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May 21st, 2011

Des Capes et des Epees

There was an exhibition of medieval sword-fighting in the courtyard of the Cluny museum today, and we were there--in company with our friend Maud and her 14 month-old son Gabriel.   Medieval sword-play (as the speaker pointed out) was nothing like the choreographed dances we see in movies and on the stage.  The point was to dispatch your opponent as quickly and efficiently as possible, fairness be damned.  Knees in crotch, dagger in eye, pommel in teeth, grabbing his blade in your gauntletted hand and pushing it aside so you could slit his throat--all in the early fighting manuals.  Watching him disarm another historical fighter coming at him with a dagger, wielded overhand, made me understand thoroughly why underhand is a much better idea (unless your target is supine and preferably asleep).  Most swordfights (14-15 c, anyway) would only have lasted a few seconds, and medieval swords weighed a lot less than I'd thought--less than a kilo.  All good to know.

Gabriel was equally fascinated by the swords and the water faucet, which drained into a business-like gutter down the middle of the courtyard.  Ellen got to wield a sword afterwards, and we went into the shop and bought a book on knights for our goddaughter, who loves all things chivalric.  We may go back to Cluny and see the actual exhibit on the Art of the Sword.  Or not.  After a 3 year absence from one of our favorite cities on earth, 5 days is just not enough time to see everyone and everything, even if EK were completely up to par, which she isn't.  Lots better--much less coughing even than two days ago--but still lower-energy than she'd like to be.

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