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Walpurgis Fechtbuch (MS I.33)

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Walpurgis Fechtbuch
MS I.33, Royal Armouries
Leeds, United Kingdom

MS I.33 31v.jpg
MS I.33 32r.jpg
ff 31v-32r, including St. Walpurga in her ward
Also known as
  • Liber de Arte Dimicatoria
  • "The Tower Fechtbuch"
  • No.14.E.iii; No.20
Type Fencing manual
Date ca. 1320s
Place of origin Franconia
Language(s) Medieval Latin
Scribe(s) Unknown (three hands)
Ascribed to Clerus Lutegerus
Illustrated by Unknown (up to 17 artists)
Material Parchment, in a modern
Size 34 folia
Format Double-sided; two illustrations
per side with text above and
Script Bastarda
Previously kept MS Membr.I 115,
Schloß Friedenstein
Other translations

The MS I.33 is a German fencing manual dating to the 1320s.[1] It currently rests in the holdings of the Royal Armouries at Leeds, United Kingdom. The I.33 is earliest extant treatise on Medieval martial arts, and it appears to have been devised by a secular priest, possibly the "Lutegerus" (or Liutger) mentioned in the text.[2] It was the work of three scribes and potentially as many as 17 illustrators.[3]

The treatise is fully illustrated, and consists of both mnemonic verses and longer explanations in a vernacular Medieval Latin. (The format of verse and gloss may indicate that the priest was explaining a much older tradition.) It treats unarmored fencing with sword and buckler; the intriguing fact that the fencers depicted are a priest and a student (and on the last two pages, a priest and a woman identified as St. Walpurga), seems to suggest that this was a middle class or priestly art rather than one of the knightly class. Repeatedly, the text makes mention of the pupils (scolaris/discipulus) of the priest, as well as youths (iuvenis) and clients (clientulum). It seems, therefore, to have been prepared for secular priests who were offering fencing lessons to young men.

The manuscript in its present form consists of five quires, of which all but the first are incomplete; at least eight leaves are believed to be missing (assuming it started with complete quires of four bifolia each).[3] The precise contents of these missing leaves are unknown, but it is possible that they were a source for the thirty uncaptioned sword and buckler plays which appear in the Libri Picture A 83, the Codex I.6.2º.4, and the Cgm 3712; alternatively, these may originate from another manuscript in the same tradition. The anonymous plays seem in turn to have been the primary source for Paulus Hector Mair's treatment of the side sword and buckler, which he captioned with his own interpretations.


The known provenance of the MS I.33 is:

  • Written in the 1320s, possibly by a priest named Liutger; owned by Franconian monks until the 1500s.
  • 1400s – an additional couplet was inscribed at the top of folio 1r, possibly by Enea Silvio Piccolomini (Pope Pius II; 1405-1464).[citation needed]
  • 1552-53 – looted from a monastery by Johannes Herbart von Würzburg during the Franconian campaigns of Albert-Archibald, Duke of Brandenburg-Kulmbach.[4][3] Würzburg was a belt-maker by trade and later served as fencing master to the dukes of Sachsen-Gotha; he inscribed his name on folio 7r.
  • before 1579 – possibly duplicated by Heinrich von Gunterrodt while compiling material for his book[4] (such a copy is currently unknown).
  • late 1500s-1945 – owned by the dukes of Sachsen-Gotha; listed in an 18th century library catalog as Cod.Membr.I.no.115.[citation needed] The second device on folio 26r was copied into the Codex Guelf 125.16 Extravagante in the 1600s by a scribe who couldn't decipher the Latin text.[5] The manuscript was further described on six leaves of paper (with short excerpts of the text) by Heinrich Niewöhner in 1910. (Lost during World War II.)
  • 1945-1950 – location unknown (sold London, Sotheby's, 27 March 1950). Sotheby's listed the manuscript as "a 14th-century manuscript of unknown provenance", and it was not identified as the lost Cod.Membr.I.no.115. until Krämer in 1975.[6]
  • 1950-1996 – held by the Royal Armouries and stored in the Tower of London; known variously as "Tower of London Ms. I.33" or "British Museum No. 14 E iii, No. 20, D. vi. I".
  • 1996 – moved to the newly-opened Royal Armouries Museum in Leeds.


1r - 32v


Identification and placement of missing leaves based on work by Dr. Jeffrey L. Forgeng[citation needed] and James Hester.[3] These scans are licensed under the terms of the Royal Armouries Non-Commercial Image Licence.

Front cover
Inside Cover
MS I.33 Cover 2.jpg
MS I.33 Ir.jpg
MS I.33 Iv.jpg
Folio 1r
MS I.33 01r.jpg
Folio 1v
MS I.33 01v.jpg
Folio 2r
MS I.33 02r.jpg
Folio 2v
MS I.33 02v.jpg
Folio 3r
MS I.33 03r.jpg
Folio 3v
MS I.33 03v.jpg
Folio 4r
MS I.33 04r.jpg
Folio 4v
MS I.33 04v.jpg
Folio 5r
MS I.33 05r.jpg
Folio 5v
MS I.33 05v.jpg
Folio 6r
MS I.33 06r.jpg
Folio 6v
MS I.33 06v.jpg
Folio 7r
MS I.33 07r.jpg
Folio 7v
MS I.33 07v.jpg
Folio 8r
MS I.33 08r.jpg
Folio 8v
MS I.33 08v.jpg
Missing folio
Missing folio
Folio 9r
MS I.33 09r.jpg
Folio 9v
MS I.33 09v.jpg
Folio 10r
MS I.33 10r.jpg
Folio 10v
MS I.33 10v.jpg
Folio 11r
MS I.33 11r.jpg
Folio 11v
MS I.33 11v.jpg
Folio 12r
MS I.33 12r.jpg
Folio 12v
MS I.33 12v.jpg
Folio 13r
MS I.33 13r.jpg
Folio 13v
MS I.33 13v.jpg
Folio 14r
MS I.33 14r.jpg
Folio 14v
MS I.33 14v.jpg
Missing folio
Missing folio
Folio 15r
MS I.33 15r.jpg
Folio 15v
MS I.33 15v.jpg
Folio 16r
MS I.33 16r.jpg
Folio 16v
MS I.33 16v.jpg
Missing folio
Missing folio
Missing folio
Missing folio
Missing folio
Missing folio
Missing folio
Missing folio
Folio 17r
MS I.33 17r.jpg
Folio 17v
MS I.33 17v.jpg
Folio 18r
MS I.33 18r.jpg
Folio 18v
MS I.33 18v.jpg
Folio 19r
MS I.33 19r.jpg
Folio 19v
MS I.33 19v.jpg
Folio 20r
MS I.33 20r.jpg
Folio 20v
MS I.33 20v.jpg
Folio 21r
MS I.33 21r.jpg
Folio 21v
MS I.33 21v.jpg
Folio 22r
MS I.33 22r.jpg
Folio 22v
MS I.33 22v.jpg
Folio 23r
MS I.33 23r.jpg
Folio 23v
MS I.33 23v.jpg
Folio 24r
MS I.33 24r.jpg
Folio 24v
MS I.33 24v.jpg
Folio 25r
MS I.33 25r.jpg
Folio 25v
MS I.33 25v.jpg
Missing folio
Missing folio
Folio 26r
MS I.33 26r.jpg
Folio 26v
MS I.33 26v.jpg
Folio 27r
MS I.33 27r.jpg
Folio 27v
MS I.33 27v.jpg
Folio 28r
MS I.33 28r.jpg
Folio 28v
MS I.33 28v.jpg
Folio 29r
MS I.33 29r.jpg
Folio 29v
MS I.33 29v.jpg
Folio 30r
MS I.33 30r.jpg
Folio 30v
MS I.33 30v.jpg
Folio 31r
MS I.33 31r.jpg
Folio 31v
MS I.33 31v.jpg
Folio 32r
MS I.33 32r.jpg
Folio 32v
MS I.33 32v.jpg
Missing folio
Missing folio
Inside cover
Back cover

Additional Resources


  1. The manuscript has received a wide variety of dates. Anglo (1988) dated it to "the very end of the 13th century" and Hils (1985) to the early 14th century; Cinato and Surprenant (2009) are even less precise, placing it at around the turn of the 14th century. Most recent analysis has suggested a slightly later date, with Leng (2008) dating it to 1320-1330 and Hester (2012) to "around 1320".
  2. See folio 1v.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 Hester (2012).
  4. 4.0 4.1 von Gunterrodt, Heinrich. De Veris Principiis Artis Dimicatorie. Wittenberg, 1579. p C3rv
  5. See Codex Guelf 125.16.Extrav., f 45r.
  6. S. Krämer. "Verbleib unbekannt Angeblich verschollene und wiederaufgetauchte Handschriften." Zeitschrift für Deutsches Altertum und Deutsche Literatur, volume 104. 1975
  7. The introductory verse was added on the upper margin of the page. According to [Forgeng], it is attributed to Aenas Sylvius (later pope Pius II; 1405-64). It is obviously referring to other sorts of unmonkish behaviour, but it seems to underline the unusual nature of fencing monks and women.
  8. lutegerus: presumably the name of the author / sacerdos: Liutger.
  9. This verse is open to disputation. Most likely, quoque combines sword and shield into a unity; sub seems to refer to a lower bind, as halpschilt threatens a blow from above. The same situation is depicted 8v and 23v. That a binding between sword and shield is not intended becomes clear on fol. 11r, where exactly that move is deprecated.
  10. diligenter intell...: seems unclear to me; either the instructions, that one should not hesitate should be understood diligently, or the diligence with which the adversary will judge one's actions is stressed.
  11. ligans ligati: One would expect *ligans ligatusque vel. sim. (plural subject). Literally, the translation would be "The binder of the bound - they are...", or "The binder; the bound ones are...". But I believe my translation correctly renders the intended meaning.
  12. fugit ad partes laterum: refers to side-stepping, i.e. taking into account the 3rd dimension not rendered in the images.
  13. recipere plagam: to execute (not to receive) a blow. Probably intended as 'receive the opportunity to strike'.
  14. durchtritt: a step to the side seems intended; for the (preferable) action depicted, we would expect 'to the left', so dexteram may be taking the opponent's view.
  15. 15.0 15.1 dampnum for damnum
  16. vidilpoge = "fiddle-bow".
  17. fingitur for figitur; fuit vicium pictoris: Here is evidence that the author is not identical with the draftsman.
  18. Concerning the name of the woman fencer: The name walprgis as written directly above the word sac'dos (below which are five dots forming a line). It is not entirely clear, whether Walpurgis is meant to replace sacerdos or if it is an addition (in which case it would be genitive of Walpurga). But since in the picture, the woman is executing the schiltslac, and because the woman is said to have been ready first (parata), she must be called (in the nominative) Walpurgis.

Copyright and License Summary

For further information, including transcription and translation notes, see the discussion page.

Work Author(s) Source License
Images Royal Armouries Used under the Royal Armouries Non-Commercial Image Licence
Public Domain-permission.png
Translation Dieter Bachmann Kunst des Fechtens
Transcription Dieter Bachmann Index:Walpurgis Fechtbuch (MS I.33)
Public Domain Contribution.png