Apr 9, 2020
Apr 26, 2007

Executioner's Sword

Executioner's Sword

late 1600s

Steel, wood, brass and copper wire

Overall: 108.9 cm (42 7/8 in.); Blade: 85.7 cm (33 3/4 in.); Quillions: 22.5 cm (8 7/8 in.); Grip: 15 cm (5 7/8 in.)

Weight: 2.3 kg (5.07 lbs.)

Gift of Mr. and Mrs. John L. Severance 1916.1620

Did you know?

The inscription on this sword reads, "When I raise this sword, so I wish that this poor sinner will receive eternal life."


Execution by decapitation was generally reserved for the nobility during the Middle Ages and Renaissance. Although the axe was favored in England, for centuries swords were used throughout Central Europe. The blades were often etched with moralizing inscriptions and designs representing Justice (as here), the gallows, the rack, or the Crucifixion. By the early 1700s swords were no longer primarily used in Europe for executions, but they still functioned as symbols of power. This sword was probably ceremonial for a formal procedure or procession.

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