One of the rare Masters giving a named reference to his masters is Fiore dei Liberi who learned his art in the late 14th century. He claimed to have learned his art from a Swabian (Johanni Svevio) or a Swedish (Iohannes Suenonis – Johannes Westgothi) Master:

“dante plenariam notitiam sum adeptus expertorum magistrorum exemplis multifariis et doctrina ytalicorum ac alamanorum Et maxime a magistro Johane dicto suueno qui fuit scholaris magistri Nicholai de toblem mexinensis diocesis”.

This naming opened a universe of wild guessing who this mysterious master could be. There was even mentioned that this could be the German Master Johannes Liechtenauer, who could indeed be a man of Swabia as a lot of other masters had connections with that region. And we know that the Swabian were extremely active as Condottieri following the successes of Duke Werner von Urslingen who made a fortune in Italy (duca Guarnieri/Guernieri) with his barbuti.

mexinensis diocesis

The master of “Johane dicto Suveno” named “Nicholai de toblem mexinensis diocesis” opened another shouting of guesses. To find the place of birth or living from which this unknown master seems to be of great interest. But this will be difficult, because even master Fiore thought that this place “toblem” is too unknown without naming a bigger region: the diocese. Let’s look on some of them brought to us by several researchers (please acknowledge their work by visiting the “Credits” at the end of this article).


  • Messina in Italy was found by Matt Galas in a Necrologium with the entry “Iohannes de Columna qui fuit archiepiscopus Mexinensis.”. Messina was indeed a diocese and it was called Dioecesis Messinensis, so that name match is very good. And the diocese is old enough to be named contemporary
  • Metensis (Metz in Lorraine) was called Dioecesis Metensis since the 6th century and the name matches very well.
  • Meißen in Saxony was called Misnensis Diocesis (we find it written as Meisnensis) roots back to 968.  There is a town called Doebeln.

Ruled out

  • Mechelen in Belgium is an diocese. But the Archdiocese of Mechelen-Brussel  called Archidioecesis Mechliniensis-Bruxellensis was erected 12 May 1559 and this is too late.
  • Mesen in Belgium had a monastery that was a Monasterii Messinensis but it was never a diocese.
  • Megenensis / Meginensis campus (Mayenfeld / Mosel near Andernach),  Mexentiae pons (Pont-Sainte-Maxence in France) are by no means a diocese.

Fiore’s famous students

Later on in his prefaces Fiore is telling us, that he himself has taught Germans and Italians the art of fighting. That sounds pretty much pan-European and a lot of travelling, but is that really the case? A few of the names he wrote down as his students and opponents can been cross identified [5][6][7]:

The fight in Perosa (province of Perugia)

  • Student: miß piero dal uerde (Morgan) / Missier piero del verde (Getty), German identified as => The Condottieri Pietro del Verde (Peter von Grünen, died 1385) was with his band of robbers at that time in the north of Italy (Umbria, Toscana, Florence),
  • Opponent: miser piero dala corona (Morgan) / Missier piero dela corona (Getty), German identified as => Peter Kornwald (Pietro Cornuald, died 1391) was another of the German Condottieri running around in North Italy (Umbria, Toscana, Florence) [4].

 The fight in Padua in 1395

  • Student: miß Galeaz delli capitani de grimello chiamado da Mantoa (Morgan) / Missie Galeaco di Captani di Grimello chiamado da Mantoa (Getty) identified as => Galeazzo de Mantova (Galeazzo Cattaneo dei Grumelli, Galeazzo Gonzaga died 1406) was another Condottieri and more or less active in North Italy (Toskana, Venetia etc.) [4].
  • Opponent: miser Bricichardo de Franza (Morgan) / Missier Bucichardo de fraca (Getty) identified as => Jean II Le Maingre (in Old French, Jehan le Meingre), called Boucicaut (August 28, 1366 — June 21, 1421) was marshal of France and a knight. He was in North Italy at that time (Padua)

The first fight in Imola

  • Student: miser Nicholo Vnricilino (Borialino) (Morgan) / Missier Nicol Wricilino (Getty) a German. not identified => probably Wirz or Wiricus
  • Opponent: nicholo Inghileso (Morgan) / nicolo Inghileso (Getty) not identified => Nicolo Inghileso (English) .

The second fight in Imola

  • Student: Lancilotto Beccaria of Pavia (Italian, died 1418) identified as =>  another Condottieri running around in North Italy at that time [4].
  • Opponent: miß Baldesar (Morgan) / Missier Baldassaro (Getty) identified as => Balthasar von Braunschweig-Grubenhagen (German, 1335 >= 1400) was in North Italy at this time [12] [13] [14]

The fight in Pavia in  1399

  • Student: Zohanni de Baio da Milano (Morgan) / çoanino da Bayo da Milano (Getty) identified as => probably Jean de Bayeux from Milan (French), was in Pavia at that time (not to mix with the Jean de Bayeux of the 11th century).
  • Opponent: squire Sram/Sirano (German) not identified  => probably Schramm, Knecht (Schildknappe, Squire)

The last fight (probably in Milan or Bologna)

  • Student: miser Azo da Castelbarcho (Morgan) / Missier Açço da Castell Barcho (Getty) identified as => Azzone da Castelbarco (died 1410), a Milanese noble and condottieri who had relations to Tyrol [6][7]
  • Opponent: miß Zohanni di li ordelaffig (Morgan) / çuanne di Ordelaffi (Getty) identified as => Giovanni Ordelaffi (1355–1399) was born in Forli, just 290km away from Fiore’s town Udine, had been in Bologna since 1377 and battled against Milan troops.
  • Opponent: miß Jacomo da Besen (Morgan) / Missier Jacomo di Boson (Getty) not identified => probably Johann von Bozen, Jacque Besan or Jacques Boson (German), Bozen (Bolzano).

What first looks like a pan-European teacher-student relationship is probably nothing else than the quarrel of the Condottieri di Ventura in North Italy and South of Austria, where Fiore lived and worked. The north of Italy was a place where mercenaries and their leaders could gain a fortune. Fiore never travelled to Germany or France or even to the south of Italy to learn his craft. He stayed in a 800km radius from the town he was born. His craft is truly South German/Austrian based and he never learned anything from a South Italian Master, a Spanish Master, a Hungarian Master, or an English Master. He was not an pan-European Master at all. But he did a lot for the diffusion of the martial arts, but things like that  happened everywhere and anytime at places where a lot of mercenaries met.

Capitano di ventura

The North of Italy was by all means the best place for mercenaries to earn their salaries in the second half of the 14. century. Had most of the major battles of the 13th century been more in the middle of Italy (the minor ones where still trouble enough for the rest of this country), the storm center of the 14th century traveled more to the north. The political fractions where in constant quarrel with each other. The  troubles between Guelphs and Ghibellines lasted 400 years. At some times everybody fought everybody else. The Sienaese fought the Florentines, both the Pope or the Germans, or just a city that was there to plunder. To add to this more trouble some third parties tried to get the best of it by adding oil to the fire. The Hundred Years’ War (from 1337 to 1453 between the Kingdom of England and the Kingdom of France) was pausing so the French relationship to the once useful Routiers (a large group of mercenary soldiers) was growing bad. So the more clever mercenary captains  like John Hawkwood decided to stop ransacking poor villages in France and moved to the rich cities in the north of Italy, where the gold of the rich Italian families was waiting for them. A undeclared war began that lasted even longer than the Hundred Years war. It influenced the neighboring countries creating a culture of martial art and war related science. It is thinkable that most of the fencing art of Fiore and Liechtenauer resulted from this period starting in the 14th and lasting to the 15th were Swabian leaders and mercenaries changed the way battles were fought.

Books and essays used for this posting:

[1] The Significance of Neoplatonism, R. Baine Harris
[2] Die Argumentationsstrategien Serafín Fanjuls in’Al-Andalus contra España, Bernadette Bideau
[3] Theorie der Interpretation vom Humanismus bis zur Romantik – Rechtswissenschaft, Philosophie, Theologie: Beiträge zu einem interdisziplinären Symposion in Tübingen, 29. September bis 1. Oktober 1999, Jan Schröder
[4] Note biografiche di Capitani di Guerra e di Condottieri di Ventura
operanti in Italia nel 1330 – 1550
[5] Wiktenauer
[6] Schola Gladiatoria – Fiore dei Liberi – Fior di Battaglia – Flos Duellatorum
[7] A Brief Examination of Fiore dei Liberi’s Treatises Flos Duellatorum & Fior di Battaglia, Journal of Western Martial Art, September 2008, by David M. Cvet and An examination of Fiore dei liberi and his treatises describing L`arte dell`armizare, c. 1409 by DAviD M. Cvet
[8] Rerum Italicarum Scriptores ab anno aerae Christianae quingentesimo ad millesimum quingentesimum #18, Lodovico Antonio Muratori
[9] Il Friuli orientale Studi, Prospero Antonini
[10] Die Lebenszeugnisse Oswalds von Wolkenstein, Ausgaben 93-177,  von Anton Schwob,Oswald von Wolkenstein, Böhlau Verlag Wien, 2001
[12] Geschichte des Papsttums waehrend des vierzehnten Jahrhunderts, Band 3, Jean Baptiste Christophe, Joseph Ignaz Ritter
[13] Erzählende genealogische Stammtafeln zur europäischen Geschichte Band I, Teilband 1, Andreas Thiele, R.G. Fischer, 1991
[14] Geschichte der Stadt Rom, Band 2, Alfred von Reumont


Special thanks for making their awesome researches and work public:
  • Michael Chidester
  • David M. Cvet
  • Matt Easton
  • Dott. Roberto Damiani
  • Matt Galas
  • and the folks of the The Exiles Fiore Project