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Conference will explore one of the Royal Armouries most famous treasures

Wednesday, 24 April 2019

manuscript I.33 illustration showing two pairs of people engaged in sword fighting

The Royal Armouries museum in Leeds is set to host a conference this May exploring one of the most treasured objects in its collections, the medieval I.33 manuscript.

One of the oldest and most enigmatic treasures in the Royal Armouries archives, the I.33 manuscript is one of the earliest surviving examples of a Fechtbuch, or Fight Book. The manuscript was produced in Germany in the early 14th century and it documents historical martial arts techniques through a number of beautifully illustrated pages.

The images featured in the manuscript detail a system of fencing using sword and buckler and its rediscovery by Dr Jeffrey Forgeng has coincided with a resurgence in interest for European historical martial arts over the past few decades.

The ‘Heart of the art of combat’ conference on the 10 May will get under the skin of this remarkable object. It aims to provide a multi-disciplinary understanding of I.33, addressing such subjects as the codicology, language, art history, arms and armour and the fighting techniques illustrated in the manuscript.

It will also examine I.33 alongside other sword and buckler traditions, considering the role of art in medieval fight books and the wider context of I.33.

The Royal Armouries is pleased to announce that the conference key note speaker is Dr Jeffrey Forgeng, the foremost authority on the manuscript and the editor of the recently published facsimile, ‘The medieval art of swordsmanship’.

Commenting on the upcoming conference, Henry Yallop, Keeper of Edged Weapons and Armour said: “The Royal Armouries are delighted to welcome Dr Forgeng, fight book scholars and historical fencers from around the world to the museum. As the national museum of arms and armour we are the perfect place for such experts to gather to discuss one the most important objects in our care, promoting understanding of I.33 and what it can tell us of how arms and armour were used in their historic contexts. Over the weekend there will be the chance for people to learn, with sword and buckler in hand, how I.33 could have worked; bringing together the scholarly and practical elements of arms and armour research.”

Dr Jeffrey Forgeng, curator of Arms and Armor and Medieval Art at the Worcester Art Museum, Massachusetts, USA added: “When I first learned of the existence of this manuscript in the early 1990s, I was astonished to find such a detailed treatise on sword fighting from such an early date – by far the earliest known text of its kind. Since the Armouries published my first translation in 2003, there has been a huge upsurge of interest in I.33 around the globe, and further scholarship has revealed that the manuscript is even more remarkable than we realised. This conference will be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to spotlight one of the most remarkable treasures in the Royal Armouries’ collection.”

The conference runs from 10 am – 5 pm on the 10 May, tickets are £20 per person and are available through Eventbrite.

The conference will be followed by a practical training seminar on Saturday 11 and Sunday 12 May, hosted by Kunst des Fechtens (KDF) and the Society of Combat Archaeology. Tickets cost £60 and can be booked through the KDF website.


Notes to editors

Further enquiries to: Katie Canning, Communications Officer. Email:, telephone: 0113 220 1978

Full conference programme

9:15-9:45 – Registration (Tea & coffee provided)
9:45-9:55 – Welcome address
9:55-10:35 – Keynote: The heart of the art of combat – Jeffrey Forgeng
10:35-11:15 – Liber vetustissimus: Reception history of I.33 – Antti Ijäs
11:15-11:55 – The context of I.33 – Stuart Peers
11:55-13:00 – Break (Lunch is not provided)
13:00-13:40 – Didactics and methodology of I.33 – Herbert Schmidt
13:40-14:20 – Up is down: Some hypotheses on how to interpret perspective in I.33’s illustrations – Cornelius Berthold & Ingo Petri
14:20-15:00 – Viking age round shields and high medieval bucklers: The emergence of the sword & buckler tradition in Scandinavia – Rolf Warming
15:00-15:20 – Break (Tea & coffee provided)
15:20-16:00 – Religat calcat: The system of binds in I.33 – Dieter Bachmann
16:00-16:40 – Walking the work – Dave Rawlings
16:40-16:50 – Closing remarks
17:00 – Museum closes

About the Royal Armouries

Entry to the museum is free but some activities carry a small charge.