medieval-religion: Scholarly discussions of medieval religion and culture
On Monday, October 8, 2007, at 4:02 am, Henk 't Jong wrote:
> You wrote:
> > Finally, some mention should be made of the Lance of St. Sergius, an
> > emblem of the city of Trieste since at least the thirteenth century.
> > According to local legend, it dropped from the sky into Trieste (or
> > Tergeste, as it was then) on the night that S. was martyred. The "sacra
> > alabarda", as it is often called, is one of the treasures of Trieste's
> > cathedral; it is shown as figure 48 (p. 183) in Volume One of Attilio
> > Tamaro's _Storia di Trieste_ (Roma: Stock, 1924; 2 vv.). Various
> > representations of it on the city's arms are shown here:
> > http://www.misterkappa.it/sto-ala01.html
> Well, if thatīs the lance he was martyred with
We know practically nothing about the historic Sergius. The standard account (already present in his probably mid-fifth-century early Passio, BHG 1624) is that he was beheaded. The Lance is a "weapon" that is said to have dropped miraculously from the sky on the night of S.'s martyrdom. I put quotes around "weapon" because it's apparently a symbolic one only: according to Tamaro, the object preserved in the cathedral treasury of Trieste is likely always to have been ornamental.
> he must have at least lived
> until the 15th c, because thatīs the first time we have a picture of a
> weapon like that. It can be seen on a fresco by Giacomo Jaquerio
> (active ca
> 1401-53) dated to the first or early second decade of the 15th c in the
> church of the abbey of St Antonio di Ranverso in the regio Turin, which
> shows the rougher version of the polearm
> (www.mauriziano.it/arte/frsetpatr.htm). Itīs a corsesca, the
> forerunner of the partizan.
As you say, "a weapon _like that_" (emphasis mine). There are different theories about the actual development of this symbol, which can be seen on the city's later medieval seal:
Tamaro (op. cit., p.189) thinks that the object's design is in origin either a stylized lily or a stylized cross. He's found it on the mid-thirteenth-century coinage struck by the city and by bishop Volric (who in 1253 began the city's emancipation from episcopal control). The cross type appearing lower down on this early Tergestine coin could easily have been modified to produce it:
And I've seen reproductions of late medieval Tergestine coins showing the design present on the city seal but with tailed banners atop the poles rather than the three-pointed metal object that makes one think of a corsesca. An hypothesis accounting for all this would be that the Lance of Saint Sergius is a weaponization of those banner poles achieved by replacing the banners with the three-pointed object (with recurved lower projections) already present, according to Tamaro, on some of the city's coinage in the thirteenth century. A look through the _Corpus nummorum Tergestinorum_ would probably clarify matters.
As an aside, like the three towers of the city wall that appear on Trieste's late medieval seal and coinage so too the three points of this object convey an obvious pun on the element "three" that one can read (though this may be a false etymology) in the city's name: TERgeste, TERgestum, TRIeste.
> It [the corsesca] comes in two types; the first and most common is the
> with the hooks turned up (this became the partizan) and the other with
> turned down, which in the 16th c is sometimes called spetum. The one
> in the
> city arms is a 16th c type, also called the Friuli spetum, because thatīs
> the area where Trieste is situated in.
Trieste is adjacent to Friuli but I don't think it's ever been part of it (at least not for any significant length of time). It's in the Venezia Giulia portion of today's Regione Friuli - Venezia Giulia and in the Austro-Hungarian empire too it was administratively distinct from Friuli. Before it entered the empire it was a tiny coastal republic. It may have used the spetum of adjacent Friuli but that weapon must derive its name from its presence in Friuli proper.
> Alabardo is Italian for halberd, and that itīs not.
Indeed it's not. But this particular object has been so called since at least the sixteenth century. Some misnomers are entrenched beyond eradication. Now, of course, the Sacra Alabarda is just a name for a symbol whose form may be expressed in different ways. Here's a press announcement of a modern instance by the ceramicist Guido Mariani:
And here are some photographs showing Mariani's design:
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