A rare medieval sword taken from the Mamluk Arsenal at Alexandria during the last Crusade in the second half of the 14th Century is the top item in Bonhams sale of Antique Arms and Armour on November 28th in Knightsbridge. The sword is estimated to sell for £40,000 to £60,000.
This Italian-made sword was given as a gift to the Mamluk rulers of Alexandria by the Christian ruler of Cyprus and Jerusalem, King Peter I as part of a gift sealing a treaty. The sword was then forcibly taken back into Christian hands during the last Crusade’s victory over the city of Alexandria. Consequently the sword symbolises the history of the time when Christians and Muslims fought for dominance in the eastern Mediterranean.
King Peter I, the King of Cyprus and Jerusalem, launched the last Crusade in 1362 against the Muslim Mamluk Empire in the region. A fleet set out from Cyprus and proved victorious, taking the city of Alexandria with immense amounts of plunder returned to Cyprus, including this sword. Such was the treasure and weapons taken from the captured city that many of the overloaded ships had to jettison cargo.
David Williams, Head of Bonhams Antique Arms and Armour Department, says: “The fascination of this sword is that it has survived some six centuries having been gifted by a Christian King to a Muslim ruler and kept in the famed Alexandrian armoury and then taken by force by Crusaders and returned to Europe. It is a remarkable survivor of the Crusader period.”
The sword has a flat tapering double-edged blade 92.5 cm. long and overall with the hilt 115.7cm. The weapon bears an inscription that reads: ‘Hubs Khazain al-Silah bi thughri al-Iskandariyya ayyam al-Sayfi Faris al […d.]’, ‘Donation to the armoury in the frontier city of Alexandria in the days of al-Sayfi Faris al- [Muhammadi]. Amir Faris was an inspector in 840H, corresponding to 1436-7 AD. Only three other swords appear to be recorded inscribed in the name of the Amir Faris. One in a private charitable foundation, another in Leeds Castle, Kent and the other in the Military Museum at Istanbul.
This historic sword was acquired by the late owner and arms collector, E.A. Christensen of Copenhagen, in exchange for a Swedish sword from Major John Lindgreen of Malmoe. Lindgreen had bought the sword at an unknown date from the dealer Lundgreen of Stockholm