What is the Montante

Unfortunately, Agrippa includes no material in his treatise beyond this plate.

The weapon which the Iberians called the Montante is a large and long-bladed sword used with two hands. There is a significant body of surviving source material, even more when we consider the surviving material for its close Italian relative (which is named the Spadone or the Spada da due mani). This was a specialized weapon which seemed to have reached its zenith in the 1500s and 1600s, serving on the battlefield, in the duel (albeit, probably not a common occurrence), as a weapon of an elite guard, and also as a weapon of prestige.

The guard of Coda Lunga Distesa from Marozzo's 1536 treatise.

The techniques in the surviving texts are reasonably consistent which makes the practice of lumping the various sources together not as heinous as some purists might believe. Additionally, the general types of techniques lend themselves into aggregation into an underlying curriculum. While most of the Italian sources give material for the one-on-one fight of Spadone against Spadone, most of the Iberian material covers the unequal situations where the wielder of the Montante is guarding a person, item, or area against two or more opponents who are armed with smaller weapons (i.e. single-handed swords, with and without shields). Taken together, it is an unusual body of material that covers a very wide range of tactical situations. This is further augmented by the mezza spada material (i.e. the tactical situations where two swords are engaged near the middle) in Achille Marozzo and the Anonimo Bolognese which includes a fair amount of grappling.

Given the size and mass of a typical Montante or Spadone (specimens could measure over 60 inches in length and over 5 pounds in weight), this weapon is not so similar to the longsword as one might initially believe. The greater length and mass (as well as the typically long length of the quillons) force a student of this weapon to give great attention to his body mechanics. The ability to “cheat” when performing various actions—muscling the sword through its motion with the arms rather than utilizing the power of the body—will quickly wear out the arms of the swordsman. Additionally, improper motion of the arms (i.e. too much bend at the elbows at the wrong time) can result in the swordsman hitting himself in the head with his own quillons, something that Monte explicitly warns against in his treatise. In general, we find that working with these large swords is very effective in helping students to learn about the mechanics of wielding a two-handed sword and recommend it even for students of the shorter and lighter longsword.

In addition to the martial roles of the Montante and Spadone (which we might stretch to include “prestige”), the authors also tell us that this weapon is an excellent tool for personal fitness. Since much of the material is given in solo forms, we have a ready-made fitness regimen that also imparts martial ability. Working through the Iberian Montante material for an hour is an excellent full-body workout, and it is fun!

We are lucky to have a number of Italian and Iberian sources for this weapon, with more being discovered all the time. The current sources we use are:

A plate from Alfieri's 1653 treatise.

Iberian:

  • Pietro Monte
  • Diogo Gomes de Figueyredo
  • Domingo Luis Godinho
  • Maestro Pablo de Paredes

Italian:

  • Achille Marozzo
  • Anonimo Bolognese
  • Giacomo di Grassi
  • Anonimo Riccardiano
  • Francesco Alfieri