The Polish Karabela: Light But Powerful King's Sabre

3 minute read

The Polish Karabela is a type of sabre originating in Poland, popularized in the 1600s - and was often engraved and adorned with jewels, nature, animals, and other ornamental decorations.

What's In A Name?

Dating back to the 1600s, there are several theories as to the name "Karabela":
  • Some believe it's a combination of two Turkish words - "Kara" (dark) and "Bela" (curse)
  • Others believe it may come from the city of Karbala in Iraq, where karabelas and other similar sabres were once popular and traded regularly
  • Another theory holds that the name derives from the Turkish town Karabel near Izmir.

Polish karabela from the 1600s

Light But Powerful

Karabela sabres were often worn only as decoration when they first became popular. During the time of King Jan III Sobieski, however, karabelas gradually gained popularity as a weapon, being very useful in close combat and much lighter than some other Polish swords of the time.

Polish Karabela

Both the cheaper ornamental karabelas, as well as the more expensive purpose-built weapon karabelas, were used in battle.

Due to their cost, even the wealthy could often afford only one -- and even then, some replaced precious stones or other expensive materials with cheaper ones in some cases, to make them more affordable.

Karabela from Polish King Sigismund III
Karabela from Polish King Sigismund III

Image credit: One, Two, Three.