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Introducing the Brescia Spadona

Posted by Caesar , 20 Oct 2012 · 3,421 views

I have added another sword to the arsenal, this one is the Oakeshott Type XVIa Brescia Spadona by Albion Swords. This is my second Albion, the first being the Type XVa Talhoffer. The Brescia is a recreation of a sword residing in Brescia, Italy, made some time around 1430-1450, its blade from the legendary Passau, Germany, and hilted in an Italian style. Its blade is fullered about 1/3 its length and it features a second bevel, easily visible when a light source hits the blade. In spite of its proportions being that of a "hand and a half" sword, the handle is long enough to accommodate two hands without having to grasp the pommel, and it features a quite wide cross.

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At first glance, the Brescia and Talhoffer might seem very similar, but the differences between the two take only moments to pick out. The Brescia's Type XVIa is a wider blade that, while it still comes to an acute tip, does not taper nearly as quickly as the Talhoffer's XVa. Its blade isn't as thick or rigid as the XVa, and it has an exceptional cutting edge. I was able to get the sword to bite into a sheet of paper, holding it with one hand, and cut along its length until the slightly duller, wider strong of the sword started to tear its way through. The XVa, by comparison, can generate a devastating cut, but it isn't as forgiving with its wickedly narrow top 6". You really have to get that Center of Percussion hit, at least I've noticed, for it to bite into and slice through its target. The XVa is also balanced ever so slightly closer to the hand.

This hints at the differences in the purpose of each blade. The XV and XVa swords began to appear sometime around 1300AD, and were used into the 1500's. They are narrow, rigid thrusters, which still hold a cutting edge. They seem to have developed to counter the growing quality of protection offered by armor as it evolved out of mail and into plate. The highly acute tip, rigidity, and aft-weightedness of the blade allows for excellent point control, ease of operation at the half sword, and enhances the ability of the sword to be thrust into the gaps of armor when they are found. The blade is unlikely to bend too much under stress when rammed into mail rings or skidding across a plate, and that narrow point can slide into and pop the rings more easily than a wider one, or catch and push into the gambeson exposed beneath armor plating.

The XVIa, on the other hand, is broader, more flexible, and with a keener edge. It is still acutely pointed, allowing for excellent thrusting capacity, but provides for superior cutting. It could still be used against an armored opponent, but especially against plate, the flexibility doesn't work in its favor (this is not to say it would be rendered ineffective against a plated opponent, simply that a sword like the XVa would be a better option!). It would be extremely effective against lightly armored opponents, or in an unarmored duel. Based on Ewartt Oakeshott's research, the XVI/XVIa appeared some time in the 1300's (+/- x years) and based on extant examples, were in production at least into the late 1400's. They combined excellent cutting and thrusting characteristics, if not being quite as specialized as the XV/XVa.

One of the things that I can say about both these weapons is that their maneuverability is fantastic. They are of similar length (just over 46" in length), similar weight (3 pounds, 6 ounces for the Talhoffer, 3 pounds, 4 ounces for the Brescia), and of similar balance (3.25" from the cross for the Talhoffer and 3.5" from the cross for the Brescia). Both have excellent point control, and cuts at CoP with either are highly effective, but I feel a lot more confident in the cut with the Brescia with its broader, thinner (from a side-profile) blade.

I think one of the things I enjoy the most about handling these weapons is the experience of the feel of them, and of the understanding gained from having them in hand, and cutting and thrusting with them. You can read about swords, axes, armor, etc. all you want, but your appreciation is so much enhanced when you get to experience them first-hand. Just awesome.

  • KJakker likes this

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