Wiktenauer logo.png

Le tre giornate

From Wiktenauer
Jump to: navigation, search
Le tre giornate
Le tre Giornate Pagano.jpg
Full Title Le tre giornate di Marc'Antonio Pagano gentil’huomo napoletano – dintorno alla disciplina dell’arme et spetialmente della spada sola
Author(s) Marc'Antonio Pagano
Dedicated to Gonzalo Fernandez de Cordoba, Duke of Sessa
Place of Origin Naples, Italy
Language Italian
Genre(s) Fencing manual
Publisher Cilio d'Alife
Publication Date 1553
Pages 200 pages, 100cc.
Page scans

Le tre giornate di Marc’Antonio Pagano gentil’huomo napoletano – dintorno alla disciplina dell’arme et spetialmente della spada sola was printed in 1553 by Cilio d'Alife and was the main work of the Neapolitan fencing master Marc'Antonio Pagano. However, but some internal evidences reveal that the work was probably finished between the end of 1549 and the first months of 1550. There is, infact, an explicit reference to the Conclave for the election of Giulio III, which ended in February of that year. It’s written in the form of a dialogue, between Pagano himself and different personalities of the entourage of the Prince of Stigliano. Many of them are preeminent authors of the contemporary literature and poetry, as well as famous men-at-arms (Castriota, Di Costanzo, Cantelmo, Rota, etc.). One of the interlocutors is the son of the prince, who was ten years old at the time, and this gave us another clue to the connections between Marc’Antonio as teacher and the house of Carafa. The dialog, moreover, is set in the palace of Mondragone, property of this family. We are also reminded that Le tre giornate is dedicated to Gonzalo Fernandez de Cordoba, third duke of Sessa, and son of the duke to whom Antonio Manciolino dedicated his own work. With such a sophisticated audience, and considering the role of the master inside such an important family, a crude work about the art of arms would have disappointed the expectations. In fact, inside Le tre giornate, we find the knowledge about the use of weapons deeply tied with other topics, as bucolic and pastoral narrations, like the one of hunting; the description of the marvelous palace of Mondragone; the essay on the history of fighting, etc. We are still in a period in which the art of fencing is deeply tied with and influenced by military weapons and customs. If we restrict our attention to more specific and technical information, we are able to identify some main topics: wrestling, sword, two-handed sword, glaive, pike and dagger.


The topic on which Pagano is most superficial is wrestling. Though he tells us that the discipline was widespread in the Realm, he gives us just an overview, naming some actions used in various Italian regions and reporting some customs of other countries. In particular he says that in the Realm some people were professional masters of wrestling and all the foreign styles are known and performed.


Inside Le tre giornate we can find a lot of pieces concerning fencing theories and on the art of arms in general. They are scattered in several places in the text, although we have a concentration in the section dedicated to the sword. If we put all the information together, the scene is quite interesting, revealing an advanced theoretical system which clearly gives details that were not transmitted by other contemporary authors (specific kind of Giochi/Plays, guards, etc.).

Two-handed sword

For the two-handed sword we have two plays that went from Gioco Largo to Stretto, ending with grappling actions. Unfortunately, we had no explicit information about guards, but the text is rich in actions such as feints and strikes, combinations of strikes and arm locks with their counters. But there are also other elements of interest. Those plays are executed with light metallic armour, probably a fine chainmail under the clothes (“sotto coverta armati in bianco”). The players also had hats that appeared normal, but, with a touch, a metal visor could descend to cover the face.

Coltello inastato

This is an unique example of detailed fighting with this weapon, with explicit informations about guards. The name of the weapon immediately recalls the one used by the imperial guards of Carlo V and of his successors in the Holy Roman Empire, as recalled also by Altoni. This could partially explain the presence of a long duel with many techniques inside the work of Pagano, traditionally tied to Iberian and imperial influenced backgrounds. However, the weapons used by Pagano had some little differences, because it had a hook (“gancietto”) on one edge and eventually other little spikes. At the end of the staff there is a metal point, called “pedicone” or “calcio”. So, coltello inastato could be considered as a weapon similar (if not equal) to the Italian falcione inastato, and known all over Europe mainly under the category of glaive.

Pike and Dagger

The influence of the battlefield is still strong and this is also evident in the last confrontation inside Le tre giornate, which is executed with the pike and then with dagger. As in the previous plays, from Gioco Largo they pass to Gioco Stretto and to the fighting with the short weapon. Some techniques are similar to what we can see in other authors, and also this time the fighters are equipped with foot armor (arme da piede), probably the typical defensive equipment of pikemen on the battlefield. Pagano specifies that the weapon is a picca tedesca, very flexible.


Additional Resources

  • De Filippo, Marco, Le tre giornate di Marc'Antonio Pagano, gentil'huomo napoletano, d'intorno alla disciplina de l'arme et spetialmente della spada sola, Edizioni Spring, 2015, ISBN 978-88-9703-323-3