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Jacopo Monesi

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Jacopo Monesi
Born 16th century (?)
Florence, Italy (?)
Died 17th century
Occupation Fencing master
Patron Medici court
Genres Fencing manual
Language Italian
Notable work(s) Opposizioni et Avvertimenti sopra la Scherma (1640)

Jacopo Monesi was an Italian fencing master during the first half of the 17th century.

A native of Florence, he appears to have enjoyed enduring patronage and recognition in his own lifetime at the court of the Grand Duchy of Tuscany under Ferdinando II de' Medici.

A court document, dating to 1621, indicates Monesi's role included instructing the adolescent nobility at the grand ducal court (a claim supported by the title page of his own work):

Jacopo of the Armourer, master of fencing, is one of several masters to the pages, together with the priest Albizio Vecchi, the undermaster Frediano Tinolfi, Giovanni Migliorucci master of writing, Leonardo Migliorucci, Giovanni Pieroni the arithmetist and mathematician, Remigio Cantagallina master of drawing, and Pitti Agnolo Ricci master of dance.[1]

In 1640 he published a short tract outlining his fencing philosophy: Opposizioni et Avvertimenti sopra la Scherma.

Monesi's text contain little technical discussion, which he defers to a promised second volume that however is either lost or was never written. Instead, Monesi strongly critiques many theories and methodologies of his peers; behind a veil of formal language excoriating those practices he views as frivolous, or detrimental to surviving an encounter in earnest. Monesi advocates a straightforward and direct philosophy of fencing. He eschews what he sees as unnecessary embellishments, or artefacts of salle fencing, and privileges what he considers practical for surviving an unpredictable and violent confrontation with sharp weapons.

He strongly affirms the efficacy of cuts, interspersed with thrusts; and favours simple and strong natural movements, stances, and attacks. In terms of pedagogy, he forcefully promotes the primacy of practising assaults, and laments that students in his day no longer assault with the frequency and gusto of earlier times.

Among other elements he criticises: feints, elaborate postures, mathematical concepts, excessive theoretical discussion, and dagger disarms, as unhelpful and impractical for a confrontation with sharps. Without naming names Monesi appears to clearly reference, again critically, the work of Docciolini, Fabris, Marozzo, and Pistofilo.

Alongside such direct critiques, Monesi includes less specifically targeted remonstrations. For example, he objects to the pedagogical method of masters who employ a chestplate, or a cane in place of a sword. Similarly, he leaves space for conventional discussion points of the period, such as where to look when fencing, or how to approach combat at night.


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. Archivio di Stato di Firenze, Miscellanea Medicea, 369, c.707. Cited by http://www.scrimipedia.it/mediawiki/index.php?title=Iacopo_Monesi (accessed 22 March 2017).
  2. Silvio Piccolomini was a knight of the Order of Santo Stefano, and noted fencer and military commander of his age. In the dedication of his own treatise Federico Ghisliero declares himself a student of Piccolomini, while his skill at fencing is further referenced by Cappoferro in his introduction to the reader, and by the French chronicler Michel de Montaigne.
  3. This chapter might apply to Italian treatises which incorporate mathematical principles, such as Camillo Agrippa, but arguably targets in particular the Iberian forms of the Verdadera Destreza, exemplified by Jerónimo Sánchez de Carranza and Luis Pacheco de Narváez.
  4. The term punto to signify a defined target area of the right shoulder is particular to the treatise of Marco Docciolini.
  5. This passage, and arguably the entire chapter, appears to be targeted at Salvator Fabris, whose treatise is notable for its deep and sometimes contorted stances.
  6. These guard names are characteristic of the Bolognese school of fencing. In particular the name beccapossa is specific to Achille Marozzo.
  7. In the original simply spada con l'incavo. It remains unclear whether Monesi is referring simply to a hollow-ground blade or deep fuller, or perhaps an indentation at the grip that might conceivably aid in cutting , like on some later sabres.
  8. This is a clear reference to p.114-115 in Oplomachia, the 1621 pike, halberd and musket treatise of Bonaventura Pistofilo.

    When an occasion arrives where you must grasp your sword, I urge you never to abandon your pike, whether it is broken or intact. Instead employ it at least to defend. Anyone can understand for themselves from figure 79, how useful this manner of holding the pike can be for defence.

    It protects against cavalry, infantry, and against any type of hand weapon; even against missile weapons such as javelins, darts, arrows, and similar arms, up to and including arquebus shots. As long as by chance they do not strike directly in the centre of the shaft, so that the balls instead skid aside, the man will be saved, as I have seen from experience.

    You must comport yourself such that everything is covered by the pike, maintaining your arm high and firmly extended. Your stance must be sufficiently wide for greater stability, with your sword ready to attack.

    If you then wish to return your sword to its sheath without abandoning the pike, or piece of haft left in your hand, figure 80 clearly demonstrates how without need for further explanation.