Medieval Combat Lecture and Demonstration Thrill and Delight

Author: Lucy Grinnan

Joe Wright Jen Pan Friday Lecture 09-10-21
Joe Wright and Jen Pan, two members of Theatrica Gladiatoria, re-enact the medieval combat manual during Dr. Rebecca Gardner's talk. Photo by Rodney Rice.

The Medieval Institute hosted the first two game-day events of its 75th Anniversary season on September 10th and 11th, before the Notre Dame-Toledo game.

On Friday afternoon, Dr. Rebecca Garber gave a presentation entitled "Combat Manuals and Duels of Honor." She addressed an audience that included visiting parents and alumni families.

Showing images from medieval combat manuals, Dr. Garber walked the audience through the stages of a duel, from throwing spears to fighting with swords. She talked about the likely readership of these manuals and the likelihood that they practiced the specifics discussed within, including the surprising practice of unscrewing the pommel of a sword to throw at an opponent.

This interactive event also included Theatrica Gladiatoria founders Jen Pan and Joe Wright, who demonstrated some of the plays illustrated in the manuscripts.

Mid-day on Saturday, the Institute hosted a medieval combat demonstration. Four energetic fighters from Theatrica Gladiatoria—Jen Pan, Joe Wright, Rodney Rice and Dr. Rebecca Garber—staged several rounds of medieval combat for an audience of over 100 people. They explained the physics of attacking and defending with different weapons like the long sword, messer, and rapier.

Through observing different weapons and types of attacks, the audience could appreciate the art of dueling as it developed from the fourteenth to the seventeenth centuries.

Theatrica Gladiatoria Saturday 2 09-11-21
Jen Pan and Rodney Rice, two members of Theatrica Gladiatoria, demonstrate some moves. Photo by Joe Wright.

Dr. Annie Killian, the Medieval Institute's Public Humanities Postdoctoral Fellow, expressed her zeal for the success of the event: "We were delighted with the large turn-out for these events, the first of a series of Game Day talks and tailgates this fall. Flashing swords and the clang of bucklers are a sure way to grab attention even amidst the usual fanfare happening on campus."

The Medieval Institute is excited to promote public humanities during its 75th Anniversary celebration this year. The fun will continue on September 18th at our next home game event, which will bring Royal Falconer Mark Booth and four live birds to campus!

Read more about our planned events, which include medieval-themed presentations before every home game this fall.