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Joachim Meÿer

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Joachim Meÿer
Born ca. 1537
Basel, Germany
Died 24 February 1571 (aged 34)
Schwerin, Germany
Spouse(s) Appolonia Ruhlman
Citizenship Strasbourg
Movement Freifechter
Genres Fencing manual
Language Early New High German
Notable work(s) Gründtliche Beschreibung der
Kunst des Fechtens
First Printed
English Edition
Forgeng, 2006
Compilation by
Michael Chidester
Signature Joachim Meyer sig.jpg

Joachim Meÿer (ca. 1537 - 1571)[1] was a 16th century German Freifechter and fencing master. He was the last great figure in the tradition of the German grand master Johannes Liechtenauer, and in the last years of his life he devised at least three distinct and quite extensive fencing manuals. Meÿer's writings incorporate both the traditional Germanic technical syllabus and contemporary systems that he encountered in his travels, including the Italian school of side sword fencing.[2] In addition to his fencing practice, Meÿer was a Burgher and a master cutler.[3]

Meÿer was born in Basel,[4] where he presumably apprenticed as a cutler. He writes in his books that he traveled widely in his youth, most likely a reference to the traditional Walz that journeyman craftsmen were required to take before being eligible for mastery and membership in a guild. Journeymen were often sent to stand watch and participate in town and city militias (a responsibility that would have been amplified for the warlike cutlers' guild), and Meÿer learned a great deal about foreign fencing systems during his travels. It's been speculated by some fencing historians that he trained specifically in the Bolognese school of fencing, but this doesn't stand up to closer analysis.[5]

Records show that by 4 June 1560 he had settled in Strasbourg, where he married Appolonia Ruhlman (Ruelman)[1] and joined the Cutler's Guild. His interests had already moved beyond cutlery, however, and in 1561, Meÿer petitioned the City Council of Strasbourg for the right to organize a fencing event. He would repeat this in 1563, 1566, 1567 and 1568;[6] the last is the first time he identifies himself as a fencing master.

Meÿer wrote his first manuscript at some point in the 1560s for his private student Count Otto von Sulms, Minzenberg, and Sonnenwaldt. Its contents seem to be a series of lessons on training with longsword, dussack, and side sword (which he calls a "rappier"). His second manuscript, written between 1563 and 1570 for Heinrich Graf von Eberst, is of a decidedly different nature. Like many fencing manuscripts from the previous century, it is an anthology of treatises by a number of prominent German masters including Sigmund Schining ein Ringeck, pseudo-Peter von Danzig, and Martin Syber, and also includes a brief outline by Meyer himself on the use of the side sword based on German Messer teachings. A third manuscript, possibly dated 1561, has been lost since at least the mid-20th century and its contents are unknown.[7]

On 24 February 1570, Meÿer completed (and soon thereafter published) an enormous multiweapon treatise entitled Gründtliche Beschreibung der Kunst des Fechtens ("A Thorough Description of the Art of Combat"). It was dedicated to Johann Casimir, Count Palatine of the Rhine, and illustrated at the workshop of Tobias Stimmer.[8] This treatise purported to teach the entire art of fencing, something that Meÿer claimed had never been done before, and included extensive teachings on longsword, dussack, side sword, dagger, and various pole weapons.

Unfortunately, Meÿer's writing and publication efforts incurred significant debts (about 1300 crowns), which Meÿer pledged to repay by Christmas of 1571.[1] Late in 1570, Meÿer accepted the position of Fechtmeister to Duke Johann Albrecht of Mecklenburg at his court in Schwerin. There Meÿer hoped to sell his book for a better price than was offered locally (30 florins). Meÿer sent his books ahead to Schwerin, and left from Strasbourg on 4 January 1571 after receiving his pay. He traveled the 500 miles to Schwerin in the middle of a harsh winter, arriving at the court on 10 February 1571. Two weeks later, on 24 February, Joachim Meÿer died. The cause of his death is unknown, possibly disease or pneumonia.[6]

Antoni Rulman, Appolonia’s brother, became her legal guardian after Joachim’s death. On 15 May 1571, he had a letter written by the secretary of the Strasbourg city chamber and sent to the Duke of Mecklenburg stating that Antoni was now the widow Meÿer’s guardian; it politely reminded the Duke who Joachim Meÿer was, Meÿer’s publishing efforts and considerable debt, requested that the Duke send Meÿer’s personal affects and his books to Appolonia, and attempted to sell some (if not all) of the books to the Duke.[1]

Appolonia remarried in April 1572 to another cutler named Hans Kuele, bestowing upon him the status of Burgher and Meÿer's substantial debts. Joachim Meÿer and Hans Kuele are both mentioned in the minutes of Cutlers' Guild archives; Kuele may have made an impression if we can judge that fact by the number of times he is mentioned. It is believed that Appolonia and either her husband or her brother were involved with the second printing of his book in 1600. According to other sources, it was reprinted yet again in 1610 and in 1660.[9][10]

The Fechtschule of Joachim Meÿer in Strasbourg, a thriving school of fence equal to many others in Germany at the time, was taken over during the Acquisition of Strasbourg by Louis XIV in 1681; it was turned into the "Academie de Arms" and essentially absorbed into the French school of fence.[11]


Additional Resources


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 Dupuis, Olivier. Joachim Meyer, escrimeur libre, bourgeois de Strasbourg (1537 ? - 1571). In Maîtres et techniques de combat. Dijon: AEDEH, 2006.
  2. Castle, Egerton. Schools and Masters of Fencing: From the Middle Ages to the Eighteenth Century. London: George Bell and Sons, 1885. pp 74 - 76.
  3. Naumann, Robert. Serapeum. Vol. 5. T.O. Weigel, 1844. pp 53-59.
  4. According to his wedding certificate.
  5. His dagger teachings do, however, show some evidence of influence by Achilles Marozzo's printed treatise.
  6. 6.0 6.1 Van Slambrouck, Christopher. "The Life and Work of Joachim Meyer". Meyer Frei Fechter Guild.
  7. Jens P. Kleinau. "1561 Joachim Meyer dedicated a fencing book to the Pfalzgrafen of Pfalz-Veldenz". Hans Talhoffer ~ as seen by Jens P. Kleinau. 04 July 2011. Retrieved 30 December 2014.
  8. Whose members included Christoph Maurer and Hans Christoffel Stimmer.
  9. Schaer, Alfred. Die altdeutschen fechter und spielleute: Ein beitrag zur deutschen culturgeschichte. K.J. Trübner, 1901. p 76.
  10. Pollock, W. H., Grove, F. C., and Prévost, C. Fencing. London and Bombay: Longmans, Green, and co, 1897. pp 267-268.
  11. Castle, Egerton. Schools and Masters of Fencing: From the Middle Ages to the Eighteenth Century. London: George Bell and Sons, 1885. p 147.