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Tizona is the name of the sword carried by Rodrigo Díaz de Vivar, El Cid, which was used to fight the Moors in Spain according to the Cantar de Mio Cid. The name Tizón translates to burning stick, firebrand.[1]

A sword identified with Tizona is on display at the Museo de Burgos, in Burgos.

Legendary sword[edit]

The Tizona, or Tizón, is one of the swords (together with La Colada) attributed to El Cid in Spanish literature. According to the Cantar de Mio Cid, El Cid won the sword from its previous owner, King Yucef in Valencia. Afterward, it was given by El Cid to his sons-in-law, the Infantes de Carrión but eventually returned into the possession of El Cid.

Similar to the other sword attributed to El Cid, La Colada, there exists little historical evidence verifying the existence of a sword named Tizona belonging to Rodrigo Díaz. Later there developed the common opinion that identified the sword of James I of Aragon, named Tisó, with the one attributed to El Cid in the Cantar de gesta, but this is contrasted with the Llibre dels fets (a series of autobiographical chronicles including James I of Aragon) in which the Tisó is described in detail without any mention of El Cid, most likely owing to a simple coincidence of name. Also, the Tisó of the James I was descended from Ramon Berenguer I, who was in possession of the sword until 1020. This makes it unlikely that the sword would have passed from its previous owners to El Cid and that it would then have returned to the House of Aragon. It seems more logical that the Tisó was always in Aragon possession and that the confusion arises from a coincidental similarity in naming.

There exist various Tizonas which have been attributed to El Cid. One of these figured in the treasure stock of the regent house of Castilla that was transferred by Álvaro de Luna, recovered in 1452 and placed in an inventory of the Alcázar of Segovia. In the inventory there remains the description of "a sword called Tizona, that belonged to El Cid; it has a channel in each side, with gilded lettering; it has a hilt, and cross, and a block of silver, and in relief castles and lions and a small golden lion on each part of the cross; and has a scabbard of red leather lined with green velvet." This sword was ceremonial, owing to its adornment (which reflects its Castillian heraldry) and would have belonged to a member of the Castillian royalty or their family. After this mention in the inventory list there are no other historical notices, although the blade currently residing in the Royal Armory of Madrid could be the same one described in 1503.[2]

Another presumed Tizona belonged to the Marqueses de Falces, to whom the sword was given by Fernando II of Aragon. It has been kept since at least the 17th century in the Castle of Marcilla and that is currently on display in the Museum of Burgos alongside other presumed relics of El Cid.

The sword at Burgos is 103 centimetres (41 in) long and weighs 1.1 kilograms (2.4 lb). Tizona was supposedly forged in Córdoba, though considerable amounts of Damascus steel can be found in its blade.

There are two inscriptions on the sword:

IO SOI TISONA FUE FECHA EN LA ERA DE MIL E QUARENTA — Medieval Castilian for: "I am Tizona, made in the year 1040", but in Spanish medieval sources, "era" implies Hispanic Era, by which the History of Spain starts in 38 BC, so the intended date has been presumed to be AD 1002.


AVE MARIA ~ GRATIA PLENA ~ DOMINUS TECUM — Latin for: "Hail Mary, full of grace. The Lord is with thee", St. Gabriel Archangel's greeting to the Blessed Virgin Mary in the Gospel according to St. Luke.

The adornment of the sword has a plain pommel, a long and conical hilt, lined with iron; the hilt is curved and the sideboards contain spikes. All of these traits are characteristic of a typology dating to the ends of the 15th century. The inscription has caused some discussion, in that the sword, if historically accurate, could not have been made in the year 1040. There have been arguments, however, pointing out that the medieval Spanish use of the word "era" implies Hispanic Era, in which the history of Spain starts in 38 BC, making the actual date of the sword AD 1002. Still controversial is the use of the word Tizona, that came into use only with the 14th century, as opposed to Tizón which is the term used to refer to the sword in the oldest sources. Menéndez Pidal has expressed the opinion that the sword is a forgery of the 16th century. Other authors, like Bruhn, postulate that the blade could also be the apocryphal Colada that was described in the same inventory of 1503. The recent investigations of the Complutense University of Madrid, published in 2001, signal that the sword is from the 11th century; nevertheless the Curator of the Royal Armory Álvaro Soler del Campo points out that the sword is formed of three joined pieces and that their typology is the same as that of the handle, adornment, and the inscription, from the era of the Catholic Monarchs.[3]

The King Fernando the Catholic gave the sword to Pedro de Peralta y Ezpeleta, the first Count of Santisteban of Lerín, for services rendered in the negotiations that led to his marriage with Isabel of Castile. This sword remained in the control of the marquis of Falces until the 20th century in the Palacial Castle of Marcilla. The sword is described there as: "With a handle and hilt of completely black iron, double-sided blade, thin, polished, smooth."

The sword was declared Bien de Interés Cultural on January 18, 2003.

After the Spanish Civil War, the sword that belonged to the Marquis of Falces and was later deposited in the Madrid Museum of Ejército was moved to its new site in the Alcázar of Toledo. The owner José Ramón Suárez del Otero, marquis of Falces, offered its sale to the Ministry of Culture (Spain), which declined its purchase due to a lack of historical proof that it had belonged to El Cid and for the elevated price demanded by the owner (reports from the ministry valued it somewhere between 200,000-300,000 euros, according to Reuters). It was finally acquired in 2007 by the Castile and León and the Cabinet of Commerce and Industry of Burgos[4] The price paid to the marquis of Falces for the sword was 1.6 million euros.[5] It was expected that its final destination would be the same cathedral that houses the tomb of El Cid and his wife Jimena along with other items related to El Cid.

In the heroic poem Cantar de Mio Cid, Tizona's power depends on the wielder and it frightens unworthy opponents. When the infantes of Carrión have Tizona, they underestimate the power of the sword, due to their cowardice, but when Pero Vermúdez is going to fight Ferrán González and unsheathes Tizona (given as a present from El Cid), Ferrán González yells and surrenders, cowering in terror at the sight of Tizona.

Verses 3642-3645:[6]

Él dexó la lança, e mano al espada metió;
cuando lo vio Ferrán González, conuvo a Tizón,
que antes qu'el golpe esperasse, dixo: -¡Vençido sói!-


He [Pero Vermúdez] let go the lance and took the sword in hand;
when Ferrán González saw that, he recognized Tizona
and before the expected blow said, "I am defeated!"


  1. ^ Sebastián de Covarrubias. Tesoro de la lengua castellana o española, 1611.
  2. ^ Montaner Frutos (2011:942-943)
  3. ^ Montaner Frutos (2011:943-944)
  4. ^ "La Junta y la Cámara recuperan la Tizona para el patrimonio burgalés." Diario de Burgos May 23, 2007
  5. ^ "El valor de un icono", Diario de Burgos, Mary 24th 2007
  6. ^ Cantar de mio Cid. Edition of Alberto Montaner. Ed. Galaxia Gutenberg, 2007.