Ethnographic Arms & Armour

Ethnographic Arms & Armour (
-   Ethnographic Weapons (
-   -   St. Peter's Dagger (

A. G. Maisey 4th August 2014 06:47 AM

St. Peter's Dagger
1 Attachment(s)
This dagger can be seen in the Treasury of the Basilica San Marco in Venice, Italy.

It is identified as 14th century and named "St. Peter's Dagger"

kronckew 4th August 2014 08:25 AM

nice sicae, didn't know st. peter was a sicarius.

A. G. Maisey 4th August 2014 01:24 PM

Just a name I think. I doubt that Pete was around when this was made --- still, he was a pretty exceptional sort of bloke, no telling what's possible for a man like that.

kronckew 4th August 2014 04:21 PM

yes, i'd expect that it was filled with a whole passle of mana. should be floating above the holder. could do with a clean & a bit of oil.

i'd like one like that (tho with a bit less age & provenance)

Battara 5th August 2014 02:07 AM

I would love to own a dagger like this, especially with this type of fluting and blade chiseling.

Not to be obtuse, but is this a European dagger or a Middle Eastern dagger (looking at the hilt)?

kronckew 5th August 2014 04:54 AM

1 Attachment(s)
Originally Posted by Battara
I would love to own a dagger like this, especially with this type of fluting and blade chiseling.

Not to be obtuse, but is this a European dagger or a Middle Eastern dagger (looking at the hilt)?

st. peter came from the middle east. :) more specifically, syria. as most people travelled armed in those days, especially in the far provinces of the empire, i'd guess he obtained his dagger in palestine or syria before he journeyed to rome as an old man. at least if we believe it was his. for interest, judas was thought to have been a sicarii (dagger man).

reminds me a bit of a roman utility knife:

Ian 5th August 2014 05:27 AM

Originally Posted by Battara
I would love to own a dagger like this, especially with this type of fluting and blade chiseling.

Not to be obtuse, but is this a European dagger or a Middle Eastern dagger (looking at the hilt)?
The sica referred to a somewhat larger, curved or angled knife of the ancient Illyrians, Thracians, and Dacians--basically those living in what is now Romania, Serbia, Croatia, and environs. The Romans considered it a "foreign" weapon, although similar forms were found in Roman use (e.g., by gladiators). In its smaller form it had a nasty reputation for being a concealed weapon of assassins (of whom the Jewish sacarii of the first century CE were a noted example).

In its historical context a sica would be classed as a European weapon.


kronckew 5th August 2014 05:45 AM

in st. peter's time, dacia was still unconquered territory, the sica was a known form tho from illyrica and thrace and the term was used for assasin's daggers and the assassins themselves, ie. the sicarii of palestine who would have used their own local dagger forms which may or may not have resembled a true sica. recurved and sickle form knives were used thru-out the empire. to us pedants, the term is specific to thrace/dacia/illyria, to a roman in the middle east, the dagger made down the road in antioch by abdul the blacksmith was a generic 'sica' - they likely also had more specific names. ie. 'pugio' for the roman army wasp waisted side-arm. if it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, it's a duck. even if it's made in china.

reminds me of the 'falcata' a name made up by us collectors a century or so ago that would not have been recognised by the people who originally used them.

quack. :) i still like pete's knife. whatever we call it.

A. G. Maisey 5th August 2014 08:05 AM

The name of this dagger is "St. Peter's Dagger"

It is attributed to the 14th century.

The St. Peter who has custody of the Keys and who decides the ones that ride the down escalator reportedly left this earth sometime around 60AD.

With these other-worldly people we can never be really sure if they did move on when they supposedly did, or whether they decided to hang around for another thirteen hundred years or so --- anything is possible in the world of belief --- but in the case of this dagger I would suggest that we regard the name as only a name.

drac2k 6th August 2014 04:59 PM

Peter the Apostle (later St. Peter), had a sword , which he wielded during the arrest of Jesus , cutting off the ear of the High Priest's Servant. This sword supposedly hangs in the Pozan Archdiocesan Museum in West Central Poland ; it looks nothing like the shown example.
In a pure state of conjecture, could it have belonged to Peter the Hermit, who helped rally the common people to go on the 1st Crusade in 1096(of course most of them were killed or sold into slavery).He gathered his faithful, mostly from France and Germany, traveled to the Holy Land, asked the King of Constantinople for reinforcements and supplies,and preached a sermon on the Mount of the Olives before the City of Jerusalem was successfully stormed.I mentioned the Constantinople connection, because the dagger looks very Byzantine(or how I would imagine), to me.
I further stretch my hypothesis by stating that after several years in the Holy Land, Peter the Hermit returned to France and established a Monastery in Neufmoustier ;surely this made him Saintly to someone.

Jim McDougall 6th August 2014 05:22 PM

Since this is what appears to be a masterfully crafted dagger from Italy and probably 16th century, is it not possible that this might be a votive relic commemorating St Peter of Verona, who was a Dominican I believe, but was assassinated in around 1252, thus 13th century.
He was an inquisitor during the Albigensian crusades in France and was murdered by Cathars, and iconographic images of him show an axe imbedded in his head and a dagger to the chest, hence the dagger is sometimes symbolically referenced to him.

The Italian (North Italy) dagger in the central blade motif carries as noted what I perceive as Ottoman motif and resembles similar style seen on many edged weapons in India (Mughals) and other Central Asian regions. The rosette in the center resembles varying floral forms in this manner popular as motif in Italian edged weapons in the 16th c and later.
The hilt again resembles certain Ottoman and Central Asian form which seems to have diffused widely as well into areas farther east.

The very interesting discussion on St Peter (the Apostle) some 12 centuries earlier, refers to his sword, which was termed the Malchus sword, and votive examples of this exist in several cases in religious holdings, one I believe in Poland. Naturally while they are regarded as genuinely the actual weapon, there are notable disputes regarding the exact true nature of the weapon used in this event.

Ian 6th August 2014 11:16 PM

Perhaps St. Peter Orseolo
Given the Venetian connection with its location in St. Mark's Cathedral, could this knife be celebrating the works of St. Peter Orseolo? The man rose through a military career to become Doge of Venice, rebuilt St. Mark's at his own expense, then chucked it all in for the life of a monk. His life considerably predates this knife, however.

"Peter Orseolo, of Rivo Alto, Italy, served as commander of the Venetian navy before becoming Doge of Venice in 976. In this office he rebuilt the fire-ravaged Saint Markís Cathedral, funding the work from his own wealth. From Constantinople he obtained for the cathedralís high altar what is considered the earliest known example of a gold altar cloth. He also founded a hospice for pilgrims. But after governing for only two years, Peter suddenly disappeared from the city during the night of September 1-2, 978. He fled his prestigious station to devote the rest of his life to God, traveling over five hundred miles westward to enter the Benedictine monastery of Cuxa, at the foot of the eastern Pyrenees, along the French-Spanish border. As he neared the monastery, Peter took off his shoes and walked the remaining steps of the journey bare-footed. As a monk, he excelled in humility, devotion to prayer, charity, and self-denial. Thereafter, Peterís zeal for even greater perfection prompted him to obtain permission to live in solitude a short distance from the monastery." (see


Jim McDougall 7th August 2014 12:39 AM

Excellent alternative solution which has been well presented, and of course may well be the case as the location in which it is held certainly seems to have associated significance. It does not seem that the period of the knife itself not necessarily aligned with that of the Saint himself should be a factor as these appear to be votive relics. It is unfortunate they do not offer more substantial data in describing the piece, as it is quite apparent there is more than one St.Peter.

Oliver Pinchot 7th August 2014 03:57 PM


The form of the blade and chiseled motifs, fullering and the shape of the grip all support a mid-late 15th century Ottoman attribution. I wish the pic was clearer; the motifs decorating the grip would prove illuminating.


A. G. Maisey 7th August 2014 09:53 PM

Oliver, we're lucky to have any photo at all.

Photos in this part of the Basilica are strictly forbidden.

David 8th August 2014 01:06 AM

1 Attachment(s)
Originally Posted by Oliver Pinchot
I wish the pic was clearer; the motifs decorating the grip would prove illuminating.

Oliver, i've turned it B&W and opened up a the shadows a bit. Not ideal, but it may help a little.

Oliver Pinchot 8th August 2014 02:14 AM

It's certainly a help, David, thanks!
Alan, did you take the pic? Wondering how large it is.

Battara 8th August 2014 03:40 AM

Good point - does feel Ottoman.

A. G. Maisey 8th August 2014 04:04 AM

Its in a glass case, I'd guess maybe 15", end to end.

Oliver Pinchot 8th August 2014 04:35 AM

Given the measurements (thanks, Alan) I think the blade is definitely Ottoman of that period. The chiseled, segmented sun disk and Timurid trefoils are characteristic, together with the fullering and the stop at the forte.

The grip may be original to it, the form is reasonable. But the nature of the characters (if that is indeed what they are) which decorate the borders, and the absence of any sort of bolsters rather derail that line of thought, at least for the moment. Perhaps more information will surface at some point. A lovely conundrum, in any case.

ariel 9th August 2014 07:38 PM

3 Attachment(s)
I would just want to draw your attention to 3 daggers from the book of Bashir Mohammed, - Furussiya Collection. All identified as Timurid Afghani, 11-12th century.

Battara 9th August 2014 10:22 PM

Timurid Afgani - not crossed my mind. Does slightly remind me of the profile of an Afgani kukri........

Oliver Pinchot 9th August 2014 10:50 PM

Brilliant, Ariel. I was just readying the camera to shoot those images.
The St. Peter dagger is certainly of this family, but I don't agree they are from Timurid Afghanistan. I'm not sure the authors are, either-- note that in the description, the first line reads, "This dagger is said to have been found in present-day Afghanistan."
More manifestly, to me the inlay work may speak of Central Asia but is also reminiscent of the Mamluks (who in turn, influenced the Ottomans.)
Whatever their origin, they do make a good argument for the grip on the S.P. dagger being original to it.
Again, well done!

ariel 10th August 2014 02:16 PM

1 Attachment(s)
Wouldn't you agree that the distinction between what we know as "present-day Afghanistan" and "present -day Central Asia" is rather artificial? Even now, Tajiks, Turkmen and Uzbeks ( classical Central Asian people) constitute large portion of Afghani population.

At the beginning of the second millennium, Persian culture was the dominant and unifying force in that area. Then the Mongols came.....

Here, BTW, is an old Persian miniature, showing a warrior, decapitating his enemy with a very, very similar knife.

ariel 10th August 2014 02:25 PM

2 Attachment(s)
And then, there is this enigmatic knife of Prince Andrey Staricki of the early 16th century, the origins of which are still hotly debated in Russian sources, although, IMHO, they are fairly obvious: Islamic, Persian, Mongol,- choose your definition, but no matter what, - Eastern.

Oliver Pinchot 14th August 2014 04:34 PM

1 Attachment(s)
Ariel, I agree one can certainly argue the boundaries- to the degree there were any-- to the lands of the Afghan tribes; for the "modern" boundaries of Central Asian states, we have mostly Stalin to thank. On the other hand, the designation "Central Asia" specifies a geographical region, it isn't a political distinction.

An observant friend who has been to St. Peter's recently provided the image I've attached below. It shows that the grip of the dagger is ferrous metal, and was chiseled overall originally-- probably inlaid with gold or silver at one time as well. The image also makes it clear that the band around the pommel contains an inscription in Arabic characters. Based on this, I would argue that the dagger is in a homogenous state, which allows it to be associated with two of the examples pictured in The Muslim Knight cited above, numbers 138 and 139. The authors suggest that those examples may have been produced during the Ghazavid era in Central Asia. By comparison, the blade of the St. Peter example is more substantial, and the overall quality and complexity of the blade, even taking into consideration the condition of number 138, is substantially higher. Further, the grips of both the published examples are, or were, organic. The St. Peter dagger has an iron or steel grip, given the type and degree of corrosion. For these reasons, I would provisionally attribute it to a form that existed in Central Asia (and may well have evolved there) but was produced in an Ottoman or Safavid (or pre-Safavid Akkoyunlu) workshop, probably between 1400-1500, based upon the motifs which appear on the blade, i.e. the Timurid trefoils and segmented sun disk.

I don't think the Staritski dagger is much of an enigma. It's a Central Asian bladeform that survived into the latter 18th century; the suspension system survived even longer. The forward-curving blade remains in use by Persian, Mughal and even Ottoman smiths up to the latter 19th century; it seems to be a simplification of the very complex blades discussed above. The real key to attributing the origin of that type is the scabbard. Note the strip which runs up the back of the scabbard-- it is set with a ring at the top and bound by a series of bands. This characteristic survives on elaborately-decorated kards of 19th century Bukhara and Khiva, among other Central Asian daggers. It is also found on some Tibetan weapons and I've even seen Chinese trousses that make use of it. Too, the long chape terminating in a bead is retained on the scabbards of "Khyber knives" dating well into the 20th century. So yes, definitely Eastern....

Jim McDougall 14th August 2014 07:34 PM

Oliver, this is not only eloquently, but perfectly explained along with the exacting detail and description with which you characterize and define this fascinating dagger. This is what is so exciting, and always has been, in your manner of describing and categorizing weapons. You always patiently attend to not only what a weapon also explain why you believe it is so, and substantiate your analysis with observations and comparisons.

This is the kind of detail and text I wish many others with expertise in certain fields of arms study would openly share in this way, and it is exciting to read this, in your own inimitable style of writing, and LEARN!!!

This is exactly why I am so thrilled you have at last put these kinds of fascinating details and your profound knowledge on Eastern arms into print with your book!!!!! I am very much looking forward to receiving my copy, and would like to thank you personally for adding such an important reference to the resources we rely on in pursuing our common interests.

With all kindest regards,

kronckew 15th August 2014 05:54 AM

2 Attachment(s)
Originally Posted by Oliver Pinchot
The real key to attributing the origin of that type is the scabbard. Note the strip which runs up the back of the scabbard-- it is set with a ring at the top and bound by a series of bands. This characteristic survives on elaborately-decorated kards of 19th century Bukhara and Khiva, among other Central Asian daggers. It is also found on some Tibetan weapons and I've even seen Chinese trousses that make use of it. ...

my old chinese/tibetan knife with two bands and the strip:

spiral 15th August 2014 03:21 PM

Fascinating thread!


ariel 16th August 2014 12:25 PM

No argument here: Central-Asian origins, actual manufacture 14-16 century Persia or Mughal India. My only hesitation is with your mention of its potential Mamluk origin. Perhaps, we did not understand each other's intentions. But so be it, end of disagreement.
The Staricky's dagger still is a subject of vicious, murderous arguments on some Russian Forums. I do not have to tell you about the nationalistic currents in the Russian history of everything: who invented radio, airplane, steam engine and shashka, the Fourth Rome etc. The prevailing view there is that Staricky's dagger is an example of pure Russian origin and tradition, although some brave souls try to tie it to the Vikings' skramasaxes( well, Vikings were part and parcel of Kievan Rus etc, but Asians did not leave any imprint on the pristine body of Russian culture :-)). I tried to draw their attention to the very same features that you have mentioned, but was summarily shot as a secret agent of the Mongolian Horde:-)

And still.... The enigma of that dagger is in its inscription: pure and unadulterated gibberish, but imitating Arabic script. To me it suggests that the dagger might, -just might! - have been made by a Russian master who tried to advertise it as a genuine "Eastern" object.

There are very few 16-17th centuries iconographic evidences of its presence in the suit of arms of Russian nobility and even fewer actual examples. But they do exist, just like St. Peter's dagger..... I think they might be reasonably close cousins.

All times are GMT. The time now is 01:32 PM.

Powered by: vBulletin Version 3.0.3
Copyright ©2000 - 2018, Jelsoft Enterprises Ltd.