El Cid and his Sword, La Tizona

El Cid and La Tizona

The other dropped the lance and the sword he took in hand;
when Ferrán González saw it, he recognized Tizona,
rather than wait for the blow he said, I am defeated!

Shortly before he died from his unlucky arrow wound El Cid allegedly saw a vision of St. Peter, who told him that he should gain a victory over the Saracens after his death.  So he was clothed in a coat of mail and was mounted upon his horse Babieca, fastened into the saddle and at midnight was borne out of the gate of Valencia accompanied by a thousand brave and valiant knights.

They marched to where the Moorish king and his army were camped, and at daylight made a bold and sudden attack. The Moors awoke and it seemed to them that there were as many as seventy thousand knights, all dressed in robes of pure white and at their head was El Cid holding in his left hand a banner representing reconquest and in the other a fiercesome sword – La Tizona.

Legend says El Cid snatched the Tizona from King Búcar, a defeated Moorish opponent during a fight.  Some time after his death it passed on to the grandfather of Ferdinand II of Aragon, known as the Catholic, and the king who finally defeated the Moors and sent Christopher Columbus to the Americas and his daughter Catherine to England to marry King Henry VIII.

Traditionally Spain is famous for its production of high quality swords and for soldiers and adventurers a blade made of Spanish steel was a must have item because the quality of the steel and the skill of the blacksmiths combined to make an exceptionally strong and perfect lethal weapon.

The manufacturing process was kept a carefully guarded secret and to make such an exceptional weapon they had to select the very best raw materials and then follow a complicated technical process to achieve the right balance between hard and soft steel forged at a temperature of 1454º Fahrenheit for exactly the right length of time and followed by a critical cooling and shaping process.  So complicated was this whole procedure and so perfect was the finished weapon that to achieve this level of precision a master craftsman would typically only be able to make two or three blades in a year.

El Cid and La Tizona

In 1516, King Ferdinand is believed to have given the sword to the newly titled Marquis of Falces for services performed for the crown. The story says the marquis could have chosen land or palaces, but preferred instead the sword of El Cid.

La Tizona then allegedly passed on in the Falces family, which allowed the Military Museum in Madrid to exhibit it from 1944 onwards.  In 1999, a small sample of the blade underwent metallurgical analysis which confirmed that the blade was made in Moorish Córdoba in the eleventh century and contained amounts of Damascus steel, which was purposely forged to create some of the sharpest and strongest swords ever created in history.  An inscription on the blade says that it was forged in 1040 (1002 in the modern Gregorian calendar) so this analysis may well have confirmed the sword as genuine.

 La Tizona is a solid, seventy-five centimetre long sword with a black handle and has become as important to Spanish heritage as King Arthur’s Excalibur in England or Charlemagne’s Joyeuse in Germany.  In 2007 the Autonomous Community of Castille y León bought the sword for 1.6 million Euros from the present Marquis, Jose Ramon Suarez del Otero y Velluti, because it was felt appropriate that the sword of Spain’s biggest hero and the iconic symbol of national pride should be displayed in El Cid’s own city and it is currently on display at the Museum of Burgos.

El Cid also had a sword called Colada, which wasn’t a rather pleasant pineapple and coconut cocktail but rather a lethal killing weapon.  La Tizona was a one-handed sword but the Colada was longer in length and was a two-handed blade.  The Colada sword is now part of the Royal collection and on display at the Royal Palace of Madrid but its authenticity is disputed.

There is controversy too concerning La Tizona and although until now, nobody doubted that the sword, which was on display at the Military Museum for more than sixty years, once belonged to the country’s national hero when the northern region of Castilla y Leon purchased the sword the museum suddenly declared that it was a fake.  Currently this is just seen to be a very bad case of sour grapes but we shall see…

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More posts about El Cid:

El Cid and the Spanish Reconquista

El Cid and his Horse, Babieca

El Cid and his Wife, Ximena

El Cid and his sword. La Tizona

El Cid and Saint James

El Cid and Alfonso VI

El Cid and the City of Burgos

El Cid and the Castle of Belmonte

El Cid – The Film Fact and Fiction

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