The crossbow was an arm of great importance from about the eleventh century until the seventeenth, and Spain, throughout the latter of these centuries, was celebrated for their manufacture. Roquetas, a Catalan, "master-maker of crossbows," constructed them of steel, so skilfully and finely that they could be carried concealed inside the sleeve of a coat, and discharged without awaking the suspicion of the victim. A letter of Rene of Anjou, quoted by the Count of Valencia de Don Juan, also refers to the skill of the Catalans in making crossbows, and mentions one of these weapons constructed by "Saracen," of Barcelona, "who refuses to teach his craft to Christians." The letter further states that this arm was of a curious shape, and that, "despite its small dimensions, it carries to a greater distance than any other I have yet possessed."
1 My theory that this harness and the one in the Royal Armoury are the same is strengthened by the official inventory, which specifies "a bard of gold and silver, striped, and with devices in relief, studded with lapis lazuli, and yellow gems and luminous crystals." The Count of Valencia de Don Juan says that this fine outfit, except the portions which are represented in the plate, was mutilated and dispersed in later years, and that he has discovered fragments in the museums of Paris and Vienna, and in the collection of Baron Nathaniel de Rothschild.
A handsome Moorish crossbow, inlaid with bronze (Plate xliii.), exists in the provincial museum of Granada. The Royal Armoury has no example of the rare form of crossbow fitted with wheeled gear, but all the commoner kinds employed for hunting or for war are represented here, including those with the armatoste or goat's-foot lever, stirruped crossbows, and those which have the torno or windlass (French crane-quin). Demmin appends the following note to an illustration in his handbook of a crossbow with a goat's-foot lever fixed to the stock: - "A similar weapon in ironwood, sixteenth century, belonged to Ferdinand the First, proved by the inscription on the bow: Dom Fernando rei de Romano, followed by four Golden Fleeces. It bears the name of the Spanish armourer Juan Deneinas. This valuable crossbow once belonged to M. Spengel, at Munich, but it is at present in the collection of the Count of Nieuwerkerke."
There is also in the Royal Armoury a crossbow of the scarcer kind known in Spanish as ballestas de palo, in which the gaffle is not of steel, but put together from slips of springy-woods, including yew. The wings are tipped with horn, and traces of heraldic and Renaissance decoration, painted on parchment, yet remain upon the weapon. Other portions are inlaid. Except for the erasure of the painting, this arm is splendidly preserved, and still retains its double cord, nut, and pins, together with the separate lever.
Another interesting crossbow in this armoury belonged to Charles the Fifth, who used it for the chase. It has a verga or yard of steel engraved with the letter C four times repeated and surmounted by a crown, and bears the inscription, Pro • Imperatore • Semper • Avgvsto • plvs • vltra •, together with • IV de la fvete •, for Juan de la Fuente, the name of a celebrated maker of these parts of a crossbow. The shaft (tablero), ornamented in bone and iron, is from the hand of another master, Juan Hernandez, whose signature is 10: hrz. The Count of Valencia de Don Juan supposed that this was the one crossbow which Charles took with him to the rustic solitude of Yuste, and which is mentioned in a document at Simancas as "a crossbow with its gear and gaffles (it is in His Majesty's possession, but he has not paid for it)."
Sword Of Boabdil El Chico (Museum of Artillery, Madrid)
Hitherto I have traced the war-equipment of the Spanish Christians only. In the early period of Mohammedan rule, the conquerors used a simple dress for war, consisting of the capacete or almofar for the head, secured by a chain beneath the chin and covered by a piece of cloth called schasch, hanging to just below the shoulders; a wide sleeveless tunic; a shirt of mail; tight breeches, and leather shoes. Their weapons were the lance and sword. The foot-soldiery wore the djobba, a tight-sleeved tunic of white wool, bound to the body by a scarf, and leather shoes, and carried as their arms a capacete of beaten iron, without a crest or cheek-pieces; a large round shield with its projecting umbo; and either a lance, or a double-edged and double-handed sword. Such are the details represented in the Codex of the Apocalypse, preserved in the cathedral of Gerona. As time progressed, the weapons and defensive armour of these Spanish Moors grew more luxurious and ornate, being often decorated with enamels, precious stones, or inlaid metals such as silver, gold, and bronze. Prominent centres of this industry were Murcia, Zaragoza, and Toledo, which are even said to have surpassed Damascus. Andalusia, too, was celebrated for her gold-inlaid cuirasses and coats of mail; while, according to El Idrisi, the town of Jativa enjoyed a widespread fame for every kind of decorative armour.1
The military outfit of the Spanish Moors was, therefore, much the same as that of Christian Spain. Toledo under Muslim rule continued to be famous for her swords. Moorish Seville, Ronda, and Valencia were also favourably known for weapons, household knives, and scissors. Cutlery in the Moorish style is still produced in certain parts of eastern Spain, and in his History of the Mohammedan Dynasties of this country, Gayangos tells us of a knife which bore upon one side of the blade the inscription in Arabic characters, "With the help of God I will inflict death upon thy adversary" and upon the other side, in Castilian, the words, "Knife-factory of Antonio Gonzalez. Albacete, 1705."