Ethnographic Arms & Armour

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Philip 17th December 2006 05:43 AM

a picture worth a thousand words...
Thanks for the info and the illustration, which is appropriate regarding Fenlander's question.

The incident which you describe is the same one shown in color in a huge illustrated tome, "Historia de Portugal", probably dating from the 1930s, in the library of a friend of mine. Marvellous book, covering Roman Lusitania until the 1910 Revolution, lavishly illustrated with engravings, photos, and color lithos throughout. The picture as I remember it showed the execution of the nobles other than the unfortunate Marchioness -- one large scaffold with the victims tied to horizontally-mounted wagon-wheels, and made to suffer a variety of unpleasant fates.

It wasn't made clear in that book, but do you happen to know when was the last auto-da-fe in Portuguese history? I recall reading that the Inquisition was not formally abolished until the second decade of the 19th century, but didn't the trials and executions cease quite some time before that? Correct me if I mis-remembered the time of the abolition.

fernando 17th December 2006 02:15 PM

Hi Philip
The illustration with the Marchioness of Tavora being decapitated was just to support the idea of horizontal beheading, as it comes with a romanticized version written by the famous Portuguese writer Camilo Castelo Branco.
No doubt that the version with all the nobles ( and some servants ) being executed at the scaffold was more publicized ... some were laid on the wheels, others against St. Andrews crosses ( Aspas ) ... some with their bone canes mace crushed before being killed, some after being killed, depending from the sentence instructions ... others were burnt alife. Also the wheels were connected to ropes disguised under the scaffold, so that they would be strangled ( garroted ) with the wheel turning. The Marchioness was the first to be conducted there, and taken for a round on the scaffold, to both be seen by the public and to be made familiar to all these processes, described to her by the hangmen, before she was executed.
This event took place in 1759, and was a Secular ( civilian ) process, not an Inquisition ( religious ) exercize.
Eventually the processes used in torture by Seculars and Religiouses were distinct, each having their own "specialities".
You are right, Autos de Fé in Portugal started on 1536 and ended on 1821; however the last one with life sentence took place in 1761, when they burnt alife a Jesuit priest, named Malagrida, whom had actually been envolved with the Tavoras, in the famous conspiracy process a few years before, against the King Dom José.

Philip 18th December 2006 01:02 AM

muito obrigado, amigo!
Hi, Fernando
Thanks for the wealth of info.

I looked at the woodcut illus. that posted, studying it another time, and note that the headsman is not using a sword (as we have been mostly discussing here), but rather a broad saber, or a falchion. I have read about sabers being used for the purpose in countries like Hungary and Poland, but of course that may be due to the significant Oriental influence (Tatar and Turk) on those nations' arms and military traditions.

Was the curved blade common in Portugal for decapitation? I am thinking that its use might be influenced by the extended Lusitanian presence in the East: east coast of Africa near the Arabian peninsula, India, south China, etc. Would this be a reasonable conclusion or am I relying too much on this "eastern influence" thing?

I think I need to learn more in general about Portuguese swords. Maybe in the future you can start some other threads about the martial (fighting) swords of Portugal from the middle ages through the age of the discoveries. Posting some pics would help. There's so much in print about Spanish arms, but your country is virtually ignored in arms literature!

fernando 20th December 2006 08:43 PM

Eu é que agradeço
Hi Philip,
As i told you, that was a fantasized illustration, not necessarily good to exemplify the execution instrument used ... just a figure of horizontal stroke.
In fact and considering the inumerous narrations on the Tavoras case, there is no precision on this subject.
In O CASO DOS TAVORAS by Guilherme de Oliveira Santos in 1958, supported by a bibliography of some two hundred works, the instructions of Marquis de Pombal,
the all mighty prime minister, were ( quoting ) "to use a montante ( two handed sword ) or, better, a bullfighting sword, already kept at the Apppeal Judge Oliveira Machado's house".
Cutelos ( cutlasses ) and Machados ( axes ) are quoted in other works, basically all with a romantic touch.
On the other hand i fail to find a relation between a two handed sword and a bullfighting sword, even considering the period in question, and ignoring that XVIII century bullfighting swords were usable for side strokes and all that, also considering a possible Spanish influence intrument.
I am trying hard to find some info about this in the Net, in both Portuguese and Spanish language.
As for the execution being achieved with one only stroke, we could basicaly beleive so, as ( also ) witnessed by Saint Julien, French diplomatic representative, also quoted in the same book.
Amazingly this part of the execution sword is probably the only one with uncertainty, as the "treatment" given to the other individuals seems to be narrated by all with coinciding details.
Besides a tendence from the period to romancize the event, it seems as there wasn't so many witnesses, as all streets going to the scene were blocked by the King's Dragoons, with orders to search everyone's body and stop all those looking suspicious. The sentenced families were very powerfull, actually so much or even more than the King.
If ever i find some trusty version of the weapon actually used, i will come back here to tell about it.
I know there isn't much material written on Portuguese weaponry, but that is a discussion that "would give lots of cloth for sleeves", as we say here. However i would not be the indicated person to feed that discussion, due to my unsuficient scholar level ... i speak and write english "by ear", to start with. My library is next to unexistant, my school grade is next to none. I just happen to fancy buying old publications, as also old weapons ( i am a very recent collector ). Reason why i have a couple books on the Tavoras process, and some dozen books on Inquisition, a theme i got passionate with, since the day somebody sold me an original tome written by one of the most proheminent Jews in the Portuguese XVIII century, Antonio José da Silva, garroted and burnt by the Inquisition .
But in as much as i can be usefull, i will try to help.
Kind regards.

Philip 21st December 2006 12:16 AM

bull swords
Amazing. A bullfighting sword? The only ones I am familiar with are the stiff, narrow, stabbing-only ones used in the Spanish "corrida". How can you cut with something like that?

We have Portuguese-style bullfights here in California (the Irmandades do Divino Espirito Santo, founded by Azores immigrants, stage them as part of religious festas), and of course the bulls are not killed but are led out alive after the forcados have their little bit of bruising fun. One man told me that bulls have been left alive in Portugal for well over 300 years. If this is correct, I am surprised that there were such things as bullfighting swords in Portugal.

fernando 23rd December 2006 09:55 PM

Hi Philip,
I have done some little researching.
Two things:
Firstly, bullfighting swords, in the beginning, were not those "stiff, narrow, stabbing-only ones used in the Spanish corridas" ( I actually have one of those ).
Secondly, killing the bull in the arena in Portugal only stopped in the XX century.
To start with, long time ago, Iberian nobility went capture the bulls in the country, to bring them in to be fought in enclosures.
There are narrations of a certain Portuguese guy, Gonçalves Viegas, having exhibited in bullfighting in the XII century.
King Dom Duarte (1433 ) is said to have participated himself in "corridas" . Although with popular adhesion since the beginning, these fights had a strong military cynegetic component, actually achieving a higher expression by the XVI century. In Portugal it was King Dom Sebastião whom gave bullfighting a recreation status , developing public events inside enclosures ( arenas ). In 1578 in Xabregas, the said Dom Sebastião, Dom Jaime de bragança, Dom Cristovão de Tavora ( the sadly famous family ) and Dom Luiz de Menezes all participated in a " corrida". By the time of Spanish occupation of Portugal ( The Filipe Kings, as from 1580 ), an Iberian fashion developed in the two countries; no more knights with heavy swords that destroyed the bull, but elegant cavaliers , with lighter swords. In 1575 Pope Gregorio XIII had derrogated Pope Pio V prohibition of such barbarian scenes, which were causing several accidents. The Portuguese side, allways whilling not to copy their Spanish occupiers, decided to submit to the Pope's bull, starting to cut or covering the bulls horns, this becoming their own version. With the coming of the Bourbons dinasty in Spain, bullfighting became a play for plebeians , the nobles becoming the spectators. It started to be afoot, as populars couldn't aford the horses. However in Portugal kings and nobles continued intervening in bullfighting as principal actors. Only in 1745, by Dom João V realm, horns were nude again, "a la Spaniard", people would call it. Arrivin King Dom Jose to the throne ( 1750 ), nobles and aristrocats kept fighting, but already using some aid plebeian men afoot, in an unorganized manner. Thats when the first "forcados" appeared. Then later, Queen Dona Maria II ( 1836 ) completely banned all types of bullfighting, for being an uncivilized behaviour, however with reduced success. It was only in 1928 that, with decree 15355 of the 14th. April, bullfighting that envolved the killing of the bull was criminalized and put to an end. But amazingly (?) four years ago the Portuguese Government decreed an exceptional situation for a little place called Barrancos, near the Spanish border, allowing for the bull killing during their annual festival corrida. Matter of fact, a few villages in the same area keep sacrificing the animal, tricking the eyes of the law.
So after all, there is a certain sense when Marquis de Pombal instructed the execution of Marchioness of Tavora to be decapitated withy either a two handed sword or a bullfighting sword.
And that's all.

ariel 23rd December 2006 10:49 PM

Originally Posted by S.Al-Anizi
Just a note to Philip, in Arabia, executioners perform vertical, not horizontal cut. The victim would be sitting on his knees, the headsman would jab him in the back with the tip of his saif, then off goes his head.

Then, why does the professional Saudi Arabian executioner describes horizontal cuts?

fenlander 24th December 2006 09:42 AM

vertical cuts
Phillip is correct i think. As I also heard that the executioner in Saudi Arabia uses vertical cuts not horizontal. The prisoner is asked to kneel and bow their heads. Then the stroke is vertical not horizontal. One source backs that claim up, and I think Amnesty international would b reliable in these matters.

S.Al-Anizi 24th December 2006 09:53 AM

Originally Posted by ariel
Then, why does the professional Saudi Arabian executioner describes horizontal cuts?

I really do not know what the executioner means by using horizontal cuts, and for what, but Ive talked to people who have witnessed executions in Riyadh, and from many photos you can find on the internet, clearly, vertical, not horizontal cuts, are used.

Philip 25th December 2006 01:26 AM

Thanks, Fernando!
I appreciate again your vast historical knowledge, here in the States we cannot get many books on Portugurse history so we are at a disadvantage. The info you provide indicates that the fellow at the I.D.E.S. who told me about the non-killing of bulls in Portugal may have had some dates and facts wrong. outra vez, obrigado!

I don't want to discuss the tourada/corrida further on this thread because taurine sport is off topic in this context, but if you have pics of the old Portuguese bullfighting sword, could you START A NEW THREAD to share this little-known info with us all? Maybe you can post a pic of your Spanish style "estoc" side by side for comparison purposes.

Joe 25th December 2006 09:43 AM

1 Attachment(s)
Depiction of an execution about to be performed, using a horizontal cut?

fernando 25th December 2006 08:51 PM

Hi Philip,
I do not have that much historical knowledge ... only a couple days browsing the Net, looking for some Portuguese material, besides a couple books and a couple notions.
I too don't want to feed any discussion in bullfighting as a topic ... this was all about swords and swording.
I once posted my Spanish estoque in this Forum, but the discussion diverted from the virtual idea.
If you wish, i can e-mail pictures to you, with some supporting info.
Kind regards

fenlander 26th December 2006 09:43 AM

Joe do you know aything more about the picture you posted. Where is it from i.e. which country ? Who are they etc ? :)

Joe 26th December 2006 06:30 PM

Sorry Fenlander, I don't know anything about the picture that can't be inferred from looking at it.

fenlander 27th December 2006 08:37 AM

no problem
Fantastic picture. Never seen anything like it :eek:

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