When we talk about swords, it can be said that they have fascinated us since ancient times.
Here are two incidents that highlight how these tools have influenced our lives, but also how little we actually know about them.
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From swords to monkhood
At some point in the middle of the 12th century, a monk settled in St Edmund’s Abbey in Suffolk and decided to write down everything he heard.
The anonymous monk’s interest had begun in another abbey, in Reading, where he had been visiting. Inside the imposing edifice, he would have met other monks, who were already living there.
Among them was one who immediately struck him as unusual: a monk who, although he dressed in the same clothes as the others, had once had a very different life. This man would have explained to him how he had become a monk by accident.
In the year 1157, Henry of Essex was a nobleman and knight, famous for his skill with the sword. He also enjoyed the confidence of Henry II of England. But in terms of morals, he was not very good, having all kinds of flaws.
A bizarre incident in a battle in Wales changed everything. He apparently reported that the king was dead, which almost led to the withdrawal of the army from the battlefield.
Six years later, in Reading, one of his relatives knocked him out and challenged him to a duel.
At first Essex defended himself, but after a series of blows he was overcome with shame and fear and lost his skill. He lunged at his opponent, abandoning good practice, but also losing the battle, believing himself to be dead.
The king ordered the local monks to take Essex’s body and bury it. Miraculously, Essex survived and lived the rest of his life in penance among them, where many years later he met the chronicler I was talking about at the beginning.
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Sword fights, from movies, possibly made up
Knights were, in their day, a sort of celebrity of the medieval era. The best of them were rewarded for their skill with castles, lands, and influence at court.
They were celebrated as the heroes of their time, giving life to legends, poems and paintings that recounted their chivalrous deeds.
Of course, the rise of a knight required more than fine armor and a noble stallion: it also required technique.
Sword fighting was not a matter of random jabs or jabs, it was a sophisticated martial art that rivaled kung fu or sumo wrestling.
The elaborate sword fighting in the movies is largely made up, it seems, with the technique being vastly different from what we see on the small or big screen.
Very little is known about what the perfect technique looked like, but there is, however, some information that has survived the passage of time that gives us some hints, albeit insufficient.
See also: A 3,000-year-old sword recently discovered by archaeologists: why it is unique