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Fiore de'i Liberi/Sword in Armor

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Novati Translation Complete translation by Michael Chidester
Getty Translation Complete translation by Colin Hatcher

Paris Translation Draft translation by Kendra Brown and Rebecca Garber
Morgan Translation Complete translation by Michael Chidester

Morgan Transcription (1400s) [edit]
by Michael Chidester

Getty Transcription (1400s) [edit]
by Michael Chidester

Pisani Dossi Transcription (1409) [edit]
by Michael Chidester

Paris Transcription (1420s) [edit]
by Kendra Brown and Rebecca Garber

[No Image]

[1] We are six guards for armored fencing,
Which art we know how to perform in its completeness.
And this art concludes everything in the right truth:
It applies poleax, sword, and dagger to great extremes.
And here we'll explain how the art can come:
Masters and students will do it without lying.

We are 6 masters who are very knowledgeable in the art of armed fighting, and each one of us is an expert in this art. Hand-held weapons do not worry us, because we know how to defend against any cuts and thrusts that may come our way.

We are in deeds of arms six greatly skillful acts.
Whatever master of arms will acquire these,
He will surpass sword or dagger and then two-edged ax.

Here begins the sword in armor, and great will be the Master who can make these plays. These Masters are six and each one is in guard; they will not delay in covering and striking. And whoever knows most in this, their art, will have a part in all of the following plays.

Pisani-Dossi MS 25a-a.png

[2] The Shortened Stance, the Serpent

I am the Shortened Stance, the Serpent,
And I have a fine point for passing through armor.

I am the Short Serpent Guard, and I consider myself superior to the other guards. And when I thrust those I strike will be well-marked.

I am the Short Position itself. I am called by the proper name Serpentinus;
I am skilled at penetrating with a point.

In the Shortened Stance, the Serpent, do I want to come. If you are not well-armored, I will make you feel it! I hold myself better than any other guard for striking with the point. Because of my edges, I sign myself with the cross, and nothing can you do to me. In armor and without I want to prove it.

Pisani-Dossi MS 25a-b.png

[3] The Stance of the True Cross

I am the stance called the True Cross
And cuts and thrusts mean nothing to me.

I choose to use the True Cross Guard against you. And your thrust will fail to strike me. I will make cover to your attack as I make my step, and my thrust will strike you without fail. Neither you or the other guards concern me, because I am so well versed in the art of armed fighting that my crossing cannot fail me. Step, cross and strike, and this art will never fail you.

In this Position of the Leopard,[1] I truly observe the Serene One,
And always checking the deepest cuttings of the point.

I am the Stance of the True Cross which I want to make to counter you. Your thrusts will not enter into me. I cover myself from you in the step that I make and my thrust will injure you without fail, so that you and the other guards can do little to me. I know armored fencing so well that I can never fail in the crossing (for stepping, crossing, and striking, the art wants these things without fail), and I break all your thrusts and I certainly will not fail: I come over and through, I go under the point and upward.

Pisani-Dossi MS 25a-c.png

[4] The Raised Serpent

I am the Raised Serpent,
I shoot great thrusts down low.
I also cover against cuts and thrusts,
Those strikes are little trouble to me.

I am the High Serpent and I am well positioned to give great underhand thrusts, since I begin high but end low. I will throw a great thrust into you as I step. That is my skill and I do it well. Your cuts do not concern me in the slightest, because when it is time to hand out great thrusts, you’ll get a large portion from me.

I am called Serpentinus, and Raised. And, point high,
I put my members below the lowest flat [of the sword].

I am the Serpent and I am High and well-armored. I quickly make great underhand thrusts because I am high and return down low. I'll drive a strong thrust to you with a step: this is my art and I know how to do it well. I have not a care for your edges, for I know the art and I will give you the better part of my point.

Pisani-Dossi MS 25a-d.png

[5] The Middle Iron Gate

I am the Iron Gate in the Middle:
And I am always ready to throw great thrusts.

My name is Middle iron Gate, and whether you are armoured or unarmored I make strong thrusts. I step offline with my left foot and I put a thrust into your face. I can also place my point and blade between your arms in such a way that I will put you into the middle bind, as depicted and identified earlier.

I am the guard in the formerly established Middle Iron Gate.
I do not do much harm with the point, and I am always frightful.

Of Iron, I am called the Middle Gate, because in armor or out I give strong thrusts. And I will step out of the way with my left foot and thrust my point in your face, or I will enter [with] my point and with the edge between your arms and force you into the Middle Bind (which was previously depicted and named).

MS Latin 11269 19v-c.png
Pisani-Dossi MS 25b-a.png

[6] The Archer's Stance

I am the Archer's Stance, the sentinel,
And I am always ready to strike and cover.

I am known as the Archer’s Guard, and I throw great thrusts as I step offline. And if strikes or thrusts come against me, I make a strong cover, and then immediately I strike with my counter. This is my skill, and I never vary from it.

[The Getty resembles the Pisani Dossi image.]

Here the sword will shift into a Malignant Position by penetrating;
Now I cover with my arm, for I hold my limb strongly upright.

The Archer's Stance, by this name I am called. Great thrusts I give while stepping out of the way. And if you come against me with a blow of the edge, I make a good cover and quickly I strike my counter. This is my art and it does not change.

Pisani-Dossi MS 25b-b.png

[7] The Stance of the Bastard Cross

Of the Stance of the Cross, I am the Bastard,
And I will not delay in making her plays.

I am the Hybrid Cross Guard, and I am related to the True Cross Guard, in that anything it can do, I can do also. I make strong covers, thrusts or cuts, usually avoiding your strike by stepping offline, and my strikes are my greatest asset.

I am the Position consecrated[4] as the True Cross by many masters.
The point is not a nuisance to me, nor will the cutting edge harm [me].

Of the True Cross I am the Bastard Stance (Posta di Crose Bastarda); that which she can do, I also choose to do. For my strategy, I make good covers, thrusts, and cuts, always while voiding blows out of the way, and with my blows I make my greatest bargain.

MS Ludwig XV 13 33r-c.jpg

[8] With this cover I believe that I can waste anyone,
Following that which you see the Scholar do.

This cover is made from the True Cross Guard, when I step diagonally offline. And so that you can see what can be done from this cover, my students will show the plays that follow it, and since they are experienced in mortal combat, they will show these skills without hesitation.

[In the Pisani Dossi, the Master is missing his crown.]

By using this covering, you would now be sure to repel whomsoever,
Just as you will see the students play at any time.

I come with this cover from the Stance of the True Cross, stepping out of the way to the side. And you will see what I can do from this cover; through my Scholars I can show it, because they make my complimentary plays (those that are for combat to the death). The art they will show without a doubt.

Pisani-Dossi MS 25b-d.png

[9] This thrust exits from the Master's cover,
And the other plays hereafter may well arise.

I am the first student of the Master who came before me, and I make this thrust from his cover. You should also know that you can make this thrust from the True Cross Guard and from the Hybrid Cross Guard. As the opponent makes his thrust, the Master or his student who is waiting in one of these guards (or posts) keeps his body low and steps offline crossing the opponent's sword, with his point high into the opponent's face or chest, and with the hilt of his sword kept low, as shown here.

[In the Getty, the Scholar's opponent's right foot is forward.]

I would do other plays if ever it will be pleasing;
This point escapes from the deepest covering of the master.

I am the first Scholar of the Master that came before me, and I make this thrust because it is from his cover. Also, I say that this thrust could quickly be made from the Stance of the True Cross and from the Stance of the Bastard Cross, and I say that immediately as the player throws a thrust to the Master (or Scholar) who was in the aforesaid guards (or stances), the Master (or Scholar) should move lower with his body and step out of the way, crossing the way and thrusting upwards to his face or chest (the cross of the sword held low) as is depicted here.

MS Ludwig XV 13 33v-a.jpg

[10] If I see my thrust cannot penetrate his chest, or his face due to his visor, I can lift his visor in order to thrust into his face. And if this does not satisfy me, I can apply other stronger plays.

MS Ludwig XV 13 33v-b.jpg

[11] When I closed with this opponent, his armor prevented me from striking him as shown in the previous play. So instead I push strongly against his elbow and make him turn away. Let’s see now if his armor is strong enough when he is attacked from behind.

MS Ludwig XV 13 33v-c.jpg


When I saw that my sword was ineffective against you, I quickly applied this grappling technique. I believe, see and feel that your armor will be useless to you when I put you in this strong lower bind, which is shown further in the next[7] picture.

Indeed, by means of this lower bind you will depart on your face.
And moreover, I strike deadly wounds in your chest.

MS Ludwig XV 13 33v-d.jpg

[13] I have you locked in the lower bind or “strong key”, and from this position you cannot escape regardless of how strong you are. I could hurt you or even kill you. I could stop to write a letter and you would not even be able to see what I was doing. You have lost your sword and your helmet, you have been humiliated[8] and you’ll soon be hurting.[9]

Pisani-Dossi MS 26a-a.png

[14] You go to the ground because of the point of the sword,
And if I do not do you worse you will have a bargain.

This play flows from the first Master who showed the True Cross Guard or the Hybrid Cross Guard, as follows: when the opponent makes a thrust at the Student who is waiting in guard, the student quickly steps off line to make cover, and counters with a thrust to the opponent’s face. Then the student advances his left foot behind[10] his opponent’s lead foot as shown, in order to throw him to the ground, using the point of his sword to hook around the opponent’s neck.

You will depart on your face, with the point of the sword in the ground,
And then I would make the unluckier thing itself settle in your mind.

When the Scholar that came before me [9] cannot finish the player with a thrust, he advances his left foot behind [the player's] right. And the point of his sword he thrusts under [the player's] throat to throw him to the ground as is depicted here.

Pisani-Dossi MS 26a-b.png

[15] You feel the sword that I have set at your neck
And I will show you death on the ground.

Also let me point out that if the Student has moved to close range, and finds himself unable to destroy his opponent with his sword, then he should use his sword to grapple as shown, that is, he should cast his sword to his opponent’s neck, then step with his right foot behind the opponent’s left foot, and throw him to the ground to the right.

I hold the point above the neck, and you feel that.
Now you will suffer the labor of death, the fates do not deny.

This Scholar that came before me [14], if he cannot throw the player to the ground with the point of his sword and with his left foot outside of [the player's] right, he steps with his right foot in front of [the player's] left and throws his sword to his neck. And this play I make on his behalf.

MS Ludwig XV 13 34r-b.jpg

[16] When I move from my guard to a close range cover and am unable to strike you with a cut, I strike you with a thrust. If I cannot strike you with either, I strike you with the cross guard or with the pommel, depending on my preference.

And when I choose to play at close range, and my opponent believes I intend to use my sword, I switch to grappling when this gives me an advantage, or, if not, I can strike him in the face with my cross guard as I told you before, whichever I like.

MS Ludwig XV 13 34r-c.jpg

[17] As you saw, the student who preceded me struck his opponent in the face with the crossguard of his sword. Thereafter he can quickly strike him in the face with his pommel, as you see depicted below.

MS Ludwig XV 13 34r-d.jpg

[18] Also let me tell you that the student immediately before me who struck his opponent in the face with the pommel of his sword, could also have done what I do, that is, step with his right foot behind his opponent’s left leg, and then hook his opponent’s neck with his sword handle, in order to throw him to the ground as I do.

Pisani-Dossi MS 26a-c.png

[19] If I turn myself close on your left side,
Your sword will be lost from your right hand.

This student is unable to strike his opponent effectively,[12] so he transitions to grappling as follows: he places his sword point to the inside of his opponent’s right arm. Then the student slides his sword and his left arm under the opponent’s right arm, so as to throw him to the ground, or lock him in the lower bind, known as the “strong key”.

The sword will fall on your right side.
I travel around quickly to the left, the limb having been drawn tight, if I am in front.

Again I, who am the fourth Scholar, say that our Master can make this play from the cover which he has made—that is, that he should step with his right foot forward, and he should thrust the point of his sword under [the player's] right arm, and then follow the sword with his left arm. And when he has passed the [player's] right arm with his left arm behind the [player's] elbow, he will twist him into the Under Bind without a doubt. That which he has not done, I do for him—he will have the honor, and I the trouble.

MS Ludwig XV 13 34v-a.jpg

[20] This play also flows from the True Cross Guard, as follows when a student is in that guard, and an opponent comes against him and suddenly attacks him, then the student should step off the line and thrust his sword point into his face as you see me do here.

MS Latin 11269 16v-b.png

[21] I have wasted your hand, you can feel it well,
And I could strike your face with my pommel.

[In the Pisani Dossi, the player is wearing the garter.]

You can perceive that I have beaten[13] your hand[14] with great wounds.
I would be able to make a bargain at the same time using the hilt.

My Master has shown me that when I am armored and someone wants to thrust his point in my face in this way, I should thrust the edge of my sword under his left hand and I should step with my right foot behind his left, and in this fashion I can strike his face with my pommel or with my elbow, as can do this Scholar who is after me. If I can perform such a play, it would not fail me.

[In the Morgan, both figures wear garters. It's unclear if this Scholar should also wear a Master's crown.]

Pisani-Dossi MS 26b-a.png

[22] Here I waste your hand by coming to a bind
Which is so strong that I care nothing for your armor.

Here I strike you truly in the hand; the thing
I sought out with great pains will henceforth be bound to me, because he expresses contempt for grand weapons.

Again, as the Scholar who came before [21] said, I will not fail in that I could make these two plays that are after me—that is, the first play strikes with the pommel to the face and slams you to the ground; the other (which is the second) follows, that if I can advance my right foot and the cross of my sword, then with that I strike you in the ear and in the cheek, and in that way you will go to the ground without fail.

Pisani-Dossi MS 26b-b.png

[23] I will send you to the ground with my hilt,
And I will then waste you with my point.

Learned in my art, I will turn your body face-up onto the ground.
Henceforth, I will penetrate your gloomy self with my point.

The previous Scholar of the Master [22] is well-informed. With my pommel, I strike you in the face and then I throw you to the ground, in such a way that neither your breastplate nor your helmet will save you.

[In the Morgan, the Scholar's sword is behind his opponent's.]

Pisani-Dossi MS 26b-c.png

[24] You will either lose the sword from your left hand,
Or you will go to the ground because of this entry I make.

Either you will leave your very own sword from the left part,
Or you, gloomy one, are going into the ground. You cannot deny this.

This play has not failed, as said the second scholar that came before [22], because I could come to this play and strike you in the ear and in the cheek, and I hold myself certain of sending you to the ground. You will go to the ground and I will remain upright.

[In the Morgan, the player faces away from the scholar as in the previous play.]

MS M.383 11v-d.png

[25] This catch makes me safe from your sword:
Mine is free and yours is imprisoned.
And the fourth play which is in the art of the poleax,
Troubles the sword in armor with this play.

[In the Pisani Dossi, the Master is missing his crown.]

This taking makes <me> safe from your sword. Therefore it happens that
Truly my <sword> is free. On the other hand, yours remains imprisoned.
And moreover, the sword brings about the play which is considered the fourth.
In the art of the two-edged axe,[16] [the reader] will easily see the same kind of thing.

I have little concern for the Master nor for his Scholars. I do this counter against him with good measure: that is, when he comes with the cover, I beat the elbow of his left arm with my left arm, and because of this he cannot make a defensive grapple and he can be harmed.

Again another counter I could make: I could turn his elbow with my left hand. Such a play is done well both armored and unarmored.

MS Ludwig XV 13 34v-d.jpg

[26] This is a good strong grapple: as he makes his grip on the opponent’s right arm, the student steps with his left foot behind opponent’s left foot, and thrusts the point of his sword into his face. He can also throw him to the ground to the student’s right.

MS Ludwig XV 13 35r-a.jpg

[27] This is the counter to the Remedy Master and all of his students. It is the case that every counter you use against a Remedy Master will also break the plays of all of that Remedy Master’s students. And this is true for the spear, poleaxe, sword, dagger, and grappling, that is, for the entire art.

Let me return to address the Remedy Master: when he is making his cover, the Counter-Remedy Master places his left hand behind his opponent’s right elbow and gives it a powerful push, turning him in order to strike him from behind as you see drawn next.

MS Ludwig XV 13 35r-b.jpg

[28] I am the student of the Counter-Remedy Master who came before me and I complete his play as follows: when I have turned my opponent, I immediately strike him from behind, either under his right arm, or under his coif into the back of his head, or into his buttocks (excuse my language), or into the back of his knee, or in any other place where he is unprotected.

MS Ludwig XV 13 35r-c.jpg

[29] This sword can be used as a sword or a poleaxe, and should not be sharpened from the guard down to one hand’s-width from the point. The point should be sharp and the sharp edge should be about a hand’s-width in length. The roundel below the hilt should be able to slide down the blade to a hand’s-width from the point and no further. The hilt needs to be strongly made with a heavy pommel with well-tempered spikes. The spikes should be well-tempered and sharp. The front of the sword should be as heavy as the back, and the weight should be from three and a half to five and a half pounds,[20] depending on how big and strong the man is and how he chooses to be armed.

MS Ludwig XV 13 35r-d.jpg

[30] This other sword is fully sharpened from the hilt all the way to the point, except there is an unsharpened section in the middle[21] about a hand’s width, big enough for a gloved hand to be able to hold it there. Just like the previous sword, this sword should be sharp with a fine point. And the hilt should be strong with a heavy pommel and a sharp well-tempered spike.

  1. The position shown is called True Cross in Fiore’s other manuscripts, whereas Vadi calls it the Leopard’s Tail. Vadi also has a Serene Leopard, but it is Fiore’s Bastard Cross (which is called the True Cross in this manuscript).
  2. Totally uncertain
  3. Added later: "pro cum".
  4. Dicor could be a present passive indicative first person conjugation of either dicere (say, talk, name/call, et c) or dicare (dedicate, consecrate, deify, devote)—since the stances are usually named using the verb vocor, perhaps this was intentionally chosen as a pun. Also, in other Fiore texts this is the Bastard Cross.
  5. Interrupted by a sword.
  6. "lo magistro" appears twice, but neither is struck out.
  7. Here the word “subito” (immediately, quickly) means the picture following immediately after this one.
  8. Literally “lost your honor”.
  9. Literally “You’ll have short comfort.” The use of “festa” here is so as to rhyme with “testa” before it.
  10. Fiore actually says “outside the lead foot”, but I’ve translated it as a step behind the lead foot to make the meaning clearer.
  11. Corrected from "de".
  12. Fiore says unable to strike “cum danno”, “with danger”. “Effectively” seems a good choice here.
  13. Lit. “pounded to pulp”.
  14. Lit. “palm”.
  15. Added later: "scilicet manum".
  16. Bipennifera (two-edged axe) likely refers to the poleaxe, even though in that section the manuscript refers to it as “three-pointed” instead.
  17. Added later: "scilicet me".
  18. Likely haec
  19. Added later: "scilicet ensis".
  20. A Medieval Italian pound was an approximate measure equal to 300-350 g, or 0.66 to 0.77 standard pounds. Fiore indicates here that the sword should be 5 to 7 [Italian] pounds, so taking the upper and lower values as bounds, this gives a potential range of 3.3 to 5.4 lbs. Values are derived from this link: Measurement in the Middle Ages.
  21. The “terza” of the sword is the same as the “mezza spada” or middle of the blade.