The true foundation and the true beginning from whence you may learne all thinges belonging to this art, is the Rapier alone, and from it will I begin, and you shal perceive of what great importance this beginning is, and how without it hardly or never any commeth to true skill and perfection …
Vincentio Saviolo, ‘His Practise’
THE MILITARY RAPIER
The single-handed war-sword of the Renaissance period (sometime referred to as a ‘military rapier’ or a ‘war-rapier’) was a robust and deadly weapon designed for both thrusting and cutting in near equal measure and, just as importantly, providing the means for an effective and solid defence; a sword suitable for the “Captaines & Souldiours” who would “follow the wars” (remembering that Saviolo states that “… this knowledge doeth more particularly appertayne unto Gentlemen and souldiers that professe and followe warres …”)
Below is a 1595 Club training sword, based on a military rapier in the Wallace Collection, London (catalogue number - A535) made by Paul Macdonald.
Blade length : forty one and a half inches.
Weight : three and a half pounds.
There are two sister swords from the same collection [A531 and A534] all are catalogued as ‘War Rapiers’. The three weapons are remarkably similar in hilt design, blade length, balance and weight. All date from the latter half of the sixteenth century.
Other examples of this type of sword are to be found in numerous collections across Europe – including; the armoury in Brescia, the Paldi Pezzoloi Museum in Milan, the Museum at San Marino, the Royal Armoury in Turin and the Palazzo Ducale in Venice. Not to exclude the recently discovered battle sword of Jean Parisot De Valette, Grand Master of the Order of the Knights Hospitaller of St John, during their famous defence of the island of Malta in 1565.