Context of usage for the Iberian Montante
The montante was in its origins a weapon of military application, and in that sense we can see almost legendary references about the exploits of Diego Garcia de Paredes with this weapon in the Italian wars of the Gran Capitán at the beginning of the XVI century.
However, the montante treatises that survived belong to a time when its utility as a tool of war was waning, as proven by the fact that all rules refer to a civilian environment. The only exceptions would be the two authors who develop the rules in more extension: Domingo Luiz Godinho and Diogo Gomes de Figueyredo, who address the specific situation of a naval battle, on the gangway of a galley. To this sole military application Figueyredo devotes one of his rules, numbered XI, while fifty years earlier Godinho stated that on the gangway of a galley one would perform in the same manner as in a very narrow alley, and then describes the rule for this case in detail.
It is here, in the streets, in an urban environment, where the authors set their scenarios of use, against possible situations of urban threat.
Ultimately the Maestro Mayor Rodriguez del Canto, in 1742, would present the montante as a tool for the master who would regulate public fencing bouts, a function which also seems to have been favoured in the territories under the Portuguese crown. To this purpose, the montante was equaled to the «master’s staff», of some 1.76 meters tall, as Thomas Luiz recorded in his Tratado das lições da espada preta e destreza, que hão de usar os jogadores dela in 1685: «…for when you want to strike back to the person with whom you are fighting, and you find the staff or the montante stopping your action.». Diogo Gómes de Figueyredo, in his Oplosophia, states he prefers the master’s staff because of its easier to manoeuvre, compared to the montante or the halberd which also served for these purposes –thus providing yet another record for the sword that is the focus of this article being used at the salles and structured competitions in the 1630’s Portugal.
Excerpt from ‘An Overview of the Iberian Montante’ article by Ton Puey published on HROARR