Royal Armory in Madrid. Collection of weapons and armor of the Spanish kings

Just a gorgeous exposition of knights on horseback! No glass. You can take pictures from all sides And most importantly, there are a lot of these knights …

Coins, a key, a pliable lock,
notes in the diary – even though the deadlines are out,
so that you can read these lines again,
cane, cards, chess, dry flower,
hidden in the pages of an old book
in memory of some dear,
but nevertheless a forgotten moment,
and a mirror where by death fire
the dawn trembles in the setting scarlet circle.
A nail, a glass, a door – by the dictates of fate
obedient slaves have been given to you,
blind and uncomplaining servants.
If you leave, they will not keep your mark.
They don’t care if you are alive or not.
Jorge Luis Borges. Translated by Vladimir Reznichenko

Military museums in Europe. Today our story about the military museums of Europe will be devoted to the collection of weapons and armor of the Royal Armory in Madrid, which arose thanks to the will of King Philip II. According to this document, the armor and weapons collected in it were forbidden to be sold after his death to pay the earthly and spiritual debts of the deceased, as it was at that time. The chamber became the legacy of the future Philip III and his successors and became an integral part of the treasures of the Spanish crown, and today it is one of the pearls of the Spanish historical heritage.

In this photo on the right is a 16th century spearman, not a knight. He wears a bourguignot helmet and no full plate leg cover

Philip II decided to keep it for two reasons. First, he was well aware that she was the best demonstration of the strength and power of the Austrian imperial house, and in addition, perpetuates the memory of the Emperor Charles V, whom he admired. Secondly, this luxurious weapon was of great material value, so it should have been preserved at least as capital. Well, his successors only enriched her with their personal acquisitions and battle trophies.

The main core of the current collection is the arsenal of Emperor Charles V, which contained the weapons of his father, King of Castile Philip I, and his ancestors: Ferdinand the Catholic and Emperor Maximilian I of Austria. To these Philip II added his personal arsenal and collection of medieval weapons from the royal treasures of the Trastamara del Alcazar de Segovia. The collection covers the entire 16th century and is international in character. This is due to the fact that the Spanish kings placed orders for armor and weapons mainly in southern Germany and northern Italy – in areas that were under the control of the Spanish crown and where the famous families of gunsmiths Helmschmids, Groschedel and Negroli worked. War trophies also fell into the royal arsenal. For example, received at the battle of Pavia (1525), Mühlberg (1547) or Lepanto (1571), ambassadorial gifts from the Italian dukes of Mantua and Urbino, as well as gifts from Japan sent to Philip II as king of Portugal.

Although the arsenals of Charles V and Philip II brought fame to the collection, the reigns of Philip III and Philip IV (1605-1621-1665) also enriched it with products of the 17th century – diplomatic or family gifts. These include, for example, gifts that were sent in 1604 and 1614 by King Charles I of England of England and Duke Charles Emanuel I of Savoy in 1603.

During the reign of Philip IV, the armor had already lost all meaning, but they continued to be given as souvenirs, in particular, plate sets presented to him by his aunt, the Infanta Isabella Clara Eugenia, Governor of the Netherlands, as well as his brother, Cardinal Infante Don Fernando, the Governor are known. Milan. The reigns of Philip III and Philip IV increased the collection of firearms and edged weapons, and among the latter there were many samples that were forged in the city of Toledo.

In 1884, a fire destroyed the arsenal building, built in 1560 by Philip II. Alfonso XII (1857-1874-1885) ordered the construction of his current building, which was completed after his death by the will of his wife, Queen Regent Maria Cristina de Habsburg.

So the collection of the Royal Armory in Madrid is a real treasury of weapons, which contains many absolutely stunning examples of armor and weapons. Well, now let’s get to know at least some of them better …

Royal Armory in Madrid.  Collection of weapons and armor of the Spanish kings
Ceremonial sword of the Spanish monarchs. Around 1490 Length 134 cm. Width of crosshair 27 cm. Weight 1835 Blade with an almond-shaped section. The pommel is decorated with a beam of arrows (obverse) and the emblems of Queen Isabella I of Castile and Ferdinand II of Aragon. respectively. On the obverse of the crosshair is the motto “TANTO MONTA” (Double support), which belonged to Ferdinand, and on the reverse of the crosshair is the address: “MATER DEI ME MEMENTO MEI” (“Mother of God remember me”). In the inventory of the Royal Armory of 1594, where it is, accordingly, described as “An old sword in the hand wide”. Until the 18th century, it was used in court ceremonies such as knighting, oath-taking, or during the entry of monarchs into cities. In this case, the sword was carried in front of the royal cortege with the edge up. The privilege of wearing it belonged to the Count of Oropesa since 1488, when Ferdinand II granted it to Ferdinand Alvarez de Toledo, 1st Earl of Oropesa

Bourguignot helmet of Emperor Charles V. The work of Filippo Negroli (1510-1579). Year of manufacture 1533. Weight: 3600 The helmet is one of the masterpieces of Renaissance art. The work of the Milanese Filippo Negroli, considered the most prominent figure of the 17th century for the high artistic and technical quality of his work and the reinterpretation of classical antiquity. Curly hair on the head is expertly connected to the beard on the chin of the helmet, shining gold against the backdrop of polished metal. Similar helmets have been known since the 4th century BC, but they had a mask with eyes and nose that completely hid the face. Charles V’s helmet was also supposed to have a similar mask, as indicated by three holes and a small protrusion located above the lip. But for some reason it was not done. The helmet had a predecessor: a helmet forged by Filippo Negroli himself for Francesco Maria della Rovere, Duke of Urbino, in 1532, which is now kept in the Vienna Armory of Hovburg Castle

Armor and helmet of Maria della Rovere, Duke of Urbino (1490-1538), by Filippo Negroli (Vienna Armory)

As a lover of exclusive weapons, the emperor also wanted a similar helmet. According to the treaty, Filippo Negroli was obliged to improve the helmet of the Duke of Urbino, adding a chin to the cheek pads, and gilding “the hair on the head and beard.” In addition, the order of the Golden Fleece had to be depicted on the helmet necklace. On the helmet there is an inscription: • IAC • PHILIPPVS • NEGROLVS • MEDIOLAN • FACIEBAT • M • D • XXX • III (Milan Jacopo Filippo Negroli did this in 1533). As a result, Charles V appeared before his subjects as a classic antique hero, and we can conclude that the knightly armor of this time for noble persons became something like a very expensive and prestigious clothing, the fashion for which was constantly changing.

Negroli helmet, back view

Side view, clearly visible area for face mask

Duke of Urbino’s Helmet

Armor of King Charles V. The work of the master Kohlmann Helmschmid (1470-1532), Augsburg, circa 1525 This armor is one of the most famous in the Royal Armory of Madrid. It is part of a typeface known as KD from the initials that are visible on his left shoulder, following the ancient tradition that the armor received its own name based on its decoration. The use of initials was aimed not only at establishing the identity of its owner, but also associated with the traditions of antiquity. The most striking example is this particular armor, since the initials KD mean Carolus Divus, that is, Charles the Divine – a title characteristic of Roman emperors. Colman made it around 1525 when he defeated Francis I at the Battle of Pavia and married Isabella of Portugal in 1526. When Charles V entered Seville on the occasion of his wedding, the inscription Divus Carolvs was made on the triumphal arch, and then it was used throughout Europe many times. Since Karl, then certainly Divus!

The gorget also depicted the necklace of the Order of the Golden Fleece, founded in 1430 by Philip the Good (1419-1467), Duke of Burgundy and great-grandfather of the Emperor, for the glory of God, and the defense of the Christian faith and the brotherhood of knights, since this was the most honorable award of the era of chivalry

Armor of Charles V. Front view

Armor, side view. The size of the shoulder pad and the letters KD depicted on it are clearly visible

Another fantastic bourguignot in the shape of the head of the dolphin of Emperor Charles V. Master Kolman Helmschmid (c. 1470-1532), Augsburg, c. 1530. Weight 1705 The dolphin at that time was considered a good advisor, a symbol of Christ, a protector of people and a guarantor of immortality

The famous Roman armor of Giobaldo II della Rovere, Duke of Urbino (1514-1574), which he gave to Philip II in gratitude for awarding him with the Order of the Golden Fleece. Master Bartolomeo Campi (? -1573), Pesaro. Approx. 1546. According to Campi, the armor took two months to complete. It bears the inscription: BARTOLOME • CAMPI • AVRIFEX • TOTIVS • OPERIS • ARTIFEX • QVOD • ANNO • INTEGRO • INDIGEBAT • PRINCIPIS • SVI • NVTVI • OBTEMPERANS • GEMINATO • MENSE / PERFEC / PIСАВRI DNOVI • M ( , the jeweler, the author of the work, finished it two months later, obeying the wishes of his prince, even when he would need a whole year / Pesaro, 1546). On the back, he repeats his initials • B • C / • F • (Bartholomeus Campi Fecit), while on one of the pieces of the skirt, he inserts the Greek inscription IOΛBIOS MNǑSΛBIOS (Happy and prosperous)

Back view


Elbow pad

Turkish helmet of Ali Bach, admiral of the Turkish fleet at the Battle of Lepanto. Height 30 cm. Width 22 cm. Weight 1570 Got into the Royal Armory in 1582 as a trophy. Nowadays, it has lost some of its former splendor, especially due to the lack of headphones adorned with rubies, turquoise and diamonds, which were absent at the end of the 18th century. Meanwhile, it is known that it had thirty rubies depicting flowers of five and six petals, which is now visible in the places where they were. In addition, its original appearance was clearly documented in the inventory of the Royal Armory from 1594-1603.

Helmet of Philip I the Beautiful. Master Filippo Negroli, circa 1495-1500. Height 24.5 cm. Width 21.5 cm. Weight: 3560 g

Horse armor by Kohlmann Helmschmid (c. 1470-1532), Augsburg, c. 1517-1518. Probably belonged to Emperor Maximilian I of Austria. Biblical tradition and classical mythology are intertwined in it. Engraved, chased, slotted ornaments with abundant gilding stood out effectively against the background of crimson fabric

Breastplate – The right half is dedicated to Hercules, starting with the scene in which the hero kills the snakes sent by the Hero or Juno when he was eight or ten months old. Then three of his twelve labors are shown: the fight against Antaeus, the Lernaean hydra, and the Cretan bull. On the left side is the story of the biblical Samson. On the front of the bib, Delilah cuts his hair, which contained his incredible strength. Then he knocks down the pillars of the temple to destroy the Philistines, carries the gates of the city of Gaza, and fights with the lion. The croupier of the armor ends with a dolphin head, hinting at the power of long hair, in this case a ponytail

Left half of the armor

Armor of Philip II (1527, 1556-1598), by Wolfgang Groschedel (1517-1562), Landshut, 1551. The armorer became his favorite in place of Desiderius Helmschmid, the paternal armorer of the Spanish royal house, who made Prince Philip his first armor. But then, for some reason, the master Philip did not please, and he began to order armor from Groschedel. In this “armor” Philip II won his first military victory as king six years later, winning the Battle of San Quentin on August 10, 1557, the day of San Lorenzo. Since then, this armor will always be associated with this victory, in honor of which he ordered the construction of the Royal Monastery of San Lorenzo de El Escorial

Author’s note: Photos from the website of the Royal Armory in Madrid are freely available.

To be continued…

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