Near the cross-country skiing track on Terminillo, a winter resort famously developed by Italian Dictator Mussolini in the 1930s, a mysterious medieval sword stands as a testimony to an ancient local legend.
The sword is set in the stone in an area known as “Cinque Confini” (Five Borders), at a spot where traditionally the territories of five towns met. Those towns are Rieti, Cittaducale, Micigliano, Borgovelino, and Castel Sant’Angelo.
It’s said the sword was placed at this location by five Templar knights who were fleeing persecutions proclaimed by the King of France, Philip the Fair, in October of 1307.
On December 21st of that year, the five knights led by Guy de la Roche met at the border between the papal states and the Kingdom of Sicily (which at the time ran along the ridges of Terminillo), where they were hoping to find sanctuary.
According to legend, Roche planted his sword in the stone and dissolved the order, freeing himself and his brothers from their vows. The five knights then sought shelter in various communities and villages around the area. Roche chose to become a monk and lived his final days in one of the Franciscan sanctuaries in the valley of Rieti. Legend has it that the knights would meet again at the same spot where they dissolved the order every Solstice Day.
It’s unclear whether the sword is the original or a copy. The date 1307 and the initials INIO (In Nomine Iesu Omnipotentis) are inscribed on the sword. Local residents also added a plaque to the site featuring Roche’s final words.
Update as of August 2020: The sword has disappeared. The bottom part of the sword is still stuck in the rock, which leads some to believe that it has been stolen. It’s unknown if it will return.
Update as of January 2024: The sword is back in his place.
Know Before You Go
The sword is located near Pian de' Valli. A tarred road through the woods leads from the main settlement in Terminillo to the cross-country skiing resort.