5/05/2010 7:47am, #1
Ponte dei Pugni - "Bridge of Fists"
I just found this on the global trivia site, 'Atlas Obscura'. Sounds like a renaissance Venetian version of 52 Blocks. Anyone know anymore about it or similar 'king of the hill' type contests?
For generations of Venetians epic fist fights atop neighborhood bridges were a celebrated tradition. Beginning in about 1600, from September to Christmas each year rival clans would gather en masse at small bridges without rails and throw punches with the goal of knocking the opponents into the cold and sewage-strewn canal below.
These "Wars of the Fist" were frowned upon if not outright outlawed by the ruling Council of Ten, but tolerated as they marked a big improvement over the earlier tradition of fights with deadly sharpened and fire-hardened sticks. Legend has it that in a stick battle in 1585 the Castelanni clan, seeing that they had lost most of their sticks and were out-armed by the opposing Nicoletti clan, bravely threw off their protective clothing and offered to go mano-a-mano.
The fights were enormously popular spectacles, and drew huge crowds as shown in the La Guerra Dei Pugni (Fist-fight on a bridge) painting by Antonio Stom, now hanging in Venice's Pinacoteca Querini Stampalia. The fight would begin with champions placed on the four corners of the top of the bridge, with masses of fighters behind them. In 1670 the new Diedo bridge at San Marziale opened with marble footprints in place. The Venetian pugilists honed their skills, and even traveled to teach the close-quarters fighting technique.
As the 1600s came to a close, the fights began to lose popularity, and aristocrats who had attended and sponsored fighters began to look to new sports. September 29, 1705 the last war of fists began in the usual manner, but punches elevated to general fighting, then a hail of rooftiles, and finally ended bloodily when knives were pulled.
The battles were officially outlawed, and this time it was enforced. For decades after the last battle, the fighters were celebrated in poetry, painting, and myth.
Although the fights took place on several bridges around the city, the most famous fighting bridge is the Ponte dei Pugni, located near Campo San Barnaba in Dorsoduro. Four white marble footprints mark the starting point for fighters (restored in 2005). Other notable fighting bridges were the Diedo bridge at San Marziale, Ponte della Guerra at Santa Fosca, and Ponte della Guerra at San Zulien.
Original Article: http://atlasobscura.com/place/ponte-dei-pugni-bridge-of-fists
5/05/2010 9:31am, #2
- Join Date
- Oct 2008
edit: double post.
5/05/2010 9:34am, #3
- Join Date
- Oct 2008
The article is quite accurate, not much to add.
It was a tradition, among many others, to keep somehow in check the population's physicality, valued as a training for young soldiers, and provide entertainment to the otherwise quite miserable life of the lower classes.
There were also the equivalent of San Firmino's bull race of Pamplona (but with oxen instead of bulls!), chivalry tournaments in Piazza San Marco, and of course regattas (with actual warships though). The year was a succession of such events and happenings.
That kind of "king of the hill" contest was very common throughout all of Italy, each independent Comune (township) had its own form of battling between different city quarters; in some places those rituals are still alive, like the Palio di Siena, the Giostra del Saracino in Arezzo and even the Florentine football matches.
That kind of inner rivalry between neighbours is quite peculiar to the italian character, as an heritage from the township period.
5/05/2010 6:33pm, #4
- Join Date
- Jul 2007
im in favor of this to become an organized team sport
5/05/2010 11:06pm, #5
Amazon.com: The War of the Fists: Popular Culture and Public Violence in Late Renaissance Venice (9780195084047): Robert C. Davis: Books - *the* English-language resource on the Bridge Battles. Even has a bit of info on the actual fist-fighting techniques.Check out the Bullshido.net Western Martial Arts Forum for all things Western, martial and arty.
Bartitsu: the Gentlemanly Art of Self Defence (est. 1899)
5/06/2010 12:21am, #6
- Join Date
- Aug 2009
- Gothenburg, Sweden
5/06/2010 8:55am, #7
Wow, is there any groups reviving this tradition? Also, would grappling be allowed? It seems like a fireman's throw would be a good way to secure a victory.