Sword Masters: The Deadly Art of the Renaissance

Sword Masters: The Deadly Art of the Renaissance
The rider kills the pikeman. An infantryman kills a rider. Illustration from the book The Art of Athletics by Paulus Hector Mayr. Second volume from the Bavarian State Library (Munich), in Latin

- Great hit! - exclaimed Breter,
admiring more and more. “By all accounts, death awaited me.
And my reception was completely wrong and fit
just in case of emergency. I'm ashamed that I applied
him with such an excellent swordsman.
These words mingled with the sound of blades,
with lunges and blows, all increasing respect
Lampurda to Signac. This man recognized in the world
only the art of swordsmanship and people regarded
according to their skill weapons.
Signac in his eyes began to acquire considerable weight.
“Would it be indiscretion on my part, sir,
ask you the name of your teacher?
All the best masters would be proud of such a student.
- I was taught swordsmanship by an old soldier named Pierre,
answered Signonac, who was amused by this chatter. -
Here, by the way, is his favorite blow,” said the baron, lunging.

Theophile Gautier "Captain Fracasse"

History and culture. It is known that in the XV and XVI centuries. both handwritten manuscripts and printed martial arts books were very popular. It is interesting that these books, under the general title Fechtbuch ("books about fighting" or "books on fencing"), for the most part, emphasized unarmored combat on foot, but at the same time using long swords. In 1410, the Bolognese master Fiore dei Liberi published a systematic work, Flos Duellatorium in Armis (The Flower of Those Who Fight with Weapons), which became a significant contribution to the martial arts literature of the XNUMXth century, and as many as three editions of this book have survived.

Miniature from the Fiore dei Liberi manuscript "Flos Duellatorium in Armis". (Paris, beginning of the XNUMXth century). National Library of France, Paris

Spread of another edition of the book by Fiore dei Liberi. Alas, it's not very nice! OK. 1415 Pierpont Morgan Library, New York

Hans Talhoffer's Fechtbuch, covering among other things sword fighting, court fights, dagger fights and wrestling, was also issued several times from 1440 to 1460. Books such as the Wallerstein Codex, the anonymous manuscripts of the Gladiatorium and the Goliath, as well as the Solothurner Fechtbuch are known. Unfortunately, this manuscript has survived only in fragments: of the original 62 leaves, only 30 remain, including 57 illustrations. There is also an anonymous XNUMXth-century work on the use of the medieval axe, Ax Games.

Illustration from the book "Solothurner Fechtbuch" - one of the rarest medieval German combat treatises. The content includes a description of the fighting techniques with a langenschwert (long sword), dagger, polax, and athletic wrestling is also included here. It also contains some advice on mounted combat. Solothurn Central Library in Solothurn, Switzerland

The king of Portugal, Dom Duarte I, also distinguished himself in this field and wrote several treatises on fencing in the 1420s. There are two obscure 3542th-century works on swordsmanship in England, Documents MS 39564 and MS 1480. The Italian Filippo Vadi wrote another major work on the fighting of the period in the 1480s, which was strongly influenced by Fiore's work. Several books on martial arts were also written by the Spanish-Italian knight Pietro Monte in the 1490s and XNUMXs, including the first published book on wrestling.

A very primitive illustration from Baumann's Fechtbuch (sometimes called the Wallerstein Codex) is a German fencing manual compiled by Paulus Hector Mayr in 1556. Augsburg University Library, Germany

It also shows how to fight...

The drawings of the fighting knights in armor from Baumann's Fechtbuch are also very schematic and primitive ...

Hans Chinner has prepared a work illustrated with color pictures on fighting techniques with daggers and armor. Well, the colorfully colored manual of Hans Wurm called "The Wrestling Book" (c. 1500) contains a number of illustrated wrestling techniques of that period.

Around 1512, the artist Albrecht Dürer created a beautiful and beautifully illustrated work showing numerous techniques in both swordsmanship and wrestling. Several editions of Jörg Vilhalm's work survive, including a large handwritten color edition from 1523, which presents many techniques for using a long sword, both unarmored and in armor.

Title page of the second volume of the book "The Art of Athletics" by Paulus Hector Mayr from the Bavarian State Library (Munich), in Latin ...

Around 1540, Paulus Hector Mayr compiled a huge and beautifully illustrated two-volume work on the art of weapons. Moreover, it demonstrated the techniques of owning a sword, a staff, a dagger and even ... a “combat sickle”. Interestingly, this treatise has more than ... twelve hundred pages of text and illustrations! It is hard to imagine a more thoroughly published work!

Duel on combat sickles. Illustration from a fencing treatise by Paul Hector Mayr, 1550. The Negro did not appear here by chance. In one of the comments to the material about the Mary Rose karakk, they talked about blacks in Europe, and in particular in England. And yes, as you can see, they not only were there, but also had the honor of getting into the fencing treatises of the mid-XNUMXth century. Bavarian State Library, Munich

Di Antonio Manciolino's 1531 work is the first known Italian printed fencing manual. One of the most significant masters of the 1500s was the Bolognese teacher Achille Marroso. His "New Opera"* (full title: "New work of the Bolognese Achille Marozzo, chief master of the art of weapons") of 1536 is considered the first text that emphasizes the use of a thrust using a thin blade tapering to a point. However, his work concerned only the traditional military weapons of that time.

"Opera Nova" - this is how it already looked like a printed treatise. There are in the libraries of Milan, Modena, Padua, Leon. Freely available electronic version

In 1548, the Spanish knight Juan Quichada de Reayo wrote an obscure text on horseback combat that reflects traditional 1550th-century methods. In 1551, Florentine master and Marozzo's contemporary Francesco Altoni wrote his own fencing text that challenged some of Marozzo's ideas. Often dated to the 1570s, Angelo Vigianni's voluminous XNUMX Lo Shermo also addressed the use of the thrusting blade.

And Camillo Agrippa's treatise of 1553 was one of the first to focus on the use of a thrust instead of a blow in civil fencing. Agrippa's treatise, which is considered to be another of the most significant works of Italian swordsmanship of the 1500s, also represents the transition from military to civil fencing with swords and the use of a long and thin epee.

New Italian hurdle tournament. Illustration from the two-volume Paul Hector Mayr

The Dutch artist Martinus Heemskreck illustrated the text "Fechten and Ringen" in 1552 with several woodcuts depicting a short sword, a two-handed sword, and hand-to-hand combat. The German master Joachim Meyer produced in 1570 a large and extremely well-illustrated study guide, which is one of the most striking works on swordsmanship of the XNUMXth century. The work covered many methods of using edged weapons and combined some Italian and German elements.

Jacob Sutor later issued a combat manual in 1612 which was basically an updated version of Meyer's earlier work. In 1570, Giacomo Di Grassi published His True Art of Defense on the swordsmanship of the time, dealing with civil self-defense techniques. The English version of this book first appeared in 1594.

Fighting knights. Illustration from the two-volume Paul Hector Mayr

Girolamo Cavalcabo's 1580 work on sword and dagger techniques by the Italian Girolamo Cavalcabo was translated into German and French several times over the following decades. In 1595, Vincenzio Saviolo published A Practice in Two Books, one of the most popular fencing manuals of the late Renaissance. Saviolo's method reflects the change in the shape of civilian weapons used.

Fencing with daggers ... Illustration from the two-volume Paul Hector Mayr

Giovanni Antonio Lovino in 1580 wrote a large and detailed treatise on fencing with rapiers, as well as swords and various other types of melee weapons. True, only some parts of his treatise have come down to us. Other Italian treatises of the late Renaissance include works by such masters as Giovanni Dell'Agoci (1572), Camillo Palladini (c. 1580), Alfonso Fallopia (1584), Nicoletto Giganti (1606), Salvator Fabrice (1606), and later Francesco Alfieri (1640).

Almost all of them reflect the transition from military swords and swords to civilian dueling rapiers. In 1610, the book Gran Simulacro by Ridolfo Capo Ferro, considered the great Italian rapier master and the father of modern swordsmanship, was first published.

Fencers on ... clubs. Illustration from the two-volume Paul Hector Mayr

Jeronimo De Carranza wrote his book on Spanish swordsmanship, The Philosophy of Arms, in 1569. Moreover, it became one of the two main guides that formed the Spanish school of fencing. Another great Spanish master of the time was Don Luis P. de Narvaez, whose The Book of the Majesty of the Sword (1599) differed somewhat in content from that of Carranza.

Narvaez's book is another of the two main Spanish fencing manuals of the time. Several Spanish masters produced fencing books in the 1600s, rewriting those of Carranza or Narváez and favoring either one or the other. In 1640, Mendez de Carmona, a master swordsman from Seville, wrote the "Book of the True Skill of Weapons", discovered only relatively recently.

The young Italian soldier and swordsman Frederico Ghisliero presented the work to the Regola in 1587, and around 1600 Don Pedro de Heredia produced the Discourse on Weapons, a manuscript illustrated with color miniatures on the technique of rapier fencing. Interestingly, Heredia was a cavalry captain and a member of the military council of the King of Spain. His work is characterized by a pragmatic style of presentation, devoid of the philosophical reasoning of Carranza and Narvaez. The Heredia leadership testifies that the Spanish school was neither unified nor monolithic.

An unpublished 1640 manuscript by Mendez de Carmona, The Book of True Armsmanship, was also introduced into scientific circulation relatively recently. But perhaps the most complex and richly illustrated text on Renaissance swordsmanship is Girard Thibaut d'Anver's The Academie des Swords (c. 1630), written in French by a Flemish master who taught the art of rapier fencing.

The only truly French swordsmanship texts known since the Renaissance are Henri de Saint-Didier's 1573, A Treatise Containing the Secrets of the Single Sword, and François Dancy's Battle Sword (1623).

"Swordmaster" George Silver published his "Paradoxes of Defense", advocating primarily the traditional English culture of sword fighting, in 1599. A year later, he wrote his Brief Instructions on My Defense Paradoxes. His work is the main source of information about the English martial arts of the Renaissance and a favorite study for contemporaries who research historical swordsmanship.

Silver described in detail the use of a short sword and a sword, a buckler, a staff and a dagger. In 1614 George Hale wrote The Private School of Defense, described the English fencing schools of the day, and also gave advice on the use of the rapier. In 1617, Joseph Swetnam wrote a treatise on rapiers and swords called The School for the Noble and Worthy Science of Defense.

A swordsman of African descent who wields an early rapier or "sidesword". Illustration from De arte Atlética by Paulus Hector Mayr, published in Augsburg, Germany, c. 1542

So there are no works devoted to the art of fencing in the 1600th-1657th centuries. a lot has been created. Someone folded books based on personal experience, while someone did not hesitate to borrow text from previously published books. For example, many German fencing teachers in the early XNUMXs copied Italian texts. Moreover, often different types of weapons were combined in one book in a completely arbitrary way. For example, the Dutchman Johannes Georgius Pasha wrote a manual on rapier fencing in XNUMX, which included extensive material on pike fencing and ... hand-to-hand combat techniques.

In 1616 the Spaniard Atanasio de Ayala compiled a short text on the use of the staff, and Bonaventura Pistofilo of Bologna wrote a treatise in 1627 on the use of the polax. Antonio Quintino published Jewels of Wisdom in 1613. In it, 16 pages were devoted to fencing, and then there were materials about ... the fight against animals.

Before 1620, Giovan Battista Gaiani wrote two books on fencing on horseback. So for the people of that time there was no difficulty in obtaining information on fencing, set out in printed and handwritten books. Moreover, there is no doubt that an appeal to previously unstudied collections of ancient books, which have only recently become available to the scientific community, will inevitably reveal an even greater number of such source guides.

So for fencing research, there is simply no more fertile time than the Renaissance!

* There is a translation of this book into Russian.

To be continued ...
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  1. 0
    26 May 2023 04: 06
    Many thanks to the author for a detailed historical essay, interesting illustrations and sources! The astonishingly detailed medieval drawings are masterfully executed, it also took patience.
    High bar - 5+++! We look forward to continuing!
    1. +8
      26 May 2023 05: 28
      A paper (material) book always has its own unique charm! Leafing through books, sometimes I catch myself enjoying the smell of paper and binding, or even the rustle of sheets when reading.
      Many thanks to Vyacheslav Olegovich for an interesting topic !!! Good luck everyone and I hope you have a short weekend!!!
  2. +8
    26 May 2023 08: 26
    Miniature from the Fiore dei Liberi manuscript "Flos Duellatorium in Armis". (Paris, beginning of the XNUMXth century). National Library of France, Paris

    The author made a number of inaccuracies, which, given the complexity and volume of the topic, is quite understandable.
    A few clarifications.
    The indicated illustration is not a miniature from the "Flower of the Battle" by Fiore dei Liberi, it is a miniature from one of the manuscripts of the "Palatinate Library" Cod. Pal. germ. 359, written in 1418 in Strasbourg. Today it is in the Heidelberg University Library. Contains two works of medieval German literature of the XNUMXth - XNUMXth centuries - Rosengarten zu Worms and Lucidarius.
    In 1410, the Bolognese master Fiore dei Liberi published a systematic work, Flos Duellatorium in Armis (The Flower of Those Who Fight with Weapons), which became a significant contribution to the literature on martial arts of the XNUMXth century, and as many as three editions of this book have survived.

    There are four editions:
    - Fior di Battaglia (Ms. M.383) - Morgan Library,
    - Fior di Battaglia (Ms. Ludwig XV 13) - Getty Museum,
    - Flos Duellatorum (Pisani Dossi Ms.) - National Library of France,
    - Florius de Arte Luctandi (Mss. Latin 11269) - private collection.
  3. +6
    26 May 2023 08: 58
    Around 1540, Paulus Hector Mayr compiled a huge and beautifully illustrated two-volume work on the art of weapons. Moreover, it demonstrated the techniques of owning a sword, a staff, a dagger and even ... a “combat sickle”. Interestingly, this treatise has more than ... twelve hundred pages of text and illustrations! It is hard to imagine a more thoroughly published work!

    In modern terms, the "implementation of the project" took four years and was very expensive, since Mayr "contracted" the entire workshop of Jörg Breu the Younger to carry out his plan and hired two professional fencers who posed for the artists.
    Ultimately, experiencing "financial difficulties." Mayr, "abusing his official position", put his hand into the city treasury of Augsburg, on which he got burned, ending his life on the gallows.
    1. +6
      26 May 2023 10: 14
      "Having ended his life on the gallows," but Mayer is remembered, but the respectable "fathers of the city" or what they were called? Already, already 8-10 years later, half-forgotten.
      There are exceptions, for example: built a water supply system, a park
      We have in the city: "electro-hydropathic, named after Sofya Iosifovna Babych" before the revolution, there was such a patron of the arts. Already more than 100 are functioning.
      There is "Chistyakova Grove", which was once, in the words of the modern mayor, built a park. How many, after him there were mayors, but they have long been forgotten. Even the current mayor, not everyone knows by name, will they replace him? And .... And they remember Chistyakov
      Likewise in Augsburg
      1. +3
        26 May 2023 10: 29
        Quote from lisikat2
        but Mayer is remembered

        It will be about him in the next article!
  4. +2
    26 May 2023 09: 45
    "Increasing respect" is cool. Yours, but kill.
    I have never read the movie, if there is, I don't remember. I'll look for a movie.
    Good health to all
  5. +7
    26 May 2023 10: 39
    "Games with an ax"
    I liked the name, I think the series could be continued: "Fun with a mace", "Pranks with a flail" .... wassat
  6. +5
    26 May 2023 10: 41
    and even ... "combat sickle"
    I'm even afraid to imagine what was the purpose of this duel? laughing
    1. +3
      26 May 2023 15: 14
      Duel in meat grinders - every turn of the auger is fatal!
      1. +2
        26 May 2023 18: 03
        Duel in the meat grinders

        meat grinder in meat grinders smilethe loser goes to hell
    2. +4
      26 May 2023 18: 29
      and even ... "combat sickle"

      Nothing surprising. Such weapons have been known since ancient times, and were widely distributed throughout the world. It would be naive to assume that all combat sickles are the same, similar to each other. The following varieties are known:
      Khoshpesh - one of the most ancient types of weapons. It was made when people had not yet mastered iron, they used bronze.
      roman Sika originally from Thrace, from the eastern Balkans. Although, despite such a "barbarian" origin, it was successfully used by Italian soldiers. And Roman gladiators in the arena, and robbers. From its name even got the name of a syndicate of hired killers - the sicaria.
      японская Kama.
      African macraca и Gily afar.
      Nepalese Gurkhas wear kukri combat sickles still
      Afghan combat sickle lohar
  7. +1
    26 May 2023 21: 32
    Dark-skinned Africans have been around in medieval Europe since the time of the Crusades. They were called the Moors, the most famous was probably Othello.
    1. 0
      26 May 2023 22: 46
      the most famous was probably Othello.

      The most famous and revered in medieval Europe was certainly St. Mauritius

      From the XNUMXth century, St. Mauritius was considered the patron saint of knights
      a photo. Statue of Saint Mauritius, XNUMXth century. Magdeburg Cathedral, Germany

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