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In 1647 the council of the city of Gdańsk decided “because the exercitia on the fencing school has no further benefit, they should let it wither more and more till the end. In contrary the citizens and young apprentices shall be instructed to a weekly exercitium with muskets and pikes. ” [1]

weil die Exercitia auf der Fechtschule keinen Nutzen haben, sollen sie nach und nach ganz eingehen. Dagegen soll den Bürgern und jungen Gesellen ein anderes Exercitium wöchentlich angewiesen werden, mit Musketen und Piken.

The city of Gdańsk had it’s own military corps. In the year 1626 the annual costs for the 5000 soldieres are reported to be a Million Guilder.  The soldiers were mustered from everywhere. But nevertheless the citizen of the city had the responsibility to use there weapon in the defense of  their home town, and to practice in their use. So asked the fishermen 1602 that they would be released from the Exercitia of the weapons. Everybody has to join in the exercises in his first year of citizenship as the council stated in 1650.

An excellent opportunity to train for the war were the fencing schools, where the apprentices held there fighting games under the guidance of their master, to which the spectators were numerous. Some Fechtschul were held at open space in the market (probably the wood market), but most of the events and the regular exercises took place in the Fechtschul building at the woodmarket (“Holzmarkt” later devided in “Kohlemarkt” and “Holzmarkt” coalmarket). The building was made from wood and it was not as big as the picture of Peter Willer is suggesting in his cut of the “Stadthof” above. I marked the building red in the map of Peter Willer from 1687.

In 1609 therefore ordered by the council to avoid major unrest, no one should push into the barriers on the fencing school. In  1635 the council “permitted to build boxes in the fencing school to apply convenient viewing to the Spectacula”. But this was not for the fencing that took place there, it was already part of the reconstruction of that building to a theater. Payment for each subscriber for his entire life to the seat in such a box was two Thaler. The fencers themselves were organized in the well known certain brotherhoods, which had its own rules of art. As is mentioned in 1620, that a furrier from Augsburg “Meister des  Langen Schwertes” and “captain of the famous brotherhood St. Mark”, with all present here markus brothers, “fifteen in number”, had appeared before the council to make some laws that the society had given itself to be confirmed. Only skilfully fencers were allowed on public appearance. Thus, ordered in 1636 by decree: “No one shall fight on the fencing school, if he can not prove, that he had learn from a master”.  In 1643 a fencer, who has proved that he had gone through the whole school, is allowed to do his Fechtschool. And in 1645 an amber polisher held  Fechtschul aside to his demonstration of juggling with flags.

King Sigismund III. visited Gdańsk in July 1623. They organized a Fechtschule on the market near the Fechtschul building.

Ladislas IV, welcomed in 1646 his wife, the Duchess of Mantua, to Gdansk, on which occasion a lot of merrymaking were done. On 18th  February 1646 her Majesty had at a fencing school on the public market (probably in front of the fencing school buiding), at which the Federfechter presended the noble swordsman  of the Sarmatians, and the Marxbrüder, however the famous ancient Goths.[8]

On the 22th July 1682 a Meister of the Marxbrüder (“St. Marco und Löwenbrüder”) was certified in Gdańsk. As far as I know, it was the last one in this city.

The Fechtschul in Gdańsk was a place were not only martial exercises were displayed. There also had been some other spectacles. In the end the place was used by comedians and less fencing was there to see. Already in 1615 where there was still fencing the council allowed two comedians from Brandenburg to use the Fechtschul for their play. In 1616 English comedians were allowed to show their art as long as they do not display anything obscene and the admission had to be notmore than 3 Groschen („keine unzüchtige Stücke präsentiren und nur drei Groschen als Eintrittsgeld nehmen.”). English artists were well received in Gdańsk since 1591 [9].

This is the building described in 1734 by an anonymous English writer as similar to “amphitheatres” and used also for animal baiting: “a large Are[n]a for Baiting of Bulls, Bears and wild Beasts, Amphiteatre-like, capable of containing a vast Number of Spectators, strongly inclosed with Wood, and having convenient Galleries for that Purpose, one above another.” The fact that the Fencing School on the Willer engraving and on the ground plan of 1739 are one and the same buildings is confirmed by yet another piece of evidence, namely, by marginal notes made by M. F. Joh. Monet, a parish priest from a small town near Gdańsk, in the surviving copy of Curicke’s work. [4][5][cited from 6].

From 1730 to 1740 the Fechtschul was partially dismantled and reconstructed as a theater. Named “Cömodienhaus” it was called “Comödien Bude” or (comedy shack) because of the wooden construction of that building. In the end of the 18th century the building became so rotten that it was dismantled completely. In 1801 the Teatr Wybrzeże was constructed at the same site [2][3].

Books used for this posting:
[1] Geschichte Danzigs von der ältesten bis zur neuesten Zeit: mit beständiger Rücksicht auf Cultur der Sitten, Wissenschaften, Künste, Gewerbe und Handelszweige, Band 1, Gotthilf Löschin, Ewert, 1828 – 416 Seiten
[2] Preussische Provinzial-Blätter, Band 7
[3] Geschichte des Theaters in Preussen, vornämlich der Bühnen in Königsberg und Danzig von ihren ersten Anfängen bis zu den Gastspielen J. Fischer’s,  E.J. Dalkowski, 1854
[4] Jerzy Michalak, “Był sobie Gdańsk”, nr 3(6), wrzesień 1998, pp. 20-21.
[5] A Particular Description of the City of Dantzick, (London 1734), p. 20
[6] The city and the “problem” of theatre reconstructions: “Shakespearean” theatres in London and Gdańsk, Jerzy Limon, Uniwersytet Gdański
[7] Wöchentliche Nachrichten für Freunde der Geschichte, Kunst und Gelahrtheit des Mittelalters, Band 3, Johann Gustav Gottlieb Büsching, Korn, 1817
[8] D. Gottfried Rudolph Pommers al. Burgenhagen Sammlungen historischer und geographischer Merkwürdigkeiten nach des Verfassers Tode aus seiner zum Druckvöllig fertig gemachten Handschrift, Gottfried Rudolph Pommer, 1752
[9] Andreas Gryphius und die Bühne, Willi Flemming