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Die Blume des Kampfes

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“Die Blume des Kampfes”
Blume des Kampfes compilation.png
Illustrated by Unknown
Date 1420s or earlier
Language Early New High German
State of Existence Original hypothetical; multiple
incomplete copies exist
Concordance by Michael Chidester

Die Blume des Kampfes (“The Flower of Battle”) is a nickname given to a group of three German manuscripts spanning the 15th-17th centuries which share a common technical syllabus and set of illustrations.[1] It might possibly be based on the tradition of 14th century Italian master Fiore de'i Liberi, from whose treatise Fior di Battaglia it derives its nickname, given that his works include considerable overlap in technique and artwork. It is equally possible, though, that they represent a separate transmission of an older tradition of which Fiore was himself an initiate; Fiore mentions in his prefaces that he owned books on the art and he also names two older masters in his tradition, Johane Suveno and Nicholai de Toblem; it is possible that either or both of those masters authored texts which inspired both this tradition as well as Fiore's own writings.

Like Fior di Battaglia, die Blume des Kampfes treats mounted fencing, spear, poleaxe/halberd, sword (both long sword and short sword), dagger (including dagger against sword), and grappling; it also includes unique content such as armored sword and shield and dueling with long shields. In comparison to their Italic counterparts, the Germanic works place a greater emphasis on short sword fencing, doubling the number of pieces, and also dwarf Fiore's own rather brief treatment of unarmored grappling. The dagger, sword, and polearm material is all more or less consistent across both traditions, and the explanatory text, though unconnected to that of Fiore, demonstrates a similar understanding or interpretation of the techniques.


The oldest manuscript in the Blume des Kampfes group is the Cod. 5278, which dates to the 1420s[2] and contains only simple line drawings somewhat reminiscent of the art of Fiore de'i Liberi—though differing in many details, lacking signature characteristics such as garters and crowns, and generally less organized than the Friulian master's work.

The second entry, included in the MS B.26, was completed in ca. 1500 by Ludwig VI von Eyb;[3] it contains a significant degree of overlap with the 5278, though both manuscripts also have a wealth of unique content. While the artwork, apart from being colored, is of similar quality, Eyb's treatise surpasses its fellow by including detailed German descriptions of the pieces in most of its sections. (It cannot currently be determined whether this text was authored by Eyb or present in the sources upon which he based his work, but the material in the warbook portion appears to have been unaltered from its sources.)

The final manuscript, Cod. 10799, is dated 1623 and is again text-less.[4] Unlike the previous two manuscripts, however, it is illustrated with watercolors of high quality; it is also the most extensive of the three by far, encompassing nearly every piece from both works as well as a number of unique pieces that suggest that it was either not derived directly from the other two known manuscripts, or that it used additional sources currently unknown to us. Additionally, where the other two include war books derived from Konrad Kyeser's famous treatise on siege warfare Bellifortis, the artist of the 10799 only included the few Bellifortis illustrations that seem to portray knights and soldiers, perhaps indicating that he did not understand what he was copying. Aside from the Blume des Kampfes material, the 10799 also has many original illustrations including portrayals of laying down and taking up the sword, Germanic sash wrestling, and the sword dance.

There is a fourth Germanic manuscript potentially connected to this tradition, the Cod.Guelf.78.2 Aug.2º. This manuscript, dating to between 1465 and 1480,[5] includes a version of Johannes Liechtenauer's Recital, a complete set of illustrations from Gladiatoria, and a brief excerpt of Bellifortis. Tucked away amidst these works are illustrations of fencing with sword, spear, ax, and dagger that parallel the teachings of the Blume des Kampfes but only occasionally replicate the artwork exactly. While this may simply be a case of an overambitious artist reinterpreting the illustrations he was copying, the differences are too many to include the manuscript in the concordance below.


Due to the fragmentary nature of the extant texts, piecing together an authoritative version of the treatise is problematic. In this concordance, the structure laid out by the Cod. 5278 will generally be followed, as it is the oldest known text. The additional plays from MS B.26 will be arranged around this structure; the sequence in B.26 will only take precedence over that of 5278 in cases where the text dictates a sequence of plays (following the principle that text always takes precedence over illustrations). Unique plays from the Cod. 10799 will appear last in each section, since their relationship to the others is unclear.

Additional Resources

The following is a list of publications containing scans, transcriptions, and translations relevant to this article, as well as published peer-reviewed research.


  1. This group has passed unnoticed until very recently, and has not been identified in any previous work on fencing manuals; indeed, most bibliographies of German fencing manuals do not even contain all of the relevant manuscripts. Wierschin (1965) includes only the 10799, and does not appear to have examined it. Hils (1985) includes only the B.26, and characteristically attributes its content to Hans Talhoffer. Anglo (2001) mentions only the 10799, which he describes in a brief footnote as derived from the Bauman Fechtbuch (Cod. I.6.4º.2). Bodemer (2008) likewise only briefly mentions the B.26. Finally, Leng (2008) includes both 5278 and B.26, but without the 10799 to make their connection clear he dismisses both as redactions of the work of Fiore de'i Liberi. All four bibliographies include the Cod. guelf. 78.2 Aug. 2º, but do not attempt any explanation for the illustrations connected with this group. None of the treatments of Fiore de'i Liberi's tradition to date have attempted to address these manuscripts either.
  2. The library catalog dates it to ca. 1420/25. Notes were being added as late as 1428; see Jens P. Kleinau. "1428 The earthquake and the duel in the Codex 5278". Hans Talhoffer ~ A Historical Martial Arts blog by Jens P. Kleinau. 30 November 2011.
  3. The dedication on folio Ar includes the date 1500.
  4. The dedication on folio 1r states that it was begun in 1623.
  5. According to the library catalog entry.
  6. Presently, a term more commonly associated with firearms evidently originated with throwing of javelins. Schiessen means ‘shooting’, but it is also indicative of ‘throwing’, ‘launching’, ‘discharging’ etc.
  7. A similar method of holding the weapons together is found in Talhoffer.
  8. Lexer equates “Torlich” with temerarius: accidental, rash, thoughtless. I have used the term ‘spontaneous’ in order to avoid an undesirable connotation in English.
  9. Lit: “run under”, “pass under”, “undermine”
  10. This is evidently Talhoffer’s second position for throwing (MS XIX.17-3, 6r; MS 78.A.15, 10r; MS KK5342, 6r)
  11. Gewappent can mean “armed” whilst verwant can mean “relatively”.
  12. Ebers, Vol.5 (1799, 354-355) “Stecken, signifies also, to pitch, to drive or thrust in, to stick”. Pfahle stecken “to set Pales, to drive or thurst them into the ground” also referring to “auf einen Pfahl stekcen, spießen: to impale”. It also follows the implication to Plant, i.e. trees into the ground. Also consider the meanings of “einer Sache das Ziel stecken: to stop the Course of a Thing”, “ein Ziel stecken: to set an Aim or a Mark to aim at”, “sich in Noth stecken: to engage, embark or intangle in a dulle Piece of Trouble”. “Ich weiß wo es steckt: I know the Difficulty of it”. The term stëchen means to Stab, but with a driving action. Such a meaning caused it to be used variously as a synonym for tournament jousting (das turnieren), particularly in poetic works (http://woerterbuchnetz.de/Lexer/?lemid=LS07141 : WIG. SUCH. LIEHT. 71,26. VIRG. 75,5. 546,8. REINFR. B. 27113. ANTEL. 185. 87. FASN. 646,25. CHR. 4. 323,15; 9. 859,2; 10. 375,17). Talhoffer makes use of the term appealing to such chivalric epics in his exordium to Liutold von Koenigsegg. Here we see the logic for why a the sword and spear are to be taken together, as per the preliminary instructions.
  13. wîʒen stv. II. (BMZ III. 781b) beachten, bemerken s. die partic. adj. gewiʒʒen, ungewiʒʒen; mit dat. u. acc. (oder präp. umbe DIEM. BÜCHL. WALTH. WIG.) jemand einen vorwurf woraus od. weshalb machen, ihm es schuld geben, verweisen, allgem. z. b. waʒ wîʒest dû mir? RUL. 50,1. waʒ wîʒet ir mir Hildebrant? BIT. 7655. 980.waʒ wîʒet ir disem wîbe? GLAUB. 2174. daʒ ne darf man ire nicht w. GR.RUD. 21,15. vgl. noch GEN. D. 62,15. ER.6303. BÜCHL. 2,15. MSF. 40,35. 113,17. NEIDH. XXXVII, 4. XXXIX, 12. LIEHT. 48,9. TROJ. 45829 (lies im statt in). AMIS L.1937. CRAON 1720. MART. 148,79. ALBR. 1,318. 24,9. HEINR. 4041. SSP. prol. 14. mit abh. s. der vater weiʒ in, daʒ GEN.65,12; bestrafen KCHR. D. 153,29. REINH. 307,445. ENGELH. 1670. mit ent-, ge-, ver-. gt. veitan nhd. sehen (in gt. in-, fraveitan) zu skr. vid, lat. videre, gr. ἰδεῖν GSP. 321. Z. 154. CURT.3 227. FICK2 189. vgl. wiʒʒen.
  14. The Bohemian Pavise, a form of shield as shown in the illustration named after the city of Pavia, Italy. It became the quintessential duelling weapon, being featured heavily in the Weisskunig. Here it takes the German form of the noun, Pavessen. Because of its size (up to a yard wide, and four or more feet tall) it often became grouped to form a shield-wall known as a Pavisade. It also tended to be used heavily by archers in the English wars with France (Fosbroke 1843, 880)
  15. The implication seems to be that the body stands evenly, and using ponderation, the body-weight is transferred forward to take the opponent by surprise.
  16. starck aus d[er] wag, lit: “strong from the balance”, or in other words, with strength from your stance, or derived from the legs. A good example of kinetic linkage perhaps?
  17. This is evidently the Gerader Versatzung (Meyer, Rapier: 2.74r; Forgeng 2006, 195), or Kron/Crown (Hutter CGM 3711, 41r-42r; Sollinger MS 38.21.Aug.2°, 46r-47r ).
  18. This play has a resemblance to Kal, BSB Cgm 1507, 22v, this seems to be Hundsfeldts fourth guard.
  19. Lit: “grip around”
  20. Lit: “the balance on both sides”
  21. Lit: “run-in”
  22. Lit: “set upon”
  23. Lit: “get-around”
  24. ewich = entwicht, entkommt
  25. Typo! The writer meant "Anclitz".
  26. The word “fall” in some narratives is known to have been used as euphemism for dying.
  27. This same term appears in Lecküchner, Cgm 582, 130v; Cod.Pal.Germ. 430, 66r; http://www.hammaborg.de/pdf/transkriptionen/leckuechner_cgm582/zabinski_mitchell_fritz_leckuchner.pdf, p378.
  28. lind = 1. mild, lieblich ; 2. geschmeidig, weich
  29. This paragraph is identical in wording (though not spelling) to folio 35r-a.
  30. This paragraph is identical in wording (though not spelling) to folio 35r-b.
  31. This one reads in the first person, much akin to de’i Liberi, and is different in tone to the other instructions.
  32. This technique appears to be the logical set-up for 42v-d.
  33. Leather from deer