Saturday, April 6 2013

Lore: the Sibylline Daggers

And with this post, I begin an ongoing series on the background of the Vatican Vampire Hunter series: monsters, relics, famous figures and more. Our first installment looks at the dagger that Lucy wields in Mysterious Albion, and its siblings.

The Sibylline Daggers

These medieval weapons, said to have been forged from St. Peter’s sword or the Nails of Christ’s Passion for Charlemagne’s twelve peers (but more likely the products of 13th century Venice), are twelve in number. Each one is dedicated to one of the Sibyls, pagan prophetesses who foretold the coming of Christ in early Christian and medieval legend. All the daggers are long and sharp, and each bears a unique hilt and pommel as well as a legend etched into the blade.

An elaborate and almost certainly fraudulent tradition surrounds the Sibylline Daggers. After their initial use by Roland and his knightly companions (Oliver le Daim, Gérin, Gérier, Bérengier, Otton, Samson, Engelier, Ivon, Ivoire, Anséis, and Girard according to the most common version of the story), they were passed down through various noble families of France and the Holy Roman Empire before being reunited by a brotherhood of Knights Hospitaller during the First Crusade. These twelve knights, Aleaume, Amyon, Beaudonnier, Bruyant, Ernaut, Forsard, Gilles, Hernaut, Huidemar, Othon, Prades, and Rabel, were all French nobles (otherwise unknown to history) and fought together during the Siege of Antioch.

While defending a church against an attack by Saracens, so the legend goes, the twelve knights were taken by surprise and forced to fight with only their daggers. After their triumph, the twelve knights were amazed to discover each one was armed with nearly identical weapons. This was taken as a sign of Divine Providence and after that the twelve knights formed a new brotherhood, the Knights of the Sibyls, to defend the churches of the Holy Land, especially the great Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. When the last remnant of the Crusader kingdom finally fell in 1291, the Knights of the Sibyl (direct descendants of the originals) were slain or driven into exile, and the daggers separated again. A more likely origin is that the daggers were forged in Venice, possibly either for some aristocratic family or the Venetian secret police, and gradually scattered across the Mediterranean and beyond.

What makes the daggers especially of interest to the Green Sisters is that they apparently the power to inflict especially grievous injuries on supernatural creatures. The Delphic Dagger, for instance, was able to kill the werewolf that ravaged Bachenwald in the Tyrol in the 1840s, even though silver bullets are generally considered to be the only effective method of slaying lycanthropes.

The twelve daggers, their inscriptions, their pommel symbols and probable locations are as follows:

The Agrippine Dagger, Iesus Christus violatus verberatusque erit (Jesus Christ shall be outraged and scourged), a whip, unknown, the private collection of the French counts d’Aubert.

The Cuman Dagger, Iesus Christus a caelo veniet, atque in orbem terrarum pauperter vivet regnabitque (Jesus Christ shall come from heaven, and live and reign in poverty on earth), a crown, unknown.

The Cumean Dagger, Deus nascetur ex virgine integre, et peccatoribus sermones conferet (God shall be born of a pure virgin, and hold converse with sinners), a candle, believed to have been lost at sea in 1606.

The Delphic Dagger, Propheta ex virgine natus spinis coronabitur (the Prophet born of the virgin shall be crowned with thorns), the Crown of Thorns, the Vienna Convent of the Green Sisters.

The Erythraean Dagger, Iesus Christus, Filius Dei, Salvator (Jesus Christ, Son of God, the Savior), a horn, the private collection of Lord Julian Rutherford, the Earl of Ironwood.

The European Dagger, Virgo filiusque eius in Aegyptum confugent (a virgin and her Son shall flee into Egypt), a sword, unknown.

The Hellespontic Dagger, Iesus Christus in cruce ignominiam patietur (Jesus Christ shall suffer shame upon the cross), a crucifix, unknown.

The Libyan Dagger, Dies veniet ubi homines Regem omnium vivorum videbunt (the day shall come when men shall see the King of all living things), a lit candle, the private collection of Dornburger aristocrat Manfred Beckenbauer.

The Persian Dagger, Satanus vero propheta superatus erit (Satan shall be overcome by a true prophet), a lantern, last seen in 1875 in the hands of Doña Charlotte Rémond Aznar y Villareal of northern Mexico.

The Phrygian Dagger, Dominus noster resurget (Our Lord shall rise again), a banner on a cross-​​staff, either Alexandria or Cairo, the owner unknown in either case.

The Samian Dagger, Dives nascetur ex virgine integre (the Rich One shall be born of a pure virgin), a rose, the property of the Bishop of Schwerin in Germany.

The Tiburtine Dagger, Altissimus de caelis descendet atque virgo in vallibus desertis videbitur (the Highest shall descend from heaven, and a virgin be shown in the valleys of the deserts), a dove, American retail magnate William Oglethorpe.