Dueling scar

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Aenne & Franz Burda 9 July 1931. In the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, dueling scars were seen as a badge of honor in Germany and Austria, making their owners "good husband material" Anna Lemminger and Franz Burda.jpg
Aenne & Franz Burda 9 July 1931. In the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, dueling scars were seen as a badge of honor in Germany and Austria, making their owners "good husband material"

Dueling scars (German : Schmisse) have been seen as a "badge of honour" since as early as 1825. Known variously as " Mensur scars", "the bragging scar", "smite", "Schmitte" or "Renommierschmiss", dueling scars were popular amongst upper-class Austrians and Germans involved in academic fencing at the start of the 20th century. Being a practice amongst university students, it was seen as a mark of their class and honour, due to the status of dueling societies at German and Austrian universities at the time, and is an early example of scarification in European society. [1] The practice of dueling and the associated scars was also present to some extent in the German military. [2]

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Foreign tourists visiting Germany in the late 19th century were shocked to see the students, generally with their Studentcorps, at major German universities such as Heidelberg, Bonn, or Jena with facial scars – some older, some more recent, and some still wrapped in bandages. [3]

The sport of academic fencing at the time was very different from modern fencing using specially developed swords. The so-called Mensurschläger (or simply Schläger, 'hitter') existed in two versions. The most common weapon is the Korbschläger with a basket-type guard. In some universities in the eastern part of Germany, the so-called Glockenschläger is in use which is equipped with a bell-shaped guard. The individual duels between students, known as Mensuren , were somewhat ritualised. In some cases, protective clothing was worn, including padding on the arm and an eye guard.

The culture of dueling scars was mainly common to Germany and Austria, to a lesser extent some Central European countries and briefly at places such as Oxford, and some other elite universities. German military laws permitted men to wage duels of honor until World War I. During the Third Reich the Mensur was prohibited at all Universities following the partyline. [4]

Within the duel, it was seen as ideal and a way of showing courage to be able to stand and take the blow, as opposed to inflicting the wound. It was important to show one's dueling prowess, but also that one was capable of taking the wound that was inflicted.

Social significance

Noted Jewish attorney Curt Silberman showing an old dueling scar on his jaw (1967). Bundesarchiv B 145 Bild-F024217-0001, Bonn, Prof. Curt Silberman (cropped).jpg
Noted Jewish attorney Curt Silberman showing an old dueling scar on his jaw (1967).

As the scars were gained in this particular elite social context, associated with status and an academic institution, the scars showed that one had courage and also was "good husband material". The dueling scars, while obvious, were not so serious as to leave a person disfigured or bereft of facial features. The scars were even judged by Otto von Bismarck to be a sign of bravery, and men's courage could be judged "by the number of scars on their cheeks". [5]

Minority groups in Germany also indulged in the practice, some seeing it as an aid in their social situation, including some Jews who wore the scars with pride. In 1874, William Osler, then a medical student on a visit to Berlin, described "one hopeful young Spanish American of my acquaintance who has one half of his face – they are usually on the left half – laid out in the most irregular manner, the cicatrices running in all directions, enclosing areas of all shapes, the relics of fourteen duels." Some Jews in Germany saw the scars as a signifier of a socially healthy individual. [6]

Nature of the scars

Rudolf Diels, co-founder and head of the Gestapo in 1933 to 1934. Bundesarchiv Bild 183-K0108-0501-003, Rudolf Diels.jpg
Rudolf Diels, co-founder and head of the Gestapo in 1933 to 1934.

Because Mensur swords are wielded with one hand and most fencers are right-handed, Mensur scars were usually targeted to the left profile, so the right profile appeared untouched. [7] Experienced fencers, who had fought many bouts, often accumulated an array of scars. A duelist who died in 1877 "fought no less than thirteen duels but had 137 scars on head, face and neck". [8]

The wounds were generally not that serious, "wounds causing, as a rule, but temporary inconvenience and leaving in their traces a perpetual witness of a fight well fought. The hurts, save when inflicted in the nose, lip or ear, are not even necessarily painful, and unless the injured man indulges too freely in drink, causing them to swell and get red, very bad scars can be avoided. The swords used are so razor-like that they cut without bruising, so that the lips of the wounds can be closely pressed, leaving no great disfigurement, such, for examples, as is brought about by the loss of an ear." [9]

Sometimes, students who did not fence would scar themselves with razors in imitation, [1] and some would pull apart their healing cuts to exacerbate the scars, although this was generally frowned upon. Others paid doctors to slice their cheeks. The number and extremity of scars was reduced in more recent times, [10] and the custom of obtaining dueling scars started to die off after the Second World War.

Modern day

Roughly 300 fencing fraternities ( Studentenverbindungen ) still exist today and most of them are grouped into umbrella organizations such as the Corps, Landsmannschaft or the Deutsche Burschenschaft  [ de ] (DB) in the Federal Republic of Germany, Austria, Switzerland and several other European nations. Their traditions still include academic fencing and dueling scars. [11] [12]

Notable persons

Related Research Articles

Fencing Type of armed combat sport

Fencing is a group of three related combat sports. The three disciplines in modern fencing are the foil, the épée, and the sabre ; winning points are made through the weapon's contact with an opponent. A fourth discipline, singlestick, appeared in the 1904 Olympics but was dropped after that, and is not a part of modern fencing. Fencing was one of the first sports to be played in the Olympics. Based on the traditional skills of swordsmanship, the modern sport arose at the end of the 19th century, with the Italian school having modified the historical European martial art of classical fencing, and the French school later refining the Italian system. There are three forms of modern fencing, each of which uses a different kind of weapon and has different rules; thus the sport itself is divided into three competitive scenes: foil, épée, and sabre. Most competitive fencers choose to specialize in one weapon only.

Duel Arranged engagement in combat between two individuals

A duel is an arranged engagement in combat between two people, with matched weapons, in accordance with agreed-upon rules. Duels in this form were chiefly practised in early modern Europe with precedents in the medieval code of chivalry, and continued into the modern period especially among military officers.

German Student Corps Student fraternities in Germany

Corps are the oldest still-existing kind of Studentenverbindung, Germany's traditional university corporations; their roots date back to the 15th century. The oldest corps still existing today was founded in 1789. Its members are referred to as corps students (Corpsstudenten). The corps belong to the tradition of student fraternities which wear couleur and practice academic fencing.

<i>Studentenverbindung</i>

Studentenverbindung is the umbrella term for many different kinds of fraternity-type associations in German-speaking countries, including Corps, Burschenschaften, Landsmannschaften, Turnerschaften, and Catholic fraternities. Worldwide, there are over 1,600 Studentenverbindungen, about a thousand in Germany, with a total of over 190,000 members. In them, students spend their university years in an organized community, whose members stay connected even after graduation. A goal of this lifelong bond is to create contacts and friendships over many generations and to facilitate networking. The Lebensbund is very important for the longevity of these networks.

Academic fencing Sword fight between two male members of different fraternities with sharp weapons

Academic fencing or Mensur is the traditional kind of fencing practiced by some student corporations in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Latvia, Estonia, and, to a minor extent, in Belgium, Lithuania, and Poland. However, in Switzerland it is nowadays frowned upon to carry out this tradition, for it is considered unnecessary violence. It is a traditional, strictly regulated épée/rapier fight between two male members of different fraternities with sharp weapons. The German technical term Mensur in the 16th century referred to the specified distance between each of the fencers.

Foil (fencing)

A foil is one of the three weapons used in the sport of fencing, all of which are metal. It is flexible, rectangular in cross section, and weighs under a pound. As with the épée, points are only scored by contact with the tip, which, in electrically scored tournaments, is capped with a spring-loaded button to signal a touch. A foil fencer's uniform features the lamé. The foil is the most commonly used weapon in competition.

<i>Épée</i> Largest and heaviest of the three weapons used in the sport of fencing

The épée, sometime spelled epee in English, is the largest and heaviest of the three weapons used in the sport of fencing. The modern épée derives from the 19th-century épée de combat, a weapon which itself derives from the French small sword.

Swordsmanship or sword fighting refers to the skills of a swordsman, a person versed in the art of the sword. The term is modern, and as such was mainly used to refer to smallsword fencing, but by extension it can also be applied to any martial art involving the use of a sword. The formation of the English word "swordsman" is parallel to the Latin word gladiator, a term for the professional fighters who fought against each other and a variety of other foes for the entertainment of spectators in the Roman Empire. The word gladiator itself comes from the Latin word gladius, which is a type of sword.

German school of fencing

The German school of fencing is a system of combat taught in the Holy Roman Empire during the Late Medieval, Renaissance, and Early Modern periods, as described in the contemporary Fechtbücher written at the time. The geographical center of this tradition was in what is now Southern Germany. During the period in which it was taught, it was known as the Kunst des Fechtens, or the "Art of Fencing". Though the German school of fencing focuses primarily on the use of the two-handed longsword, it also describes the use of many other weapons, including polearms, daggers, messers, and the staff, as well as describing mounted combat and unarmed grappling.

Inigo Montoya Fictional character

Inigo Montoya is a fictional character in William Goldman's 1973 novel The Princess Bride. In Rob Reiner's 1987 film adaptation, he was portrayed by Mandy Patinkin. In both the book and the movie, he was originally from Spain and resided in the fictional country of Florin.

Classical fencing is the style of fencing as it existed during the 19th and early 20th centuries. According to the 19th-century fencing master Louis Rondelle,

A classical fencer is supposed to be one who observes a fine position, whose attacks are fully developed, whose hits are marvelously accurate, his parries firm and his ripostes executed with precision. One must not forget that this regularity is not possible unless the adversary is a party to it. It is a conventional bout, which consists of parries, attacks, and returns, all rhyming together.

Rapier Combat is a style of historical fencing practiced in the Society for Creative Anachronism (SCA). The primary focus is to study, replicate and compete with styles of rapier sword-fighting found in Europe during the Renaissance period, using blunted steel swords and a variety of off-hand defensive items. Participants wear period clothing while competing, along with or incorporating protective equipment for safety. In the April 2020 update of the rules, the sport was renamed 'Fencing Combat'.

Feder (fencing) Type of fencing sword

The Feder, is a type of training sword used in Fechtschulen of the German Renaissance. The type has existed since at least the 15th century, but it came to be widely used as a standard training weapon only in the 16th century, shown extensively in the fighting manuals of the time, particularly those of Paulus Hector Mair and Joachim Meyer, and it remained in use in such Fechtschulen well into the 17th, and in some cases for much of the 18th century.

The oldest surviving manual on western swordsmanship dates to around 1300, although historical references date fencing schools back to the 12th century.

Italian martial arts include all those unarmed and armed fighting arts popular in Italy between the Bronze age until the 19th century AD. Among them, we can find the use of weapons. Each weapon is the product of a specific historical era. The swords used in Italian martial arts range from the Bronze daggers of the Nuragic times to the gladius of the Roman legionaries to swords which were developed during the renaissance, the baroque era and later. Short blades range from medieval daggers to the liccasapuni Sicilian duelling knife.

Corps Hubertia Freiburg

The Corps Hubertia Freiburg is a fraternity (Studentenverbindung) in Freiburg, Germany. It was founded on October 29, 1868 and is one of 162 German Student Corps in Europe today. The Corps is a member of the Kösener Senioren-Convents-Verband (KSCV), the oldest federation of classical European fraternities with roots dating back to the 15th century and member fraternities across Austria, Belgium, Germany, Hungary, Latvia and Switzerland.

Corps Altsachsen Dresden

The Corps Altsachsen is a fraternity (Studentenverbindung) in Dresden, Germany. It was founded on October 31, 1861 and is one of 162 German Student Corps in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Belgium, Latvia and Hungary today. The Corps is a member of the Weinheimer Senioren-Convent (WSC), the second oldest federation of classical Fraternities in Europe with roots dating back to the 15th century.

Corps Saxo-Thuringia München

The Corps Saxo-Thuringia München is a fraternity (Studentenverbindung) in Munich, Germany, founded on March 15, 1882. It is one of 162 German Student Corps in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Belgium, Latvia and Hungary today. The Corps is a member of the Weinheimer Senioren-Convent (WSC), the second oldest federation of classical European fraternal corporations, with roots dating back to the 15th century and fraternities founded in several European countries.

Corps Marko-Guestphalia Aachen

The Corps Marko-Guestphalia Aachen is a fraternity (Studentenverbindung) in Aachen, Germany, founded on December 2, 1871. It is one of 162 German Student Corps in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Belgium, Latvia and Hungary today. The Corps is a member of the Weinheimer Senioren-Convent (WSC), the second oldest federation of classical European fraternal corporations, with roots dating back to the 15th century and fraternities founded in several European countries.

Corps Berlin

The Corps Berlin is a fraternity (Studentenverbindung) in Berlin, Germany, founded on February 9, 2009 with roots dating back to December 2, 1859. It is one of 162 German Student Corps in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Belgium, Latvia and Hungary today. The Corps is a member of the Weinheimer Senioren-Convent (WSC), the second oldest federation of classical European fraternal corporations, with roots dating back to the 15th century and fraternities founded in several European countries.

References

  1. 1 2 DeMello, Margo (2007). Encyclopedia of body adornment Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 237. ISBN   978-0-313-33695-9.
  2. Keener, Candace (May 4, 2009). "Real Men Have Dueling Scars". HowStuffWorks. Archived from the original on July 29, 2010.
  3. "Where students fight. Scarred Faces are common sights at Heidelburg." Daily Bulletin Supplement. San Francisco. July 12, 1890.
  4. Weskamp, Manuel; Schmitt, Peter-Philipp. "Verbindungen im „Dritten Reich": In Opposition mit Band und Schläger" (in German). ISSN   0174-4909 . Retrieved 2019-01-24.
  5. "Duelling in Berlin" The Galveston Daily News November 9, 1886.
  6. Gilman, Sander L. (2000). Making the Body Beautiful: A Cultural History of Aesthetic Surgery. Princeton University Press. p. 123. ISBN   978-0-691-07053-7.
  7. McAleer, Kevin (1994). Dueling: The Cult of Honor in Fin-de-siècle Germany. Princeton University Press. ISBN   978-0-691-03462-1.
  8. "Dueling in Germany :The Bane of the Universities—Burial of a Student Victim to the Brutal Practice" Daily Evening Bulletin, (San Francisco, CA) Saturday, March 31, 1877; Issue 149; col F
  9. "Scarred Dueling Heroes," St Louis Daily Globe August 15, 1887
  10. "Dueling Scar - BMEzine Encyclopedia". Archived from the original on February 1, 2010. Retrieved July 20, 2010.
  11. Robinson, Joseph (19 September 2006). "Student Societies". pickelhauben.net. Retrieved 2 December 2014.
  12. Kuiken, Alwin (2013-11-08). "Schlagende Verbindungen: Die den Kopf hinhalten". Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (in German). Retrieved 22 March 2018.

Further reading