Chronicle of Fencing Guilds in Breslau, Wrocław

Wrocław, Breslau in German manuscripts, had both fencing guilds the Marxbrüder and the Federfechter in the city. They fought in several fencing school (Fechtschul) or at the Fencing ground (Fechtboden) against each other or any other man willing to stand forward for the amusement of the citizens. The citizens of Breslau had fencing and shooting grounds (following the 1566 edict of Maximilian II.).

Fechtschools were held open air, in the town hall, from 1592 in taverns like the Grünen Baum (first mentioned 1563, later renamed “Alten Weinstock”). In 1600 they moved to a place in the Carlsgasse No.729 (later renamed as Carlsstraße 27) named in 1598 as the house with the “golden eagle” or simple “Fechtschule”. The Fechtboden was at the Przy Młynie Siedmiu Kół (Siebenradebrücke) near the Mill, not far away from the Carlsplatz. In the Fechtschule the “Wolhynisch-Krotoschiner Synagoge” (Krotoszyn) had their home from 1690. A tavern with “Joachim” the innkeeper was reported in 1825. The building was rebuilt in 1876 and was repaired 1945 after suffering damage in WWII.

There are several reports of activity and accidents. The verdict on even fatal accidents followed the rule: Homicidum, on the  Freie Fechtschule comissum ordinarii non punitur – Murder done on the free fencing school is not to punish (1). The following reports are taken out of books of the 19th century. These books contain essays are often compiled from files or from other essays or books. They are somewhat reliable and sometimes report facts based on files that are lost to us now.

1280 Markgraf Albrecht III. von Brandenburg was in the city and with him Duke Bolko. Both had fun with fencing and tournaments. This is the first mention of a “fencing event” in the city.(1)

Fechtschule Breslau, 1750

1567 Elias, a son of a bag-maker, died on two wounds after a fencing school fight against a Polish fighter at the 15th of June (1)

1575 At the fencing school payed by Bishop Gerstman (1575-1585 in Wroclaw) at the Fürstentag the fencers fought “manly” (1,4)

1575 At the fencing school for Heinrich Anselm von Promnitz in the Kaiserhof at the Fürstentag nineteen fencers were wounded (1,4).

1582  Many fencers were wounded at the fencing school, that they had to be carried from the place. (1)

Hof der Fechtschule, Breslau (Wroclaw), 1890

1586. In Wroclaw held a furrier, a Marxbruder, a fencing school shortly after Pentecost. The furrier was a bit too fast for a tailor Federfechter, after the fencing school ended the tailor challenged the furrier in the Nicktlsgassen, they brawled with each other , so that the tailor was mortally wounded and from that moment faded to death, the furrier escaped. (2)

1586 A furrier and Freifechter (Federfechter) wounded a clothier (not at the fencing school), who died in the following days. The murderer escaped.

1589 at the 10th July  the prelate Johann VIII payed for a fencing school at the cloister St. Vinzenz, it was a day for the Federfechter.

Alter Weinstock (Grüner Baum)

1592 On the 19th April the Marxbrüder had a bad day at the fencing school in the tavern  “Grünen Baum”, all their fencers showed blood with the Federfechter winning. (1)

1593 Martin Ferdinand, a Freifechter (Federfechter), was beheaded on the 5th July for wounding the thigh of a goldsmith on the court of the Nicolaichurch on the 7th May and killing him by this wound. The entry notes the color of the skin of Martin Ferdinand calling him a “Mohr”. (1)

1593 Two fencers were executed for killing “people” in a street brawl. (1)

1594 In March traveled several sovereigns through the city towards the war against the Turks in Hungary, a fencing school was held on the Kaiserhof. (4)

1597 on the 23th of November the  Marxbruder Weishaupt promoted Rothplatz, a furrier from Thorn, in the Grünen Baum to a  Meister des langen Schwerdts, by hitting him crosswise over the loins. The new master had to swear to travel to Frankfurt in the next 3 years or die attempting. (1)

1600 Hans Hännlein, a furrier and a Marxbruder held a fencing school in the Fechtschul in the Carlsgasse in the house with the golden eagle at the 9th of April. (1)

1606 The council regulated the fencing schools by an edict of the 9th September. They restricted the fighting in the barriers of the fencing school. Jacob Hemmerle and Hans Händel were named to see that the order is respected. Likewise edicts were repeated in  6th Dec. 1614 and  9th May 1615 (1) (see 1611 Regulation of the fencing in Breslau, Wrocław).

1614 A fencer died some hours after been stabbed in the eye at the fencing school at September the 14th (1)

1620 Nikolaus Pol reported a sword dance of the guilds (see 1620 A Sworddance in Breslau, Wrocław).

1625 The councils edict (5th April) prohibits some brutal actions like hitting the legs, hitting with the pommel, wrestling throws, striking over the staff. And they banned the insulting and shouting. This was affirmed in February 1642 and December 1674.

1635 at the 22th October . Duke Wenzel von Oels, the emperor’s commissioner, payed for a free fencing school in his house in the Albrechtsgasse. (4)

1644 A tailor fought with rapiers against a knitter, and stabbed the knitter in the eye. The latter died at the same evening on the 25th September. The tailor was convicted to several days in the prison (Stocke), and was banned from the city. This seems to be a light verdict, but it was tougher than the usual handling of accidents like this, because this happened to the tailor before.(1)

1660 The Marxbruder Jeremias Tschenke is presenting the Marxbruder’s regulation to the city council. (1)

1671 Hamburg born Marxbruder Johann Becker living in Wroclaw recieved the letter of Privilege (7)

1672 Jeremias Tschenke was master of the fencers and Fechtschule in Breslau on the 15th August, his long title was: Jeremias Tschenke von St Marco und Levenbergen, der Römischen Kaiser auch zu Hungarn und Böheimb Königlichen Majestät und des heiligen Römichen Reichs getreuer, der militarischen Exercitien ein Hauptmann und Kunst erfahrner, auch über dero kaiserl Freyheit von St Marco und Levenbergen Verordneter und in der Reichs-Canzelley Confirmirter der vier Deputierten und Geschwornen Einer. und Schutzhalter der Kayserlichen und Königlichen Haubtstadt Breßlau. (10)

1697 Marxbruder Captain (Hauptmann) Johann Becker filed a suite on July 14th at the city council of Wroclaw against Hans Michael Götz. The latter did not respect the Hauptmann properly and disturbed the approbation of his scholars, and is accused to act as a master himself without ever been probed in Frankfurt. Johann Becker is named as Johann Backer in the Privelium letter in Frankfurt becoming a Meister des Langen Schwertes, September 22th 1671. (3,1)

1715 at the 14th April a furrier stabbed a student to death at the fencing school, the verdict is unknown. As it is with the shoemaker who stabbed a furrier in the eye, killing him.(1)

1733 The chronist Daniel Gomolke reports of the activity of Marxrbüder and Federfechter and names the fencing weapons: Tussacken, halben Piken, Schlachtschwerdtern, Hellebarden, Rappieren und Dolchen. He also reports of animal shows (maybe bear-bating) (1)

1741 The shoemakers and their apprentices displayed the fencing art of the Marxbrüder at the 5th November in front of emperor Frederic II in the court of the church of Maria Magdalena and were compensated well. They fired pistols and caught a citron on the tip of their swords, and waved their flags. After the show they appeared in the tent of the emperor and ask to renew their privileges as he did. (1, 9)

Books used:

(1) Wöchentliche Nachrichten für Freunde der Geschichte, Kunst und Gelahrtheit des Mittelalters, Band 3, 1817
(2) From the Monatschrift von und für Schlesien: Band 1, 1829
(3) Zeitschrift des Vereins für Geschichte und Alterthum Schlesiens, Band 4, 1862, Aufsatz Dr. Wattenbach: Die Marxbrüder in Breslau
(4) Topographische Chronik von Breslau – Fünftes Quartal Breslau, 1806
(5) Breslau und dessen Umgebungen: Beschreibung alles Wissenswürdigsten für Einheimische und Freunde, 1833
(6) Breslau und dessen Umgebungen: Beschreibung alles Wissenswürdigsten für Einheimische und Fremde, Friedrich Nösselt, Korn, 1825

(7) Beständeübersicht der Abteilung „Städtisches Archiv bis 1868“, Frankfurt am Main
(8) Picture of the Fechtschule 1750 found by Ringschul Wrocławe
9) Breslau vor hundert Jahren: Auszüge aus einer handschriftlichen Chronik, August Kahlert, Aderholz, 1840
(10) Wöchentliche Nachrichten für Freunde der Geschichte, Kunst und Gelahrtheit des Mittelalters, 1817
If you have comments or more facts about the fencers in Wroclaw, please tell me by commenting here.

6 thoughts on “Chronicle of Fencing Guilds in Breslau, Wrocław

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