No sword is ever created in a vacuum. This goes for any weapon or armor for that matter. This fact is one of the most interesting aspects of the study of historical pieces. Researching what the influences on a weapon's design and what changes were made to answer the challenges it encountered in real use add a great deal to the historical exploration of arms and armor. Today we wanted to share a video interview with Bartosz Sieniawski, a researcher and practitioner who focuses on the Polish Saber. Mr. Sieniawksi has a vast amount of knowledge on the history of this beautiful style of sword. In the video, he highlights the diverse historical, cultural, and practical elements that had an impact on the formation of what we now consider the “Polish Saber.”
Our short film is a collaboration between The Oakeshott Institute and the Center for Early Modern History at the University of Minnesota. Doctor Hamilton Parker Cook and Mr. Sieniawski discuss the development of the saber, how the saber was used, and the unique role of the Polish Saber in conceptions of Polish identity.
Detail of the Battle of Orsha
The 15th and 16th centuries saw the development and popularity of this sword in the area of the Polish commonwealth and its fearsome reputation in combat. It not only becomes an iconic symbol of the Polish people, but has become ingrained in the history and identity of the period.
Detail of the Battle of Orsha 1514
The curved blade of the saber and cross cutting techniques developed for its use gained widespread respect by those who encountered it in battle and training. It was closely aligned with the nobility and military of the region and was a basic right to carry such a blade for a knight of the time, no matter how lowly their status maybe.
Polish Saber w/ thumb ring
Incredible examples were produced for the very high-status members of society. They could even be encrusted with jewels and precious stones, some of these Sabers can be considered real works of art. However, most of the swords made in the day were for the soldiers of the turbulent times of the 15th and 16th centuries and would have been unadorned.
Just a note. There are a few short freezes and skips in the subtitles but they are not long and the narrative is easy to follow.
Link to trailer for "Born to the Saber" the movie mentioned in video.
Article The Saber's Many Travels on the excellent site Hroarr
Nathan Clough, Ph.D. is Vice President of Arms and Armor and a member of the governing board of The Oakeshott Institute. He is a historical martial artist and a former university professor of cultural geography. He has given presentations on historical arms at events including Longpoint and Combatcon, and presented scholarly papers at, among others, The International Congress on Medieval Studies.
Craig Johnson is the Production Manager of Arms and Armor and Secretary of The Oakeshott Institute. He has taught and published on the history of arms, armor and western martial arts for over 30 years. He has lectured at several schools and Universities, WMAW, HEMAC, 4W, and ICMS at Kalamazoo. His experiences include iron smelting, jousting, theatrical combat instruction and choreography, historical research, European martial arts and crafting weapons and armor since 1985.