Mystery of the Medieval Sword Inscription

This 13th-century sword with a gold inscription was likely made in Germany, but was found at the bottom of the River Witham in 1825. Credit: The British Museum
This 13th-century sword with a gold inscription was likely made in Germany, but was found at the bottom of the River Witham in 1825.
Credit: The British Museum

To be honest I thought that the inscription of swords was just something that happened in fantasy books and role-playing games – but it seems not! Most inscriptions were invocations to God to help out the person bearing the sword.

But a certain sword that is currently part of a 1215 Magna Carta exhibit at the British Library has got all the experts stumped, as no-one knows what the following means:

+NDXOXCHWDRGHDXORVI+

I must say that I certainly don’t – the signs of the cross that top and tail the inscription are standard for medieval spells as well, so maybe its a magical inscription – and perhaps that’s why it is so hard to decipher?

You can read the full story at livescience.

 

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2 thoughts on “Mystery of the Medieval Sword Inscription”

  1. There is a lot more discussion about this here: http://britishlibrary.typepad.co.uk/digitisedmanuscripts/2015/08/help-us-decipher-this-inscription.html with a lively discussion and links to academic articles on sword inscriptions.

    Having read a bit about this during a recent break (by which I mean reading the above page and one of the papers linked), it does seem to boil down to the letters CHWDRGHD , the rest is likely a formulation invoking divine protection .

    One of the comments on the Medieval Manuscript blog linked about hypothesises that DRGHD refers to “Drogheda” – which I would suspect might be an element of wish-fulfillment about this hypothesis. Others suggest that it is a Germanic word for “SWORD”

    1. Thanks Seamus for the extra information. I think the whole mystery makes a great subject for a short story – either set now or back in the Middle Ages!

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