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Old 9th February 2009, 05:06 PM   #1
Jim McDougall
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Default The Mystery of El Cid's Swords Tizona and Colada

While researching material with the early cutlass and scimitar, and the discussion reviewing medieval and earlier Spanish swords, I became caught up in trying to discover more on the famous swords that were El Cid's.

El Cid (El Sayyid= the Lord), Rodrigo Diaz de Vivar (1043-1099) was a famed Castilian heroic figure, immortalized in Spanish history and legend, as well of course as the Hollywood epic "El Cid" with Charleton Heston and Sophia Loren.

These two swords seem to have become even more fabled than El Cid himself, and what they might have looked like, how El Cid acquired them, and what became of them has become a mystery. Some versions claim Tizona was taken in battle with a Moorish opponent in battle, and was passed down to El Cid's som in laws, some say he was awarded both of the swords.Another account suggests Tizona was part of a ransom for Berenguer Ramon II. I found one account that claimed Tizona was buried with him.

Most confusing is that both swords, or examples stated to be them, are today in museums in Spain.

The name 'Tizona' means literally burning stick, firebrand (=a person who stirs revolt or trouble).
It is said that the blade was forged in Cordoba, and was of damascus steel. Could this be a metaphor for the carbon used in forging the steel? With 'Colada' , while the term literally means 'strained' (as in the fruit used in the well known cocktail), as used for the sword (according to Sebastian de Covarubias, writing in 1611) referred to the acero colado process of producing alloyed steel without impurities. This would seem to support the concept, and naming of swords for these factors as well as often where or who made them was a well known Muslim practice.

While Tizona was said to be a single hand sword, it is often claimed that Colada was a two hand sword. According to most resources, this would seem unlikely, as the two hand swords, at least of larger size and extended grip, were not used until at least 1300, and then not popular until much later, about 16th century. This leaves the identity of Colada even more confusing.

Returning to Tizona, in considering the swords in use during the 11th century, it seems likely that it may well have been of the forms used by the Almoravides, double edged and likely hilted much like the early Islamic swords or even with simple straight crossguards and 'Viking' style hilts. The Frankish blades were much in use not only in Andalusia, but Morocco, and the hilts resembling the Viking style seem to have been often used as well.

In 2007, the Spanish noble owning Tizona, though it had been on display in the Royal Armoury in Madrid since 1944, decided to sell it to the Cultural Ministry to display in Burgos near El Cids burial location. The authenticity of the sword was contested, much likely due to the hilt form which was of style much later, 14th to 15th century in Hispano-Moresque fashion. As that battle ensued, the metal of the blade was tested metallurgically, and again...one version claims the metal corresponds to 11th century Cordoba, while other views hold to the 14th-15th century assessment.

The Colada, also in Hispano-Moresque mounts of that period, remains at the Royal Palace, seeming to attract much less conflict, as it seems generally held that its authenticity is probably questionable at best.

In 1839, there was a fire in the Royal Armoury in Madrid, and according to accounts, including Sir Guy Laking, many of its holdings ended up in London auctions subsequently. Nothing was actually written or inventoried as far as I am aware, until Albert Frederick Calvert wrote "Spanish Arms and Armour" in 1907. Many of the swords and weapons shown instantly reflect doubtful attribution. In this inventory, Calvert describes 'Colada' being there, and that the Conde de Valencia believes it belongs to the 13th c. but notes he also thinks that the blade (#G180) may be 11th century. It is noted that both Colada and Tizona had been included in inventories of the treasury of Ferdinand and Isabella at Segovia.
This suggests perhaps that these two escaped the apparant 'deaccessing' of 1839.

In another curious reference titled "Selections from the Letters of Robert Southey" (1856), the accounts written by his son in law J. Warter, note a letter of 1827, where someone he knew had stolen the sword Tizona from the castle of Bejar, leaving another in its place. The figures involved and the ultimate outcome are left muddled in a mess of letters, but the implication seemed worthy of note.

These are the proceeds of notes I gathered and some observations which I feel has given me a better understanding of the history of these famous swords, and I hope others will add comments and hopefully additional information.

All best regards,
Jim
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Old 10th February 2009, 05:55 AM   #2
Gonzalo G
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Let´s stick to the facts. The Tizona was mentioned on literary sources only, in the times of El Cid. Latter, on the year 1503, Gonzalo de Bricio, by mandate of the Queen Isabel La Católica, makes an inventory of the weapons existing in the Alcázar of Segovia, and among them describes the presence of the Tizona". Fray Prudencio de Sanvoval, in his chronicle of Kings of Castilla and León, mentions the Tizona, which is kept on the hands of the Marquee of Falces, since it seems it was gaiven to them by the King Fernando El Católico as a reward to their services, with the condition to bring it to the royal palace on the swearing of Kings of Spain. The Marquee kept the sword until 1936, when it "disappears" from their residence, along with the probatory documents. The sword "reappears" after the Civil War in the Castle of Figueras, in 1939, and it passes to the Army Museum in Madrid.

We don´t know if the sword on the hands of the kings was really the Tizona, we don´t know if the re-appearded sword is the Tizona, and I personally don´t know if the legitimacy documents, signed by their Catolic Majeties, were also found.

Of this sword, it is said that the hilt is not original, but rehilted in the times of the Catolic Kings, almost five centuries latter from the times the Cid lived.
The hilt is clearly european, and the blade, according with the clasification from Oakeshott´s book Records of the Medieval Sword, seems to belong to the XIII type, though all the hilt with guard and pommeal from this sword are clearly from the Reanaissance. Not like a sword taken from a moroccan nobleman, though you stated, without references, that frankish swords were exported to North Africa. You have to take on account that the almoravids were berber specifically.

Is this sword autentic? Are the laboratory sudies from the Complutense University trustworthy? Are there some valid proofs which relates this sword to the Cid? It exists the possibility that this sword was used as a symbol and for propaganda purposes in times in which new regimes were beginning to consolidate, and there was a need of national symbols to create a sentiment of unity on the country. Curiosly, the Cid seem to be fought more time at the service of the moors or for his own interest, than at the service of his catolic king, against who also fought. Something Hollywood and other "sources" conveniently forget to mention. Colada means "cast" in spanish. It is mentioned as taken as a battle trophy from Second Count of Barcelona, Ramon Berenguer, so it´s origins before are not clear. We have to mention that Barcelona was a county in which the metallurgy was at the higher level on all the christian iberic area. The catalans or catalonians, inhabitants of the County of Barcelona, were the first to produce casted iron (iron very pure for the standards of those times in liquid state, produced in the fargas catalanas or catalan forge), in what today we call Spain, though the arabs were more advanced in this sense. Please see from Fernando Olaguet-Feliu Alonso, Arte Medieval Español hasta el Año Mil (Medieval Spanish Art to the Year 1,000, pags. 285 - 286). We continue.
Regards

Gonzalo

Last edited by Gonzalo G : 10th February 2009 at 10:16 PM.
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Old 10th February 2009, 04:33 PM   #3
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Excellent Gonzalo! Beautiful dissertation, and exactly what I had hoped for, a direct rebuttal that does exactly what you noted, sticking to the facts. The material I presented was a compilation of excerpts from a wide range of resources, many of which clearly carry the 'spin' syndrome.
Considering the very nature of both of these swords, being represented as artifacts reverently associated with a virtual national treasure and heroic figure of this stature, the chances of 'clear title' and unbroken ownership is unlikely at best.

I think this is a subject encountered with most, if not virtually all, weapons of such monumental importance, in all cultures and in some cases, religions. We know that in the most classic case, there has been considerable and most troublesome issue concerning like analysis of the Swords of the Prophet Mohammed, which reside, again reverently, in a museum.
It would seem that they, like the swords of the Cid, were probably remounted in later times, much as many swords in use were, into styles more in fashion of newer times and done with great respect.

In many other instances, there are cases where the weapons once held by profound historical figures are sought after, or if in place, constantly scrutinized by historical revisionists. In cases where national pride or that of any elite institutions integrity is challenged or in any way threatened, of course there are sensitive issues.

The swords Tizona and Colada clearly fall into such category, and in the turbulence of history, of course changed hands numerous times. The reason I brought up the rather nebulous reference from the letters of an apparantly prominent figure of the 19th century, suggesting theft and switching of the sword, and the rather shameful 'deaccession' of the museums holdings after the fire was to emphasize such possibilities.

I think Gonzalo has presented some much more secure references documenting likely changes in the holding of these weapons, and reviewing these references will likely present more thorough likelihood of the validity of claims to authenticity. Actually, this is exactly what the museums should be doing, if they have not already done so.

I especially like the reference to the literal meaning of 'colada' and my efforts in discovering the translated meaning gave me 'strained' and of course enough silly references to the drink to give me call for a more stiff one!

I think it is great to see that in both cases, the exotic sounding names for these swords were directly inspired metallurgically, something else which seems to have escaped the copy writers discussing the legends of El Cid.

With Colada, the term 'cast', and I earlier noted, the acero colada process of producing pure alloyed steel, noted in the 17th century reference. It seems that Gonzalo has very nicely linked this supporting information and the fact that Barcelona, known for such metallurgical processes may have been the place where Colada was made. With the swords alleged provenance coming from a Barcelona noble, this does present good historical data, regardless of whether it applies directly to the actual sword representing Colada or not.

Returning to Tizona, the references to the literal meaning of the word; coal, burnt, burnt stick and firebrand, also present intriguing metallurgical reference suggesting the carburizing of steel. The 'damascus' term often seen applied in historical references is typically not to be taken literally, as it is often much too broadly used for serious reference. The term in this parlance can often mean anything from a well forged blade, to actual watered steel to even more remotely, a sword actually made in Damascus (unlikely as this had been more a trade center than manufacturing center since Tamerlane's time).
The interesting results of the scientific tests of the incumbent Tizona seem to be represented quite differently depending on who is recounting them. While one reference states the blade is in fact from 11th century, specifically Cordoba ; the other claims 14th to 15th century with no other specifics .
I wonder if the actual documentation of the tests are obtainable ?

In all, completely fascinating, and I hope worthy of more discussion from anyone who has serious interest in not only Spanish history, but in important historical weapons held in museums.

Thank you so much Gonzalo.

All the best,
Jim
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Old 10th February 2009, 10:02 PM   #4
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Just wanted to add more concerning the naming of Tizona and Colada:

"...swords were named after thier place of production, or at least supposed place of production. There were qala'i from a site in central Arabia or Iraq or Malaysia, Diyafi swords from Iraq, Baylamani from Baylaman which was either in Yemen or India and Mushrafi, from a site which was also either in Yemen or Syria. It is a curious characteristic of these names that the places are so uncertain , which suggests that even by the earliest Islamic times the names referred to types rather than places of production".
"The Armies of the Caliphs"
Hugh Kennedy, N.Y. 2001 p.173

With Islamic swords, they were of course held in the highest reverence, much the same as in European parlance from the swords of the Vikings into the age of chivalry. There was great attention put toward the steel in the blade and its forging, and the Arabs often used metaphoric and poetic descriptions, such as "...the sword drank the water" (op.cit. p.174) referring to the tempering. In the 9th century, al-Kindi, in his treatise on swords was particularly interested in the patterning in the steel in the blades, often using the term 'jauhar' (=jewel) in referencing watered steel.

After discovering the metallurgic nature seeming to be associated with the references to Tizona and Colada, it is interesting to consider the possibility that these name/terms might have been applied to more than these two swords alone. While the passage I have quoted clearly refers to the Islamic practice of naming swords, the culture in which El Cid lived and fought was in Moorish Spain, and the practice would seem to have been well in place. The references to the swords in later literary references to El Cid may well have reiterated the names or terms applied to his swords in earlier accounts.

Perhaps later references reflecting swords in inventories included swords called by the term (?) and not distinctly 'the' Tizona or 'Colada' (?)
I am only suggesting this as a possibility that should be considered in references to these resources, emphasizing this is only a thought.

In the study of often seen sword markings, it has been suggested that the 'makers' names inscribed or stamped in the blades such as 'ANDREA FERARA' or 'SAHAGUM' may well be brands or types of swords. This thought pertains to the superb marketing and commercialism of Solingen in using favored names of earlier makers to appeal to certain client groups. In earlier times, the Franks were also keenly aware of quality marking, and the famed and mysterious 'ULFBERHT' swords seem to have been marked in this sense as well.

Best regards,
Jim
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Old 10th February 2009, 10:49 PM   #5
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Jim, I am under the impression that the naming of swords was also used by the europeans, but I am unable to ensure it comes from an islamic influence. The name "Tizona", as you noted, could mean a burning coal stick, and it could poetically designate something like a terrible burning sword. Tizón is the part of a branch burnt to the point of an ardent coal. It has another meanings, but not appliable. I wouldn´t use it as a reference to a forged vs a casted sword, as the word has no metallurgical implications in castilian languaje (several other languajes were spoken on the teritory of actual Spain, and I think Celtan speaks one of them, which is more near to the portuguese than to the castilian).
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Old 11th February 2009, 04:05 PM   #6
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The naming of swords seems to have been a practice of the times in general, and the references were with regard to what seems to have been the source of the names applied. With the European swords, it seems that the practice was known among the Vikings (N.Europe) in the sense that they often used heroic or powerful names and phrases to refer to not only thier swords, but axes and other arms as well. The totemic associations taken by warriors seem to have in some degree come into the equation, as with the berserks (bears etc.) but what is most interesting, and does seem to be somewhat in accord with what I was suggesting with the Islamic swords, are references to dragons or snakes as pertaining to the Viking swords.
As described by Oakeshott in his venerable "The Archaeology of Weapons" the snake allegory refers to the imagery of the pattern welded blades, whose patterning from the manner in which they are forged recalls the skin of the snake, also wonderfully described by Dr.Lee Jones in his "The Serpent in the Blade".
Here, once again, are references to metallurgic characteristics used in reference to swords, whether in naming them, or in describing them.
This artful and poetic analogy often lent well to the romantic literature that became popularly known, and has come through the ages in classic literature.

Perhaps, as I was noting earlier, the names of Tizona and Colada, may have been loosely applied to contemporary swords referring to the style in which the blade was made, or again, where it was made. It seems that I have seen references that refer to 'the tizona' or 'the colada' , which suggest possibly a descriptive term rather than specifically a singular entity.

The tizona term, as noted, has varying reference to burned wood, etc. and also of course might have been applied artistically as in 'the flaming sword'.
The colada term apparantly has numerous connotations but the two I found both applied to metallurgic characteristics. I am not sure whether these clearly different terms might have been used to define blades manufactured differently, but the possibility seems worthy of consideration. Naturally semantics, varying dialects and archaic application might all be conflicting in trying to determine how this may have been intended.

It does remain interesting that the interpretation of the names does suggest some possibility that these were descriptive terms rather than names for specific swords, which would still help in better understanding the references to them in the literature. I think this is important in evaluating the cases for the existing swords representing these extremely important artifacts.

Excellent observations Gonzalo!! I am really intrigued by this topic, and its great to have you join me in discussing this.

All the best,
Jim
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Old 13th February 2018, 01:20 PM   #7
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According to my sources, the blade contains a large ammount of damascus-steel.

I'm relatively sure, it was forbidden to export damascus-steel raw material in these times(!).

So it is possible, that Tizona was forged in India or maybe Iran and later conquerred, bought by or given as a present to Europeans.

The sword got two inscriptions:
IO SOI TISONA FUE FECHA EN LA ERA DE MILE QUARENTA
"I'm Tizona, made in the year 1040"

and

AVE MARIA ~ GRATIA PLENA ~ DOMINUS TECUM
"Hail Mary ~ Full of grace ~ The Lord is with thee


Roland
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Old 13th February 2018, 07:38 PM   #8
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Hi Roland,
May I ask what sources are you referring to? To the best of my knowledge, the only study of the (Falces) Tizona's metallurgy is that performed by Antonio Jose Criado and his team, which concluded "the blade was forged from low-carbon steel, and subsequently a surface layer... was produced by carburizing." Alan Williams has written that this metallic structure "differs little from many other examples of medieval swords, axes, and knives... such a blade might have been produced almost anywhere in Europe over a thousand years from Roman to Early Modern times."

According to family tradition the sword was a gift from King Ferdinand, which is plausible, but there is apparently no (surviving) evidence to corroborate this story. As mentioned in my article (and by Gonzalo above), the earliest source that confirms that the sword was owned by the marquis of Falces is Prudencio de Sandoval, in a chronicle published in 1615. Sandoval saw the sword in person, but instead reports that he was told it had been directly inherited from El Cid by the kings of Navarre, then given to an unnamed family ancestor. This version is not believable in itself, but it does not exactly bolster the case for the traditional story...

best,
Mark

Criado et al, "Metallographic study of the steel blade of the sword Tizona," Praktische Metallographie (2000).
Williams, "Science and fakery: the limitations of science in the analysis of arms and armour," Journal of the Arms and Armour Society (2006).
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