Scabbard for a sword from end of 13th to beginning of 14th century

Scabbard for a sword with chamois fittings and decoration from Leiden, early 14th century
Scabbard for a sword with chamois fittings and decoration from Leiden, early 14th century

Coincidence brings interesting challenges sometimes. Thanks to a photoshoot with Doba Karlova and a newly finished scabbard which was given to the customer there was the theme of the evening talks  pushed a little in that direction, and one of the crew members mentioned, a sword which he has at home and is too long without a scabbard. It was a really posh piece made by Pavel Skryja, and it was clear, that the scabbard will have to at least try to match the quality of the weapon.

Considering the earlier datation of the sword than I am used to handling, the collection of information had started. Right before christmas another piece of the puzzle arrived (M. Volken´s and O.Goubitz´s "Covering the blade) and it gave the whole project another dimension. Mrs. Volken mentiones in her text, that among other layers in medieval scabbard is also a layer of parchment as the inner lining. As we tried to match the sword, the choice was quite straightforward after that piece of information :) - there will be a parchment lining :)

We wanted to anchor the scabbard into the 1st half of 14th century. To get an easy inspiration for decor we reached for Leiden fundus ((Driel-Murray 1990) and using the same source we chose the hanging system (not your typical Naumburg with set of holes on the front, but a tunel) I chose that also because it was used on an extant piece from Burgos, and I had a feeling, that somewhere has to be also the photo of the back side, and did not want to work just from the assumptions taken from the front view. So I started a marathon of emails to Spain in order to get that back view of the sword (not published in any literature known to the museum employees, but availale in their photo depot). After getting those pictures of Fernando de la Cerda´s scabbard the work was kind of straight forward.

With all the theoretical prep in place was nothing else left to do than buy parchment and chamois leather and get it over with :) After shaping the parchment lining on the whole length of the sword and getting the prepaired wooden pieces from my carpenter the concert for a leatherworker, wood and grater could start. On the grated wooden base in the correct shape came the layer of linen and on that the leather upper (Nadolski 1955)  The hand sewing of the back seam and around the throat is not in the pictures, but is present on the finished piece :)

The last, but not least was the hanging system. Its "instalation" is always a little tense, as the hours already spend in the process could be lost in one wrong move of the awl... But it had a happy ending. The original piece from Burgos had the long straps removed before putting it in the comb, but as it was made in quite characteristic way, it is safe to assume, that it looked the same as in codex Manesse and Naumburg statues and that it was tied like that. The sword belts with buckles seems to be more common in England (Oakeshott 1960).

The functionality of the whole mechanism of the belt seems great to me. Thanks to the seam on the back side is the scabbard sitting on its place even in quite fast movement of the body. So again - trying to come up with new solutions for something that really worked at the time of its making is not worth it. It worked than, it has to work now :) and finding the original piece should be easier. The "Naumburg" type is really well thought of and I can understand why it was so popular for almost a 100 years (1250 to 1340).

You can check out how it turned out in the pictures below. There is no picture on a person, as the owner came to pick it up as soon as he saw the first photo of it, and I do not expect to get a picture with a costume from him, as reenactemt (opose to collecting cool weapons) is not his hobby. But maybe he will borrow it to somebody sometime :)