Bearing Arms in Medieval Nürnberg

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  • #5955
    Philologus
    Participant

    I have added some of the laws from Nürnberger Polizeiordnungen aus dem 13. bis 15. Jh. edited by J. Baader (Stuttgart 1861) to another site. They have a ban on carrying swords or pointed knives, and a ban on citizens, residents, or visitors carrying any kind of weapons (einicherley Were) at all. So these laws are very medieval English! (And very unlike Central Europe or England in the 16th century).

    • This topic was modified 1 year, 4 months ago by Philologus.
    • This topic was modified 1 year, 4 months ago by Philologus.
    #5958
    Hans Hellinger
    Moderator

    Interesting, thanks for linking the sources there. There was a strict ban in Nuremberg for a while, I believe this has to do mainly with the 1349, craft-guild uprising (Handwerkeraufstand – basically all the crafts except the butchers), which resulted in a somewhat unusual situation in which the craft artisans were aligned with a hostile princely family (the Wittelsbach) and the patrician faction had the full support of one of the strongest emperors (Charles IV). The outcome was a total patrician victory sanctified by Imperial edicts, resulting in strict control by the patrician oligarchy which lasted many generations. And I think those kinds of regulations were part of that.

    These uprisings were not unusual, in other towns sometimes the patricians won, sometimes the craft artisans and middle ranked merchants won, most often it ended up a kind of compromise situation.

    It’s an interesting emerging picture of this very complex social, political and military landscape.

    But we have to be careful with these little snapshots that records like that give us. I noticed on the (your?) blog you linked, it mentioned “The Strassburg ban on bearing long knives or daggers from 1452”. I wanted to double check this, so I pinged my friend Olivier Dupuis who has access to the archives there, but this was not actually a ban on carrying swords and knives. It was a regulation on the LENGTH of swords and messers, specifically, based on an official size they had established for both types of weapons that was available to check in the Rathaus.

    This is very similar to laws passed in Frankfurt am Main and in Augsburg around the same time. The citizens remained armed, but they were repeatedly putting restrictions on the size and types of swords, and sometimes precisely which estates (such as servants, apprentices and journeymen) who could carry them in public. The overall impact was somewhat questionable as you can still see both from records of ongoing incidents and period artwork that people were still carrying all kinds of sidearms including longswords well into the 16th Century.

    #5959
    Hans Hellinger
    Moderator

    I heard back from Olivier and he agrees, that law is about regulating the length of the weapons.

    One other nuance to all this you might find interesting, in Augsburg they were repeatedly confiscating weapons that were ‘too sharp’ or ‘too pointed’ which they sometimes referred to as ‘degen’, but with a length of up to 1 and 1/2 ells, all the way back to the early 15th Century. These seem to have maybe been dueling weapons almost like smallswords.

    #5960
    Hans Hellinger
    Moderator

    Olivier gave me some additional data for Strasbourg. There were at least five regulations on weapon length issued by town council (or council of 21, a kind of defense committee) in Strasbourg in the 15th and 16th Century. One, in 1418 right after an uprising, specifies the maximum blade length of a knife to be a ‘span’ – the distance between thumb and pinky finger with the hand stretched out, maybe 10 cm. So at that time you could only carry a small knife. A second one from the later 16th Century specifies one and a quarter ellen, or about 60 cm at that time. The other three (one in the 15th and two in the 16th Centuries) refer to a restriction of blade length a marked span on the Munster, the giant cathedral in Strasbourg. This still exists, and it is two ells in length (at that time about 103 cm, or roughly 40-41 inches). That’s for blade length, not the whole sword.

    I need to find a good contact in Nuremberg because I know they have a lot of surviving records there too.

    #5967
    Philologus
    Participant

    I literally transcribed and translated the laws from Strassburg https://ageofdatini.info/fontes/laws-weapons-strassburg.html From other medieval laws and art I strongly suspect that the proper length was no more than a 30 cm / 12″ blade ie. that the law allowed daggers or big knives but not huge daggers or full swords or sabres.

    • This reply was modified 1 year, 4 months ago by Philologus.
    #5969
    Philologus
    Participant

    The clause that “you may naturally bring a sword or long knife when you go to and from the taverns at night, as long as you bring a lamp or other source of light with you” suggest to me that the law was meant to restrict the wearing of sword-sized weapons. The use of tegen in an earlier clause implies that those giant 15th century daggers with a blade over 12″ long were probably also excluded (tegen can refer to two-edged straight swords or daggers, but in this context a “dagger” makes more sense than a “tuck / estoc”).

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