Almost exactly a year ago I was lucky enough to be taken on a small journey that has been a long time dream of mine; walking in the footsteps of 16th cent fencing master Joachim Meyer, visiting the city where he spent many years teaching as Fechtmeister; Straßburg. I shared some of the things we believe we know about his life then, in an article entitled ‘Meyer Pilgrimage Part 1 – Straßburg‘. This year I was very happy to be invited to take on leg 2 of that pilgrimage, to visit the city where Joachim Meyer was born; Basel, and I will here try to expand on what we know about his life with some speculation about his roots. This is far from a definitive article on his life, just another piece in the puzzle and meant to inspire and help further research into Meyer’s life, and of course also meant to serve as a small guide to those who would like to make a similar trip.

The historical backdrop

The city of Basel


General Lucius Munatius Plancus, the founder of Basel, raised as a statue in the Rathaus of Basel in 1580

So turning to Basel. In the 16th and 17th century it was a very small town by modern standards, with about 12,000 men and women, and in fact as late as in 1850 still only consisting of some 28,000 inhabitants, and like so many other pre-industrial age cities, it still existed mainly within its old 16th cent city walls. The number of inhabitants fluctuated, sometimes quite dramatically with the commonly returning plagues. However, by contemporary standards it was still a very large city and also an important city for reasons that I will return to later. Basel is said to have been founded by Roman general Lucius Munatius Plancus in 44 B.C. as a military settlement called Augusta Raurica or Colonia Rauricatoday two towns called Augst and Kaiseraugst, which was located 10-20km upstreams of the Rhein, east of Basel. The place takes its name from Roman Emperor Augustus and a local Celtic tribe called the Rauraci which was living in the area. It is the oldest known Roman colony on the Rhein and at its peak in the 2nd century AD it was an important trading center with some 20,000 inhabitants and a Roman theatre with near 10,000 seats. The settlement is believed to have included a fortress on the hill where the Münster Cathedral is placed today, overlooking the Rhein, but remains of an even older celtic fortification called Basel Oppidum have also been found on the place. Already in 374 AD a Roman historian named Ammanius Marcellinus names the city Basilia, which would later become Basel.

Roman ruins of Augst, from Sebastian Münster's Cosmographia, 1554

Roman ruins of Augst, from Sebastian Münster’s Cosmographia, 1549

In Meyer’s time, the fascination with the Antiquity and the Greeks and Romans was at its peak1 and the Holy Roman Empire claimed heritage straight from the Roman emperors with the elected ‘King of the Romans’ crowned emperor by the pope2. Meyer too refers to this, how the Roman’s lost their way, forgetting about the need for constant practice for war and the Roman Empire consequently torn apart and the Romans replaced by the Germans with the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation:

Moreover no proof is needed that it was the custom with our ancestors and the ancient Germans to raise their youth in knightly practice along with other good arts, since this is self-evident from what they achieved. For once the Romans thought they had conquered the entire world, as an overconfident nation they devoted themselves to sensualities more than to good arts, policy, and knightly practices, and through this the entire empire was undermined, attacked on every side, and torn apart by enemies; and the knightly Germans were appointed and advanced before all peoples to save it, take it over, and erect it again. This would never have happened, were not the excellent Germans wisely trained and experienced in all kinds of knightly play and matters of war…3

-From the dedicatory preface of ‘Gründtliche Beschreibung der Freyen Ritterlichen und Adeligen Kunst Des Fechtens‘ of 1570 as translated by Dr. Jeffrey L. Forgeng

Basel even raised a statue of its founder, the Roman general Lucius Munatius Plancus in 1580, a statue still in the Rathaus of Basel. In Meyer’s treatise of 1570 we can also clearly see this fascination expressed. It is quite possible that Meyer had seen parts of the ruins later excavated in the region first-hand and most likely he shared this interest in the ancients.

Rapier fencer in Romanesque armour, from Meyer's 1570 treatise

Rapier fencer in Romanesque armour and 16th cent pluderhosen (Compare to the statue of Gen. Lucius Munatius Plancus above). From Meyer’s 1570 treatise

Roman inspiration clearly visible in the three statues, but also in various depictions of armour and architecture. From Meyer's 1570 treatise.

Roman inspiration clearly visible in the three statues, but also in various depictions of armour and architecture.
From Meyer’s 1570 treatise.

But I am getting ahead of myself… Let’s  move back in time again. Following various wars the Bishop’s seat was transferred from Augusta to Basel in the 7th century. Then in 1006 AD by decree of Emperor Heinrich II of the Ottonian House the civil power of the Bishop was established in Basel. 74 years later, in 1080 AD the first city walls were built as seen in the image below where what would later become a 2nd set of inner walls and a moat are clearly visible, following what today is called, from west to east, Petersgraben, Leonhardsgraben, Kohlenberg, Steinenberg and St. Albangraben. In 1083 AD the first monastery of Basel, the St. Albankloster is founded and in 1270 AD the church St. Albankirche is built.4

Basel, as it looked like ca 1493. From the Nuremberg Chronicles.

Basel, roughly as it looked like ca 1493, with sizes of buildings magnified based on importance. From the Nuremberg Chronicles.

Skipping ahead a bit, the biggest earthquake in recorded history of Central Europe takes place in Basel in 1356. It is estimated to a 7.1 on the Richter scale.  It took place at about 22:00 on Oct 18, St. Lukas Day and the earthquake and the resulting fires in the city killed about 300 people, ruining most of the city and its largely wooden houses, as well as all major churches and castles within a 30km radius of the city. The town is soon rebuilt though, and the building of the Third Town Wall begins in 1362 and is completed in 1398 thus making the city quite well defended, but also distinctly separating the burghers from the peasant population. Some 30 years later, Basel has the attention of the world with the great Council of Basel in 1431-48AD, where the council seeks to reform the Church. Again 40 years later, the University of Basel is formed by Pope Pius II and in 1471, Emperor Friedrich III confers rights for the city to hold two fairs every year, further enhancing the importance of the city.


Basel, from Sebastian Münster’s Cosmographia, 1549. Seen from north to south. The house Meyer grew up in is likely visible among the some 30 residential buildings of St. Alban on the left side.


Overview of Basel by Matthäus Merian d.ä, from ca 1640, showing the remains of the inner walls as well as the outer walls, with the semi-rural area of St. Albans inbetween to the east. Layout of the city is very similar to contemporary Frankfurt am Main.

In 1501, then, Basel is accepted into the Swiss Confederation, the precursor of Switzerland. In 1529 Johannes Oekolampad, the German Reformer introduces the Reformation into Basel, after which the Bishop leaves the city. This is important since it likely is part of the foundation of Meyer’s religious views and connections, as indicated by the Calvinist dukes and princes he was associated with. With that in mind we will briefly look at how this came to be. Oekolampad, born in Weinsberg, Germany, was a preacher in Basel already in 1515 and a vicar in 1522 in St. Martinskirche, also reading the Holy Scripture at the University of Basel and lecturing in the same. He worked together with other famous early Protestants like Desiderius Erasmus and Huldrych Zwingli and even translated works by Erasmus. He came to be a strong inspiration for later generation protestants like Heinrich Bullinger and John Calvin. John Calvin in turn came to Basel in 1536, trying to escape the violent uprisings against protestants in France. Later the same year he would be invited to the already protestant city Straßburg by Martin Bucer. Calvin preached in many of the churches in Krutenau, the area of Straßburg where Meyer is believed to have lived and in fact, the street outside of the church where Meyer married his wife Appolonia, St. Guillaume Church is today named after him; Rue Cauvin.

Basel in 1615, by Matthüs Merian d.Ä.

Basel in 1615, with north and south inverted. By Matthüs Merian d.Ä.

The Rhein river connects Basel to many cities, and quite importantly to nearby Straßburg which is situated so close it used to be said that you could put soup on a boat in Basel and serve it still hot in Straßburg upon arrival to the city. Gutenberg invented the printing press with movable types there in 1439 thus changing the world and sparking a hugely important business, easing the spread of ideas which came to be hugely important not just for the growing protestantism, but also knowledge transfer in general, including the fighting arts.

The view of Basel from the Münster Cathedral. By Matthäus Merian d.Ä. 1648

The view of Basel and Kleinbasel to the right, from the Münster Cathedral. By Matthäus Merian d.Ä. 1648

Basel soon became a centre for printing of books and with a quickly growing need for it, and also for paper making5, with the first “Swiss” printing press established in Basel in 14686. Various associated trades like wood carving for printing blocks and illustrators like the famous Basel born illustrator Matthäus Merian der Ältere also naturally evolved to respond to this and by Joachim Meyer’s time Basel was thus a near two millenia old city that had grown into a centre of educationspreading of information and religious reformation protected by strong city walls and tightly connected to many other cities, not least the protestant, and like Basel, Free Imperial City of Straßburg.

St. Alban & Dalbdych / Dalbeloch

Craftsmen of different trades lived in different parts of the cities. In Basel, the fishermen lived in St. Johanns-Vorstadt, the weavers in the Steinenvorstadt and the sawmill workers likely in Kleinbasel. The area of St. Alban and Dalbedych in Basel is known precisely for the paper making business and that is also where the paper makers lived, although not just people of that trade, as we shall return to shortly. Named after the St. Alban Monastery located here, St. Alban was a semi-rural area all through the 1500s with only about 30 residential buildings and as late as in 1815 only about 2000 men and women lived there7.

The area of St Albans, clearly showing the nine water wheels associated with paper making & book printing, knife, sword & armour making as well as milning. By Matthäus Merian, 1615.

The quartier of St Albans, clearly showing the water wheels associated with paper making & book printing, knife, sword & armour making as well as milning. On the right we can also see St. Albankirche, the church where Meyer most likely was baptized. The image also clearly shows the old covered entrance to the church which was removed in 1845  The map has north and east inverted. By Matthäus Merian d.Ä.

There used to be 7 + 9 waterwheels at work in Grosstadt Basel, arranged in sets of 2-3 wheels attached to 6 + 6 buildings, where both papermakers, smiths and others worked. Another two wheels where in use at the saw mills just outside of the north-eastern gate to Kleinbasel. Mills powered by water or wind wheels were commonly placed at the outskirts of the cities, likely due to he risk of dust explosion and possibly also due to the noise associated with the wooden mechanics. The wheels seem to have been powered by the Birs River coming from South and ending east of St. Albans. The Birs and the Birsig River also filled the moat and the latter also functioned as the city sewers. The mills were used by the professions making up the so called “Wasserfünf” (Water Fives); the milners, the armour makers, the sword sharpeners and the cutlers8


The 7 + 9 water wheels connected to 6 + 6 buildings. Building 7, 8 10 and 11 seem to have been connected to the production of knives, swords and armour, while the rest were associated with paper making. Buildings 1-4 and 9 & 10 stand even today, although only #1 is still in use for paper making.


The water wheels and buildings associated with the cutlers, armour makers and sword sharpeners and polishers. In the top right corner St. Albankirche where Meyer likely was baptized is visible.

The water wheels were split up between the trades with the wheels closest to the city walls seemingly having been dedicated to paper making. The water wheels situated the closest to the St. Albankirche however seem to have been used for other purposes, like knife making, sharpening and polishing swords & armour etc.

Buildings that used to be part of the water wheel production, still standing right next to St. Albanskirche

The left building used to be part of the water wheel production, still standing right next to St. Albankirche

Two of those buildings still remain as do several of the paper making buildings. Unfortunately only one of the wheels remain, today part of the very active Basler Papiermühle Museum and still in use for its original purpose.

The only remaining water wheel of Basel

The only remaining water wheel of Basel

Just next to, west of the water wheels, we also find the St.Albankirche9, the only church in this neighbourhood and quite relevant to the life of Meyer as we shall see soon.

View over St. Alban, Basel, 1616. Water wheels visible at the bottom right. By Matthäus Merian d.Ä.

View over St. Alban, Basel, 1616. Water wheels visible at the bottom right.
By Matthäus Merian d.Ä.

St Albankirche in 1840

The monastery and the original church of St. Alban in 1840. This was still more or less what it looked like in Meyer’s time.

The church of St. Alban in 1857

The church of St. Alban in 1857

The church was partly demolished in 1845 and redesigned by the architect Johann Jakob Stehlin der Jüngere, with severe conversions of the front half of the nave and the south aisle. The front entrance was built in this year, using parts of the original church of 1270. As can be seen from the artwork above, the church was quite dramatically changed in appearance. Today, this church has a pink plastered facade which gives it a distinctly more “modern” look, but only five years ago it retained the gray facade with orange-red brick for the outside columns and around the windows, as depicted in the small 1857 illustration.

St Albankirche as it looks today with pink plaster. Right next to the church is a medieval building with St Alban himself depicted.

St Albankirche as it looks today with pink plaster. Right next to the church is a medieval building with St Alban himself depicted.


Joachim Meyer & Basel

The 1560 Marriage Certificate of Joachim Meyer and Appolonia Rulmennin

This is the first piece of proper data we have on Joachim Meyer. On June 4, 1560 Joachim Meyer of Basel marries Appolonia Rulmennin in the Church of St Guillaume. Appolonia was then already a widow of cutler Jacob Wickgaw10. Offically Meyer now becomes a proper burgher of Straßburg11. The church records state:

Joachim von Meÿger Basell hatt d [as] burgkrecht empfangen Vonn Appolonia Rulmennin Weylandt Jacob Wittich of Becken selig [in] within wittwen [ing] hausfrauwen vnnd wil dienen zun Schmiden.

Meyer thus becomes a member of the Schmiden guild, the smiths. It is unclear if the marriage ever led to any children. From this we have a few interesting pieces of data to start building our puzzle with.

The coat of arms of the cutlers at the top of the cover of the 2nd edition of Joachim Meyer's Gründtliche Beschreibung der Freyen Ritterlichen und Adeligen Kunst Des Fechtens of 1570, printed in 1600.

The coat of arms of the cutlers at the top of the cover of the 2nd edition of Joachim Meyer’s Gründtliche Beschreibung der Freyen Ritterlichen und Adeligen Kunst Des Fechtens of 1570, printed in 1600.

Joachim Meyer was a cutler, as noted in various Straßburg records12 and also indicated by the coat of arms of the cutlers so commonly depicted in his fencing treatise of 1570 (see above). We also know he comes from Basel. These two pieces are seemingly quite important when put aside of what we find next.

The baptismal records of Joachim Meyer, 1537

Looking to the birth records and lists of burghers of Basel there are very few people living in the city in the time period of interest by the name of Jacob and Joachim Meyer. However, as Olivier Dupuis discovered, on August 16, 1537 it is noted that paper maker Jacob Meyer and his wife Anna Freund has a son baptized as Joachim. They live in the area of St. Albans, then a very sparsely populated semi-rural area outside of the original inner city walls, but inside of the new walls protecting the city. Most likely they had their son baptized in the St. Albankirche, the only church in St. Alban, and a church with a congregation consisting mainly of the Wasserfünf (the smiths & cutlers, the milners, the sword sharpeners & polishers, the armour makers and the milners).

Joachim Meyer, son of Jacob Meyer, paper maker, Aug 16, 1537

Joachim Meyer, son of Jacob Meyer, paper maker, Aug 16, 1537

Interesting to note here is that Meyer’s father is noted as a paper maker, which fits well with the area he lives in.

Jacob Meyer the Messerschmied, 1517

In the book Baslerisches Burgerbüch of 1819 we then find a very interesting note mentioning a Jacob Meyer, Messerschmied, who becomes a burger of Basel in 1517.

Jacob Meyer, cutler, is listed as a burger of Basel in 1517

Jacob Meyer, cutler, is listed as a burger of Basel in 1517

This Jacob Meyer is currently not known to be associated with any of the larger Meyer families of Basel, but the fact that he is a Messerschmied, like Joachim Meyer, and is of a suitable age to have children in ca 1537 is interesting. For a long time it also puzzled me that we had two men by the name of Jacob Meyer, one a cutler and the other a paper maker, that potentially could be the father of Joachim Meyer. However, having visited St. Albans of Basel in person it makes more sense as the two trades worked in the very same place, using the 16 water wheels of St. Albans to manufacture their goods. Switching trade between 1517 and 1537 would likely have been fairly easy to do, thus making it quite possible that Jacob Meyer arrived as a cutler, but switched to paper making, perhaps as it was a still booming industry. He then transferred some of his knowledge of knife making onto his son who picked up on the trade again, in Straßburg.

The Meyer families of Basel

We currently do not know for certain which family Joachim Meyer belonged to. Seven larger families are known, but there were also families of unknown roots. The seven are:

  1. Meyer zum Hirzen/Hirschen
  2. Meyer von Hüningen
  3. Meyer von Balderstorf
  4. Meyer mit dem Pfeil, auch von Büren
  5. Meyer zum Haasen/Hasen
  6. Meyer zum Schlüssel
  7. Meyer zum Sternen

Again, neither of the notes from 1517 and 1537 clarify if Jacob Meyer was connected to any of these families.


Despite his commoner roots Joachim Meyer seems to at times have moved around in the higher eschelons of society and he appears to have had a fair amount of education and a respectable standing, possibly indicating that he came from a fairly well-off family. His first treatise is dedicated to Calvinist Count Otto von Solms and the treatise was given to the duke in 1560 or 1568, following Meyer having taught the same in the fighting arts. His 1570 treatise speaks of the Ancients and warfare, referring to Scipio Africanus, Hannibal, Pepin, Charlemagne, Louis the Pious and Henry I and he repeatedly claims to have studied under famous but still unidentified fencing masters from Germany, Silesia, France, Italy, Napoli and Spain. In the introduction of the book he also speaks directly to Johann Casimir, Calvinist Count Palatine of the Rhein, Duke in Bavaria, stating that the Duke had personally numerous times asked Joachim Meyer to write a book:

I have not only learned the praiseworthy knightly art of combat from skilled and famous masters, but have also now practiced it for many years, and have instructed young princes, counts, lords, and nobles in it, and was graciously and kindly requested by your kind princely grace on many occasions to write up this praiseworthy art of combat in a sound order, and publish it openly through the press, and to let it come to light for the use of many people of our nation; so I no longer wished to resist this gracious and kind request, and have therefore in the name and through the fatherly grace of the Almighty, brought together that which I have learned and experienced with care and work in this praiseworthy and sophisticated art over many years, and compiled it in the most comprehensible order as seems possible to me in this treatise…

-From the dedicatory preface of ‘Gründtliche Beschreibung der Freyen Ritterlichen und Adeligen Kunst Des Fechtens‘ of 1570 as translated by Dr. Jeffrey L. Forgeng

Straßburg city records found by Olivier Dupuis also note that Joachim applies and receives approval to arrange a Fechtschul for eight days on Feb 15, 1561, indicating that he was already then a highly skilled fencer possibly even at the level of a Freifechter, with good recognition from the city council of Straßburg. This was repeated on Sep 4, 1563 and again on June 15 1566 and Feb 1, 1567 and on June 28, 156813, Straßburg lists him as a Fechtmeister when he applies to arrange a fechtschul14. Two years later, in 1570 he becomes the treasurer of the Messerschmied guild of Straßburg. The same year his Gründtliche Beschreibung der Freyen Ritterlichen und Adeligen Kunst des Fechtens is printed and he possibly also visits the Diet of Speyer, seeking to secure a position as fencing master at Duke Johann Albrecht I of Mecklenburg’s court in Schwerin, which he succeeds in, but unfortunately never takes up as he catches ill travelling to Schwerin and dies on Feb 24 1571, two weeks after arrival to the court. The image below shows the letter sent by Anton Ruelman to the city council on behalf of his sister, Meyer’s widow Appolonia, seeking assistance from the council in requesting the court of Schwerin to have Meyer’s personal effects, including a box of his printed fencing treatise of 1570 sent back to the widow in Straßburg. A formal letter is sent from the council but the duke replies that the books have been ruined, and he offers to send some compensation alongside of the remaining personal effects to the widow. The wood engravings and original drawings are believed to have been sold to pay off debts resulting from the book printing and are found in Augsburg.15

Letter from Anton Ruelman, the brother of Joachim Meyer's widow Appolonia, to the Duke of Mecklenburg regarding the effects of Joachim

Letter from Anton Ruelman, the brother of Joachim Meyer’s widow Appolonia, to ask the city council’s support in requesting Duke Johann Albrecht I of Mecklenburg to send back the personal effects of Joachim. The letter was found in the archives by Olivier Dupuis.

Meyer’s widow would soon after remarry another cutler, Hans Küele, her third marriage, again likely as part of the guild tradition of providing a new husband for the widows of its members in return for membership, just like with her marriage to Joachim. Hans Küele thus becomes a member of the Messerschmied guild, the same way that Joachim did.

Zum Hirzen and Jacob Meyer the Prediger of St. Albans

Looking to the other known Meyers of Basel the zum Hirzen family is interesting for several reasons. One of the things they are known for is Jakob Meyer (1437-1541) who served as mayor of Basel between 1530-41. Second, another Jacob Meyer zum Hirzen (1526-1605) was a pastor of St. Albankirche, the church where Joachim Meyer likely was baptized, in 1555, thus likely also having preached to Joachim’s father Jacob Meyer the paper maker who lived in the area. This seems more of a coincidence though, but certainly deserves investigating more. Interestingly there is also a Jacob or Hans Jacob Meyer who in 1698 wrote a book entitled “Geistliche Fechtschul der Gedult“, printed in Schaffhausen, just a bit further up the Rhein. This seems to be a book on religion and possibly it is a relative of Pastor Jacob Meyer zum Hirzen. Looking through the family trees of contemporary zum Hasen and zum Hirzen I have found no mentioning of any Joachim Meyer though. Likewise, the name is not listed in the Baslerisches Bürgerbuch, indicating he never was associated with a guild or worked professionally there. Neither of this would be surprising if his family moved to Straßburg when Joachim was still a boy or youth.

The many Jacobs of Meyer…

So summing them up, we have: 1517 Jacob Meyer, a cutler, becomes a burger of Basel 1537 Jacob Meyer, a paper maker and resident of St. Albans in Basel has a son called Joachim 1555 Jacob Meyer zum Hirzen (1526-1605) is noted as the prediger, the pastor of St. Albans in Basel. Furthermore, it is also interesting to note that a Jacob Meyer is listed as a member of the Ammestre, the burger council of Straßburg in 1549, which might indicate that Joachim Meyer’s family had moved to Straßburg already before then, more than a decade before Joachim becomes a member of the Messerschmid guild and thereby a proper burgher. A Jacob Meyer is listed on the Ammestre again in 1555, 1561 and in 1567. It is currently unknown what trade this Jacob Meyer was associated with. In 1564, the year after Joachim Meyer’s 2nd Straßburg fechtschule, another Basel Fechtmeister named Hans Jacob Meyer comes to Straßburg and petitions for a arranging a fechtschule. Like Joachim Meyer he is noted as being a messerschmied. Noteworthy also is the mentioning of an unnamed messerschmied and “weapons master” from Basel who applies to arrange a fechtschul in Straßburg in 155816. Now, some of these similarities and possible connections are bound to be just coincidences, and the use of biblical and Roman names was common. However, looking through family trees we can see how it was, and still is, common with groups of names and name combinations running through the lines, sometimes skipping a generation or two. Jacob for instance, is common in some Meyer families, especially the zum Hirzen, but not in others. Likewise, professions commonly transfered through generations within the same family, due to easy access to learning of skills, living in dedicated trade specific areas etc. More research is needed and these leads are certainly worth investigating more. Hopefully we can together find more data and finally learn who exactly Fechtmeister Joachim Meyer was. And dare I dream? Finding his grave… Or the lost manuscripts.

Finally, the sanctification and relic making

Just like last year, at my visit to Meyer’s Straßburg I of course had brought along my Meyer books and some club patches to sanctify them for a second time, with the first sanctification being on the footsteps of the church where he was married, and now in turn, by placing them on the steps of the church where Meyer was baptized.

Some geek doing weird stuff at the St. Albanskirche

Some geek doing weird stuff at the St. Albankirche


The Fines Mundi print of Meyer’s 1570 treatise, on top of a well-used copy of Dr. Jeffrey L. Forgeng’s translation of the same, club patches and some small memory stones.

For a HEMA geek like me, it is a very special feeling, walking in Meyer’s footsteps, and I feel very lucky having been given the opportunity to travel to these locations, and also having had the chance to touch books that he pretty surely had handled himself.


If you also decide to go to Basel, then make sure not to miss the Basler Rheinschwimmen where thousands upon thousands of people float down the river with their clothing kept in a floating bag. This happens around mid August, depending on weather and it is just amazing seeing people of all ages, children, teens and elders relaxedly chatting as they float down the Rhein. Given the intense heat I was quite tempted to jump into the river myself.


Thousands of swimmers of all ages floating down the Rhein on the Basler Rheinschwimmen

Also make sure to take the wire-and-Rhein-Currents propelled ferry that connects Kleinbasel to the rest of the city as it is a wonderful way of crossing the Rhein without engine. RIMG0451-red Of course visiting the remains of the city wall at the eastern side of St. Alban, and the Basler Papiermühle Museum near St. Albankirche as well as the Münster Cathedral and the Basler Rathaus is highly recommended. And a visit to the Schmiedhof city library where the Messerschmieden and other smiths used to meet in their guild hall might be worth a visit. I have prepared a map which shows some of the more interesting Basel locations related to Meyer that I hope will help you. Also good to know, is that a virtual map of Renaissance Basel based on Merian is being prepared and will be online in October, to celebrate the 400 year anniversary Merian’s artwork of Basel. It is not up yet though, as it is still being prepared.

Thank yous

My deepest gratitude to Bettina Bussmann who invited me over and guided me around the city of Basel, and to Frank Aupperle of the Gladiatores who was such a nice company on our trip. I am forever grateful to both of you. Huge thank yous also to Olivier Dupuis for writing the article referred to several times in this one. U look forward to discussing these things more with you! Thank you also to John Walker of the MFFG for sharing his find of the pastor Jacob Meyer of St. Albankirche. Very interesting indeed! Thank you to Dr. Jeffrey L. Forgeng for completely changing my life with his excellent translation of Meyer’s  1570 treatise. Likewise, I have to thank the Meyer Frei Fechter Guild and Kevin Maurer and Chris Vanslambrouck in particular, again for being so open and generous in their research! I love chatting about this with you and I really look forward to meeting you soon again! A ton of thanks also to Sven & Anette Baumgarten of the Gladiatores for again inviting me to teach at Donnerschlag in nearby Karslruhe! Always such a pleasure meeting you! Finally a huge thank you to all of the Gothenburg Historical Fencing School and in particular the very patient members of the quarterstaff class. Without you nothing would happen.


  1. The fascination was so strong that people not just longed back to a bygone and better time, but some even identified themselves more with the ancients than with their contemporary society. In ‘The Prince’ Niccolò Macchiavelli wrote ‘At the door I take off my muddy everyday clothes. I dress myself as though I were about to appear before a royal court as a Florentine envoy. Then decently attired I enter the antique courts of the great men of antiquity. They receive me with friendship; from them I derive the nourishment which alone is mine and for which I was born. Without false shame I talk with them and ask them the causes of the actions; and their humanity is so great they answer me. For four long and happy hours I lose myself in them. I forget all my troubles; I am not afraid of poverty or death. I transform myself entirely in their likeness.‘ []
  2. This papal coronation was discontinued in the 16th century []
  3. A common topic when it comes to Meyer is what the purpose of his fighting art was. For a long time it was suggested that it was mainly for sport, but luckily that image has changed over the lasts few years. Instead the image has been broadened to focus more on war, self-defense and town guard duties. One aspect that has been little discussed though, is the higher social aspects. However, Meyer himself is quite outspoken about this, how it is necessary for society to have an armed and well-trained population, a population that also knows how to use swords and polearms, as those are still very important weapons of war in his time. All this was crucial for a society to at all be able to survive; to maintain a level of martial training or else risk following the fate of the Roman Empire. Survival of the fittest, in a way, but at societal level. []
  4. This church was heavily renovated in the 19th and 20th century and between 1971-2003 leased to the Greek Orthodox Church. Today it is leased by the Serbian Orthodox Church []
  5. Paper mills were established in Basel in 1448, 1449, 1453, 1472, 1476, 1482, 1489, 1525 and 1634 []
  6. At this time in Italy, Germany, Austria and Switzerland printing presses only existed in Subiaco, Rome, Mainz, Bamberg, Straßburg, Cologne, Augsburg and Nuremberg, although printing houses were quickly established in great numbers in the following years. []
  7. See p. 23, Baslerisches Bürgerbuch, 1519 <> []
  8. See p. 78, Basler Handwerkszünfte im Spätmittelalter <> []
  9. also called Dalbekiirche []
  10. See ‘Joachim Meyer, escrimeur libre, bourgeois de Strasbourg‘ by Olivier Dupuis []
  11. See Stehlé, A. Le 2e livre de bourgeoisie de Strasbourg, 1543-1618. Archives municipales de Strasbourg, 2001 []
  12. See ‘Joachim Meyer, escrimeur libre, bourgeois de Strasbourg‘ by Olivier Dupuis []
  13. Although due to issues finding good facilities this is held in Manderscheid, with the permission of the Duke of Manderscheid. “Count Dietrich I of Manderscheid hotel in Manderscheid:ref: 1R32 f. 261 à 261v, 28 juin 1568 – Joachim Meyger le coutelier et Wygand Brack, les deux étant Maîtres d’Armes, ont déposé une supplique auprès des membres du conseil. Le conseil les a autorisé à faire deux rencontres d’escrime différentes, mais aucun des poêles de corporation n’était libre, et il est interdit de le faire chez un chanoine de la cathédrale. Mais le comte Kuono de Manderscheid lui a permis de la faire dans son hôtel. Attendu qu’ils ont déjà mis sur des affiches que la rencontre (schule) se déroulerait là-bas, ils demandent d’avoir quand même le droit pour cette fois de tenir cette rencontre d’escrime dans l’hôtel du chanoine.Décision : étant donné qu’ils n’ont pas de place ailleurs, qu’ils le fassent dans l’hôtel du chanoine mais qu’on leur dise que ça déplaît au conseil.” []
  14. Through these notes we also know the names of two fencers associated with Meyer; Christoff Elias, a student of Meyer, and Wygand Brack, a fellow Freifechter []
  15. See ‘Joachim Meyer, escrimeur libre, bourgeois de Strasbourg‘ by Olivier Dupuis []
  16. Again archival records discovered by Olivier Dupuis []