Scholastic Clues in Two Latin Fencing Manuals

Bridging the gap between medieval and renaissance cultures

Keywords: Heinrich von Gunterrodt, Liber de Arte Dimicatoria, MS I.33, Humanism, Scholasticism


Intellectual historians have rarely attended to the genre of fighting manuals, but these provide a new window on long-debated questions such as the relationship between Scholasticism and Humanism. This article offers a close comparison of the first known fencing manual, the 14-th century Liber de Arte Dimicatoria (Leeds, Royal Armouries FECHT 1, previously and better known as MS I.33), and the corpus of fighting manuals which underwent a remarkable expansion during the 15th and 16th centuries. While the former clearly shows its origins in a scholastic background, the latter is mainly viewed as reflecting its humanist context. To this historiographical division corresponds a linguistic one: MS I.33 is a Latin text, while the rest of the corpus is mainly written in German and Italian. However, exceptions arise, amongst which, Heinrich von Gunterrodt’s Sciomachia et Hoplomachia: sive de Veris Principiis Artis Dimicatoriae (1579), the first text which explicitly refers to I.33. This article will compare these two texts, in order to interrogate their common relation to Scholasticism, namely the traditional frame of the knowledge within the medieval and early modern universities. The intent is to show that (at least some) Renaissance fight books include references to Scholasticism and to provide a better qualification of the nature of such references. The general hypothesis is that a large part of the texts―and products of culture―of the Renaissance that have been read, until recently, exclusively in relation to a humanist intellectual background can valuably be interpreted in the context of a Scholasticism that is still vivid during the period in question.



Royal Armouries, FECHT 1
The Medieval Art of Swordmanship. Royal Armouries MS I.33, ed. by Jeffrey L. Forgeng (Leeds: Royal Armouries, 2018)
Le livre de l’Art du Combat. Liber de arte dimicatoria, édition critique du Royal Armouries MS. I. 33 par Franck Cinato et Didier Surprenant (Paris: CNRS éditions, 2015)
Dresden, Universtitätsbibliothek, MS. Dresd. C. 15 (Heinrich von Gunterrodt, Sciomachia et hoplomachia sive De veris Principiis Artis dimicatoriae. Liber Unus). Available online:
Heinrich von Gunterrodt, De Veris Principiis Artis Dimicatoriae (Witebergae: Excudebat Mattheus Welack, 1579). Available online:
Transcription and French translation by François Siedel, Des véritables principes de l’art du combat (Freyfechter zu Straβburg 2022) tome I. Available online:
Transcription and French translation by François Siedel, Des véritables principes de l’art du combat (Freyfechter zu Straβburg 2022) tome II. Available online: English translation and commentary by Bert Gevaert (Freelance Academy Press, 2014)
Berkenmeyer, P. L., Le curieux antiquaire ou recueil géographique et historique, t. II (Leide: Pierre van der Aa, 1729)
L’Estoile, Pierre de, Les belles figures et drolleries de la Ligue avec les peintures placcars et affiches injurieuses et diffamatoires, 1580-1606, Bibliothèque nationale de France, département Réserve des livres rares, RES FOL-LA25-6
IV.2. Secondary Literature
Allard, Guy-H. and Serge Lusignan (ed.), Les arts mécaniques au moyen âge (Montréal and Paris: Bellarmin and Vrin, 1982)
Battistini, Alessandro and Niki Corradetti, ‘Income and working time of a Fencing Master in Bologna in the 15th and early 16th’, Acta Periodica Duellatorum, Vol. 4, Issue 1 (2016), pp. 153-173
Binard, Fanny and Daniel Jaquet, ‘Investigation on the collation of the first Fight book (Leeds, Royal Armouries, Ms I.33)’, Acta Periodica Duellatorum, Vol. 4, Issue 1 (2016), pp. 3-22
Blum, Paul Richard, Philosophenphilosophie und Schulphilosophie. Typen des Philosophierens in der Neuzeit (Stuttgart: Franz Steiner Verlag, 1998)
Blum, Paul Richard, Studies on Early Modern Aristotelianism (Leiden and Boston: Brill, 2012)
Cinato, Franck, ‘Development, Diffusion and Reception of the “Buckler Play”: A Case Study of a Fighting Art in the Making’, in Late Medieval and Early Modern Fight Books. Transmission and Tradition of Martial Arts in Europe (14th–17th Centuries), ed. by Daniel Jaquet, Karin Verelst, and Timothy Dawson (Leiden and Boston: Brill, 2016), pp. 481-546
Cinato, Franck and Didier Surprenant, ‘Luitger par lui-même? Stratigraphie d’une synthèse médiévale de l’escrime’, in Maîtres et techniques de combat à la fin du Moyen Age et au début de la Renaissance, ed. by Fabrice Cognot (Paris, 2006), pp. 81-106
Dekoninck, Ralph, Agnès Guiderdoni, Hélène Leblanc and Aline Smeesters, Clés scolastiques pour la théorie des lettres et des arts des 16e et 17e siècles, forthcoming
De Munck, Bert, ‘Artisanal knowledge and craftmanship’, in Encyclopedia of Early Modern Philosophy and the Sciences, ed. by Dana Jalobeanu and Charles Wolfe (Cham: Springer, 2020)
Flasch, Kurt, Das Philosophische Denken Im Mittelalter (Stuttgart: Reclam, 1986)
Geyer Bernhard (ed.), Friedrich Ueberwegs Grundriß der Geschichte der Philosophie. 2. Teil: Die patristische und die scholastische Philosophie (Berlin: Mittler, 1928)
Grendler, Paul F., ‘The Universities of the Renaissance and Reformation’, Renaissance Quarterly, Vol. 57, No. 1 (Spring, 2004), p. 1-42
Ijäs, Antti, Study of the Language and Genre of the Royal Armouries MS I.33, Doctoral Dissertation, University of Helsinki, 2022
Jacobs, Friedrich and Friedrich August Ükert, Beiträge zur ältern Litteratur oder Merkwürdigkeiten der Herzogl. öffentlichen Bibliothek zu Gotha, vol. I-III (Leipzig, 1835-1838)
Jaquet, Daniel, ‘European Fight Books 1305-1630: Classification, typology and comparison’, Acta Periodica Duellatorum, Vol. 8, Issue 1 (2020), pp. 5-24
Knight, Sarah, ‘University’, in The Oxford Handbook of Neo-Latin, ed. by Sarah Knight and Stefan Tilg (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015), pp. 233-247
König-Pralong, Catherine, Le bon usage des savoirs : Scolastique, philosophie et politique culturelle (Paris : Vrin, 2011)
Leng, Rainer, Katalog der deutschsprachigen illustrierten Handschriften des Mittelalters Band 4/2, Lfg. 1/2: 38. Fecht- und Ringbücher (München: C. H. Beck, 2008)
McKeon, Richard P., ‘The transformation of the liberal arts in the Renaissance’, in Developments in the Early Renaissance, ed. by B. S. Levy (Albany: SUNY, 1972), pp. 158–223
McKirahan, Richard, Principles and Proofs: Aristotle’s Theory of Demonstrative Science (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1992)
Ongaro, Giuseppe, ‘Mercuriale, Girolamo’, in Dizionario biografico degli Italiani, vol. 73 (2009), online: [accessed 22 November 2022]
Paré, Gérard Marie, Adrien Marie Brunet, and Pierre Tremblay, La Renaissance du XIIe siècle: les écoles et l’enseignement (Paris: Libr. Philosophique J. Vrin, 2000)
Schmutz, Jacob, ‘Bulletin de scolastique moderne (I)’, Revue thomiste, 100/2 (avril-juin 2000), pp. 270-341
Schönberger, Rolph, Was ist Scholastik? (Hildesheim: Bernward Verlag, 1991)
Tlusty, B. Ann, The Martial Ethics in Early Modern Germany, Civic Duty and the Right of Arms (Palgrave Macmillan, 2011)
Weijers, Olga, Le maniement du savoir. Pratiques intellectuelles à l’époque des premières universités (xiiie-xive siècles) (Turnhout: Brepols, 1996)
How to Cite
Leblanc, H., & Cinato, F. (2023). Scholastic Clues in Two Latin Fencing Manuals: Bridging the gap between medieval and renaissance cultures. Acta Periodica Duellatorum, 11(1), 39–63.