Pernik sword

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The Pernik sword is a medieval double-edged iron sword unearthed in the ruins of the medieval fortress of Krakra near Pernik, western Bulgaria, on 1 January 1921. It bears an inscription in silver inlay on the blade. The sword is preserved in the National Archaeological Museum of Bulgaria in Sofia under inventory number 2044. The sword is 96 centimetres (38 in) in length and up to 4.5 cm (1.8 in) in width.

The inscription, written in the Latin alphabet, was long considered incomprehensible. It reads as follows:

Two decipherments have been proposed. One view, expressed in the original archaeological publication about the sword, has been that the text represents a series of Latin abbreviations of sacred formulae that were intended to bring good fortune, as found on other swords from the 12th and 13th centuries.[1] Following the transcriptions proposed by other authors for similar letter sequences, one Bulgarian author suggested a tentative reading of the Pernik inscription along the lines of "IH(ESUS). IN I(HESUS) N(OMINE). IH(ESUS) VI(RGO). L(AUS) P(ATRIS) I(HESUS) D(OMINI) H(RISTUS). IN IH(ESUS) VI(RGO). L(AUS) P(ATRIS) N(OSTRIS)", that is to say "Jesus -- in Jesus' name -- Jesus, the Virgin -- praise of the Father, Jesus, the Lord, Christ -- in Jesus, the Virgin - praise of Our Father" (the de-abbreviated words have not been consistently declined).[2]

To put this into perspective, it may be observed that on other swords, the common formula in nomine domini, "in the Lord's name" was abbreviated in ways ranging from the unmistakable NNOMNEDMN to the heavily distorted NINOMINED, OIEDOMINI, INNIOINNEDINI, etc.; and longer inscriptions could be incoherent and contracted to the point of complete opacity, for example INPMPNC I(n) n(omine) p(atris) M(ater) p(atris) n(ostri) C(hristi), "In the name of the Father. Mother of Our Father Christ" or IINBITTPINI I(esus). I(n) n(omine) b(eati) I(esu). T(rinitas). T(rinitas). P(atris) I(esu) n(omine) I(n), "Jesus -- in the name of the blessed Jesus -- Trinity -- Trinity -- Of the Father -- of Jesus -- the name -- in".[3]

A more recent attempt at decipherment, dating from 2005, suggested that the inscription was in an early West Germanic language (Austro-Bavarian or Lombardic of ca. the 6th to 8th century). The proposed parsing is "IH INI NI hVIL PIDH, INI hVIL PN", meaning "I do not await eternity, I am eternity", or literally "I inside not time wait, inside time am" (hvil being cognate to English while and German Weile). If the parsing is plausible or at least the identification of the written language is correct, the text is of great importance to the history of Germanic languages.[4]

External links[edit]


  1. ^ Štereva, I. (1975): Kam vaprosa za mečovete v srednovekovna Balgarija. V: Archeologia, kn. 2, 55-60.
  2. ^ Mihailov, St. (1985): Nadpisăt na latinski ezik vărhu meča ot Perniškata krepost. V: Archeologia, kn. 3, 46 sl.
  3. ^ Drboglav, D. (1984): Zagadki latinskih klejm na mečah IX-XIV vekov (Klassifikazija, datirovka i čtenie nadpisej). Moskva.
  4. ^ Dentschewa, Langobardische (?)…, p. 1.
  • Friedrich E. GRÜNZWEIG: Ein Schwert mit Inschrift aus Pernik (Bulgarien), Amsterdamer Beiträge zur älteren Germanistik 61 (2006).
  • Dentschewa, Emilia: "Langobardische (?) Inschrift auf einem Schwert aus dem 8. Jahrhundert in bulgarischem Boden". In: Beiträge zur Geschichte der deutschen Sprache und Literatur, Band 128 (2006) Heft 1, S. 1-11.
  • Dentschewa, Emilia: "+IHININIhVILPIDHINIhVILPN+ oder die Botschaft eines Schwertes aus der Zeit des Königreichs der Langobarden (?)" In: Archaeologia Bulgarica IX (2005) Heft 2, S. 99-105.