 1967
1460 1461 Pius II Philip the Good, Duke of Burgundy Warmington 2000, pp. 123–128
1461 1462 Pius II Louis XI, King of France Warmington 2000, pp. 123–128
1462 1463 Pius II Cristoforo Moro, Doge of Venice
Blessed sword of Cristoforo Moro
Blade preserved Italy Warmington 2000, pp. 123–128;
Pinti 2001, p. 4
1466 1466 Pius II Skanderbeg, Lord of Albania Presented personally Warmington 2000, pp. 123–128
1467 or 1469 Paul II Henry IV, King of Castile Warmington 2000, pp. 123–128
1468 1468 Paul II Frederick III, Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire Presented personally Warmington 2000, pp. 123–128
1470 1471 Paul II Matthias Corvinus, King of Hungary Warmington 2000, pp. 123–128
1471 Paul II Borso d'Este, Duke of Ferrara Presented personally Warmington 2000, pp. 123–128
1474 1475 Sixtus IV Philibert I, Duke of Savoy Warmington 2000, pp. 123–128
1477 1477 Sixtus IV Alfonso, Duke of Calabria (future King Alfonso II of Naples) Presented personally Warmington 2000, pp. 123–128
1480 1480 Sixtus IV Federico da Montefeltro, Duke of Urbino Warmington 2000, pp. 123–128
1481 1482 Sixtus IV Edward IV, King of England Warmington 2000, pp. 123–128
1482 1482 Sixtus IV Alfonso, Duke of Calabria (future King Alfonso II of Naples, again) Presented personally Warmington 2000, pp. 123–128
1484 1484 Innocent VIII Francesco of Aragon, ambassador of Naples Presented personally Warmington 2000, pp. 123–128
Between 1484 and 1492 Innocent VIII Ferdinand II, King of Aragon Warmington 2000, pp. 123–128
1486 1486 Innocent VIII Íñigo López de Mendoza y Quiñones, Count of Tendilla, ambassador of Castile and Aragon Presented personally. Sword and scabbard preserved. Spain Warmington 2000, pp. 123–128;
Spain is Culture
1488 1488 Innocent VIII Giovanni Giacomo Trivulzio, general of the ecclesiastical army Presented personally Warmington 2000, pp. 123–128
1491 1491 Innocent VIII William III, Landgrave of Hesse
Blessed sword of William III of Hesse
Presented personally. Sword, scabbard and belt preserved. Germany Warmington 2000, pp. 123–128;
Museumslandschaft Hessen Kassel
1492 1492 Alexander VI Frederick, Crown Prince of Naples (future King Frederick IV) Presented personally Warmington 2000, pp. 123–128
1493 1494 Alexander VI Maximilian I, King of the Romans Warmington 2000, pp. 123–128
1494 1494 Alexander VI Ferdinand, Duke of Calabria Presented personally Warmington 2000, pp. 123–128
1496 1497 Alexander VI Philip the Fair, Archduke of Austria Warmington 2000, pp. 123–128
1497 1497 Alexander VI Bogislaw X, Duke of Pomerania
Blessed sword of Bogislaw X
Presented personally. Used as part of ducal insignia by subsequent dukes of Pomerania. Warmington 2000, pp. 123–128;
Lileyko 1987, p. 124
1498 1499 Alexander VI Louis XII, King of France Warmington 2000, pp. 123–128
1500 Alexander VI Cesare Borgia, Duke of Valentinois, Captain General of the Church, pope's son
Blessed sword of Cesare Borgia
Originally Cesare Borgia's private sword made during his cardinalate (1493–1498), then repurposed by his father as a blessed sword, with an additional blessing and decorations etched into the blade, and awarded back to Cesare upon his promotion to Captain General of the Church. The leather scabbard, decorated with a scene of an offering to Venus, the patron goddess of the house of Julius Caesar (Cesare Borgia's namesake), was created later during the 16th century. Italy

United Kingdom

Burns 1969, p. 163;
Bemis 2018, pp. 41–45
1501 1502 Alexander VI Alfonso d'Este, heir to the Duchy of Ferrara, pope's son-in-law Warmington 2000, pp. 123–128
1506 1507 Julius II James IV, King of Scots The sword later became the Scottish Sword of State, preserved to this day together with its scabbard and belt. United Kingdom Burns 1969, pp. 172–173
1508 1509 Julius II Vladislaus II, King of Bohemia and Hungary Sword preserved Hungary Lileyko 1987, p. 123;
Burns 1969, p. 174
1510 1511 Julius II Switzerland
Swiss guards holding papal banners, as well as blessed sword and hat
Sword preserved Switzerland Burns 1969, p. 174;
Pinti 2001, p. 4
1513 Leo X Henry VIII, King of England Burns 1969, p. 180
1514 Leo X Manuel I, King of Portugal Burns 1969, p. 180
1515 Leo X Republic of Florence (again) Burns 1969, p. 180
1516 Leo X Francis I, King of France Uncertain Burns 1969, p. 180
1517 Leo X Maximilian I, Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire Uncertain Burns 1969, p. 180
1525 Clement VII Sigismund I, King of Poland Lost before 1669 Lileyko 1987, p. 124
1529 Clement VII Charles V, Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire Blade preserved Spain Pinti 2001, p. 12
1536 1537 Paul III James V, King of Scots Lost between 1542 and 1556 Burns 1969, pp. 181–183
1540 Paul III Sigismund II Augustus, King of Poland Lost after 1795 Lileyko 1987, p. 124
1550 Paul III Philip, Prince of Asturias (future King Philip II of Spain) Blade preserved Spain Pinti 2001, p. 12
1555 1558 Paul IV Ercole II d'Este, Duke of Ferrara Sword preserved Czech Republic Pinti 2001, pp. 12, 30
1560 Pius IV Philip II, King of Spain (again) Blade preserved Spain Pinti 2001, p. 12
1563 Pius IV Carlos, Prince of Asturias Blade preserved Spain Pinti 2001, p. 12
1566 Pius V Fernando Álvarez de Toledo y Pimentel, Duke of Alba Blade preserved Sampedro Escolar 2007, p. 97/8
1567 1568 Pius V Ferdinand II, Archduke of Further Austria Sword and hat preserved Austria Pinti 2001, p. 6;
Burns 1969, p. 163;
Kunsthistorisches Museum
1580 Gregory XIII Stephen Báthory, King of Poland
Blade of the blessed sword of Stephen Báthory
Blade preserved Poland Lileyko 1987, p. 124
1581 1582 Gregory XIII Ferdinand II, Archduke of Further Austria (again) Sword and hat preserved Austria Pinti 2001, p. 5;
Burns 1969, p. 163
1585 1586 Sixtus V Alessandro Farnese, Duke of Parma and Piacenza Presented by Abbot Grimani at the abbey of Gnadenthal, Germany. Lost. Marek y Villarino de Brugge 2020, p. 58
1591 Gregory XIV Philip, Prince of Asturias (future King Philip III of Spain) Blade preserved Spain Pinti 2001, p. 12
1594 Clement VII Philip III, King of Spain (again) Blade preserved Spain Pinti 2001, p. 12
1618 Paul V Philip, Prince of Asturias (future King Philip IV of Spain) Pinti 2001, p. 12
1625 Urban VIII Vladislaus Sigismund Vasa, Crown Prince of Poland (future King Vladislaus IV) Presented personally. Blade preserved. Sweden Lileyko 1987, pp. 124–125
1672 Clement X Michael Korybut Wiśniowiecki, King of Poland Lost after 1673 Lileyko 1987, p. 126
1674 (1684) Clement X John Sobieski, Grand Hetman of the Polish Crown (future King of Poland) Awarded in recognition of Sobieski's victory over the Ottoman Turks in the battle of Khotyn, but not bestowed due to Sobieski's pro-French sympathies. Blade preserved (see below). Poland Lileyko 1987, pp. 126–127
1683 1684 Innocent XI John III Sobieski, King of Poland (again)
Blessed sword with scabbard and belt, and blessed hat awarded by Pope Innocent XI to King John III Sobieski in 1684, as well as the blade of the sword Pope Clement X intended to award him in 1674
Awarded in recognition of Sobieski's victory over the Ottoman Turks in the battle of Vienna. Innocent XI reused the sword and the hat originally made for Sobieski in 1674, but replaced the blade with one bearing his own name and coat of arms. The old blade was sent to Poland as well. The sword was used by Emperor Nicholas I of Russia for his coronation as King of Poland in 1829. Sword (as well as the old blade), scabbard, belt and hat preserved. Poland Lileyko 1987, pp. 126–127
1689 1690 Alexander VIII Francesco Morosini, Doge of Venice Sword with scabbard and belt preserved Italy Pinti 2001, pp. 4, 28
1726 Benedict XIII Frederick Augustus, Crown Prince of Poland (future King Augustus III) Scabbard, belt and hat preserved Germany Lileyko 1987, p. 129
1747 Benedict XIV Manuel Pinto da Fonseca, Grand Master of the Knights Hospitaller
Blessed sword and hat of Manuel Pinto together papal crossed keys
Petroschi & Rossi 1747
1772 1773 or 1775 Clement XIV Francisco Ximénez de Tejada, Grand Master of the Knights Hospitaller Sent by Pius VI. Latest preserved blessed sword. France Lileyko 1987, p. 123;
Pinti 2001, p. 6
1823 Leo XII Louis Antoine, Duke of Angoulême Pinti 2001, p. 3

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Müntz (1889), p. 408
  2. ^ Pinti (2001), p. 3
  3. ^ a b c d Warmington (2000), p. 109
  4. ^ Müntz (1889), p. 409
  5. ^ Pinti (2001), p. 4
  6. ^ Moroni (1854), p. 39
  7. ^ a b c d e Lileyko (1987), p. 123.
  8. ^ a b Burns (1969), p. 165
  9. ^ Burns (1969), p. 160
  10. ^ Burns (1969), p. 161
  11. ^ Burns (1969), p. 162
  12. ^ Warmington (2000), pp. 109–110
  13. ^ Burns (1969), pp. 163–164
  14. ^ a b c Burns (1969), p. 163
  15. ^ a b Burns (1969), p. 164
  16. ^ a b Burns (1969), pp. 162–163
  17. ^ Burns (1969), pp. 164–165
  18. ^ Burns (1969), pp. 165–166
  19. ^ a b Warmington (2000), p. 116
  20. ^ Translated from Latin by Robert Levine, quoted in Warmington (2000, pp. 129–130)
  21. ^ Burns (1969), p. 166
  22. ^ Burns (1969), pp. 166–167
  23. ^ The Dolphin (1902), p. 8
  24. ^ Warmington (2000), p. 100
  25. ^ a b Burns (1969), p. 167
  26. ^ Burns (1969), p. 159

Sources[edit]