Die Rose (the Rose) is a longsword, dussack, rappier and quarterstaff technique described by fencing masters starting from about 1516AD. This striking sequence, as used by several masters including, Andre Paurnfeindt, Paul Hektor Mair  and Joachim Meyer , and several later derivative works , has confused some of us as we try to understand the relationship between the name and the application of the technique.
To be able to understand Die Rose I believe we need to understand what connotations the renaissance man had to the word rose and with that understanding we can apply it to our interpretations of the technique. The following article might seem like a novel by Dan Brown, but explores some of the ideas the men and women of the Renaissance shared, sometimes in more or less secret societies.
Symbolism regarding the human body and strength & weakness, geometrics, angles and actions all tie together in the various illustrations of many fencing treatises of the Renaissance and we need to examine this topic both broadly and deeply. Here, the relationship between the Rose, the Pentagon and the Pentagram are crucial to our interpretations.
Having studied the topic for some time, I would suggest that the execution of this particular striking sequence should be thought of as following the shape of the open-petaled, wild rose rather than that of the cultivated romantic rose that we generally think of today, as the modern type of cultivated roses weren’t introduced into Europe until the late eighteenth century, and up until the mid 16th century the only two roses cultivated were Rosa Gallica and Rosa Alba .
Furthermore, from a symbolical outset, with the word rose the renaissance man would more commonly have thought of the kind of heraldic and symbolical rose that Henry VII combined from the roses of the House of York and the House of Lancaster into the Tudor Rose. Consequently, I would suggest that the symbolism of the five petals and the angles are of great importance for us to understand in our attempts at understanding Die Rose.
But before exploring this more deeply I would briefly like to expand on the symbolism of the rose as it goes much farther back than this, even as far back as to the ancient Greeks and beyond.
Christian symbolism in HEMA, Planetenkinder, Astrology, Alchemy.
Click on the full screen icon in the menu for proper display of comments.
The gallery above shows a glimpse of the early roots and wide connections surrounding Christian symbolism in relation to the early fencing culture. The picture is quite complex as it is constituted of parts that are quite separated both in time and place, as we will see as we continue.
To begin with an interesting astrological and astronomical connection to the Rose is the fact that the passage of Venus over an eight year period, as perceived from Earth, describes the shape of a Rose and a pentagram, a discovery which has been claimed to go as far back as the Akkadians’, with the world’s oldest astrological text, a Venus-tablet from Ninevehand dated to the 17th century BC, and the later Babylonians’, understanding of Ishtar. However, this claim should be taken with a pinch of salt as the Akkadian noting of the eight-year rythm and five synodic periods of Venus do not equate to a proper understanding of the Earth-centric Venus Pentagram. Still, this astronomical curiousity possibly explains her common association with the Rose and the pentagram, but it is difficult to properly trace how early this discovery really was made, despite the numerous theories on the topic.
Regardless, Venus was also called the morning star and the light bringer, in Roman “Lucifer“, and not until ca 200AD was Satan connected to the name Lucifer by Christian thinkers like Tertullianus and Origenes, perhaps partly due to her also being the evening star.
Furthermore, as early as in ancient Egypt we can trace the roots of the concept of Sub Rosa, as it dates back to the Egyptian Sky God Horus in about 3000BC. Being the Sky God, Horus was also the God of the Sun and the Moon and one of his emblems was the rose. Horus was also the God of War and Hunting and was represented by the falcon.
The Romans and the Greek regarded Horus as the God of Silence, which led to him, and the rose being associated with secrecy. With this in mind Roman banquets often had roses hanging from, or depictions of roses painted, in the ceiling, implying that what was said under the influence of wine, should remain “sub rosa” ie secret. The same custom was used in the medieval councils where a rose hanging from the ceiling pledged all present to secrecy. The same can even be seen on some Catholic Confession Chairs that are adorned with five-petaled roses.
The early teachings of Kunst des Fechten was of course all meant to be kept secret, all the way up until the time of the printing press, where freyfechter Paurnfeindt is one of the first masters to spread his teachings widely in 1516. This was followed quite successfully by freyfechter Meyer with his treatise of 1570 and possibly we can trace a difference in the attitude towards keeping the Art secret between the two guilds, as few Marxbrüdere ever published printed treatises.
Regardless, here we can’t really apply the meaning of secrecy in the same sense for Die Rose. However, The Rose could be considered to be a deceitful technique where you hide your intentions, similar to the Stürtzhauw or the Fehler, something which Meyer was very fond of, as is apparent from his treatises.
Continuing with the shared symbolism between early Euro-Asian religions, their ties to Christian mysticism and symbolism and the fencing guilds, we see the Persian Sun God Mithra, depicted with a Lion ca 1400BC. Mithra was also the God of Justice and War and he was particularly popular with the Roman soldiers in the form of Mithras who was their patron. Mithras is often equated with Phanes, then depicted as a lion-headed man with golden wings.
Greek and Roman mythology continues with the Hellenistic Sun God Apollo Helios, brother of Moon God Artemis, sometimes depicted riding a griffin and Dionysos depicted in a chariot pulled by a panther, a gryp and a bull, quite similar to the symbols of the Four Evangelists; a lion, an eagle, an ox and an angel. Dionysos has also been claimed to be part of the roots for the mythology surrounding Christ .
At about 50BC-350AD we see various depictions of the Egyptian Sun God Horus, the Greek/Roman Sun God Helios, and the Roman Sun God Sol Invictus surrounded by the Zodiac, symbolizing the twelve months and the four seasons. These type of depictions are also seen in Persian books on alchemy and astrology in the 1200-1300s and in Europe with Christ in the centre, replacing Helios, at about 1000-1400AD.
It is also interesting to note that Horus’ mother Isis was also associated with the rose and she was often depicted nursing baby Horus, very similar to the imagery of Virgin Mary and baby Jesus who was also strongly associated with the rose . There are numerous more similarities between Christian mythology and the Egyptian, Greek and Roman religions and there is quite obviously a lot of similar content, as was noted already in antiquity .
In the early Renaissance we also see the first images of the masculine Sun and the feminine Moon connected to the opposites of the Lion and the Griffin, locked in eternal struggle with each other.
Partially due to the Renaissance admiration of the ancient Egyptians, Romans and Greeks, a belief in astrology, alchemy and magic was common in all stratas of society. Referencing to the older pantheons, history and use of symbolism was quite common, as can be seen in the image depicting the Children of the Sun below, a scene that comes in many variants from the mid 1400s to the 1600s, as previously shown.
Not so surprisingly, considering the Renaissance fascination with astrology and alchemy, several fencing masters are known to have included religious, astrological and magical symbols in their treatises, including for instance; Hans Talhoffer who wrote briefly about astrology and the Sun and who showed St. Mark as his patron saint and Achille Marozzo depicted in a circle of magical symbols, as seen below.
Returning to the pentagram the Greek mathematician and philosopher Pythagoras, considered five to be the number of man, due to the fivefold division of the body, and the division of the soul. He also considered the five points of the pentagram to each represent one of the five elements that make up man: fire, water, air, earth, and psyche. This symbolism, as with much other symbolism has remained both in use and has acted as a great influence on later thinkers, not least in the Renaissance, when the admiration and celebration of the ancient Romans and Greeks was flourishing in the Arts and Sciences.
Furthermore, going at least as far back as the Templar Knights of the 1100s we see the pentagram associated with the rose, symbolically attached to the five wounds of Christ, as well as the idea of Christ being the Alpha and the Omega, since one can draw a pentagram from beginning to end in one continuous (and perpetuous) movement, thus symbolising both eternity and rebirth. 
The English are said to have called the pentagram the Endless Knot which is examplified by the quote below and again we see the notion of a single but complex and potentially endless movement that crosses several lines.
“It is a symbol which Solomon conceived once To betoken holy truth, by its intrinsic right, For it is a figure which has five points, And each line overlaps and is locked with another; And it is endless everywhere, and the English call it, In all the land, I hear, the Endless Knot.” 
- Legend of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Stanzas 27-28 (1380 c.)
Through all this the rose and the pentagram have strong ties to Christian Renaissance symbolism, Kabbalism and not least Martin Luther and the early Rosicrucians who were strongly associated with Lutheranism. And perhaps here is where we can understand the Cutting Rose a bit clearer.
With Fechtmeister and Freyfechter Joachim Meyer being a prime example, we know that several of the freyfechtere had strong ties to the Protestant Reformation and especially the Calvinist movement, but even the Marxbrüdere (The Brotherhood of Our dear lady and pure Virgin Mary and the Holy and warlike heavenly prince Saint Mark) were members of a deeply religious organization and both fencing guilds carefully chose their respective identifying crests, each with obvious Christian symbolism; the Winged Lion of St. Mark and the Griffin, respectively. Two distinct opposites in earlier symbolical history, as previously shown.
With the connections between the Freyfechtere and the Protestant Reformation in mind, it is also interesting to note that the seal of the Protestant reformist Martin Luther was based on a five-petaled Rosa Alba, a heart and a cross, where the various elements and colours have specific symbolical meanings regarding Christian virtues and vice.
Furthermore, a deep interest in mathematics and geometry was common during the Renaissance, as evidenced by daVinci’s Vitruvian Man from ca 1487AD. This drawing was made to visualize the ideal human proportions with geometry as described by the Roman architect Vitruvius in his treatise De Archietectura, where he described the human figure as being the chief source of proportion for architecture. The human body, as created by God was simply seen as the ultimate perfection and a synthesis of Divinity and Humanity.
This has also been connected to the idea of the Golden Ratio as can be seen in Agrippa’s human pentagram below and this concept has been used extensively in various aspects of society.
So, what about the pentagram and sword cuts then? Well, historically the pentagram has been drawn both point up and point down and neither related to Satanism as many believe today. But, what is interesting for when interpreting the fencing treatises, is that when a pentagram is overlaid upon a body, it gives diagonal and horisontal lines that pass outside of the body contour with a starting and ending point at the head and corner points that work with several of the guards and cuts.
Perhaps this is what we are taught when the Rose technique is described – a movement where the point is moved offline, but still, more or less, follows a geometrical line in the shape of the pentagram rose, a movement that is complex and passes more than one line, ending with a blow to the head where the pentagram starts and ends?
Alternately, it is also possible that the name is meant to cause us to associate our cuts with the shape of the five petals of a rose. Meyer even says this explicitly in his treatise of 1570, when he speaks of the secondary cuts for the dussack, although his notion of the Rose is not necessarily exactly the same as that of his predecessors:
“Also some receive their names from the shape they resemble in cutting, like the Rose Cut.” 
Meyer, Gründtliche Beschreibung der freyen Ritterlichen und Adelichen Kunst des Fechtens, 1570
We can keep this in mind when we read the following excerpts from Andre Paurnfeindt, Paul Hektor Mair and Joachim Meyer.
“Durch ſchiſſen. Durchſchiſſen magſtu auch nemen anſʒ dem hohenort / hav von oben nider vnden durch die Roſen / mit verkertñ henden vnd kurcʒer ſchneid in ſein geſicht / laſʒ kurcʒ ablauffen / mit der langen ſchneidt nachtretten.
Shooting Through. You may also take the shooting through from the high guard, hew from above downwards through the Rose, with reversed hands and short edge in his face, allow this quickly to run off, work after with the long edge.
Paurnfeindt, Ergrundung Ritterlicher Kunst der Fechterey, 1516
Von Anpindñ. Pind dir eyner obñ an prueff ob er herdt oder waych leyt / ligt er herde ſo wind vndñ durch auſʒ der roſñ gegñ ſeinem gſicht / an daſʒ linck or / ſo windeſtu im ſein ſchwerdt auſʒ vñ pleſt in dar mit / ʒuckt er aber vnd ſclecht / vervar obñ mit der verſacʒung
From Binding-on. When one has bound with you from above, then test if he lays on hard or soft, if he lays hard, thus wind under and through the Rose to his face, to the left ear, thus you have wound out on his sword and opened there with, but if he pulls and strikes, drive above with the displacing.
Paurnfeindt, Ergrundung Ritterlicher Kunst der Fechterey, 1516
Hau von obñ auſʒ dem oxſen gegen ym / vnden durch die roſen vnd leg ym die kurcʒ ſchneid in ſein gſicht / wendt kurcʒ ab vnd ſchlach mit der langen ſchneidt nach“
Paurnfeindt, Ergrundung Ritterlicher Kunst der Fechterey, 51V, 1516
“Hew from above in the Ox against him, under, through the Rose, and put the short edge in his face, turn away slightly and strike after with the long edge.” 
And here is how Mair describes the use of the Rose:
“…so trit mit deinem lincken fuoss hinnach unnd halt das gehültz für dem haupt, das der ort zuruckh stee, mit gecreitzgiten aremn unnd haw Im zu seinner rechten seiten. Versetzt er dir das, so raiss Im zu seinner linncker seiten mit deinner kurtzen schneid. Indes winnd dich ubersich auf in der Rosen an seinnen schwert und haw dich inn die zwirch mit gecreitzgiten aremn zu seinner rechten seiten seinnes kopffs.“
“… then step outward with your left foot and hold the hilt in front of your head such that the point stands to the rear with crossed arms, and strike to his right side. If he displaces this, then travel to his left side with your short edge and then immediately wind upward with the Rose on his sword and strike with the Zwirch with crossed arms to the right side of his head.” (Stucke 15)
“Legt er sich also inn das sprechfenster, so winnd auss der Rosen den ort inn sein gesicht, das dem Rechter fuoss vorstee, unnd winnd Im mit der kurtzen schneide zu seinnem Haupt. Indes haw mit lanngen schneid nach seinem Rechten Arm.“
“If he lies in the Prechfennster like this, wind the point in his face out of the Rosen (Rose) such that your right foot stands forward, then step outward with your left leg, set your right foot behind his left and wind with the short edge to his head. Then immediately strike with the long edge to his right arm.” (Stucke 24)
“Item schick dich allso mit dem einwinnden: stannd mit deinnem lincken fuoss vor und halt dit kurtz schneide gögen dem Mann mit creytzweisen hennden, die linnck hannd uber dein rechten arm unnd winnd dich durch Inn der Rosen. Inn dem verfal auf dein linncken seiten, trit mit deinnem Rechten schennckel hinnein und winnd Im zu seinem gesicht.“
“It happens like this with the Winding In: stand with your left foot forward and hold the short edge opposite the opponent with crossed hands with your left hand over your right arm (as in illustration). Wind through in the Rose and then immediately drop down at your left side, step in with your right leg and wind towards his face.” (Stucke 47) 
Paul Hektor Mair, Opus Amplissimum de Arte Athletica, ca 1550
Turning to Meyer here are some of his variations of the Rose:
“And note when an opponent comes before you who holds his sword extended before him in the Longpoint, or else in Straight Parrying, then send your blade in a circle around from the Middle Guard right around his blade, so that your blade comes almost back to your initial Middle Guard; from there swing the foible powerfully from outside over his arms at his head.” (1.40v.1)
“Or when you have thus gone around his blade with the Rose, if he meanwhile should fall in down from above to your opening, then take his blade out with the short edge, that is when you have come for the second time in the Middle Guard; for he will not come so quickly as if by surprise to your opening, but that you will meanwhile come around with the Rose, such that you will come to take him out in plenty of time. And after you have thus taken him out, then let your weapon run around in the air over your head (in order to deceive him), looping for a Circle to the next opening, etc.” (1.40v.2)
“Or in the Onset when you have cut into the Middle Guard on your left, and meanwhile your opponent cuts at you from above, then step well out from his cut toward his right side, and cast your short edge over or outside his right arm at his head; and as you cast in, let your blade shoot well in, either at his head or over his arms. Afterwards pull your sword quickly back up, and cut from your left with the long edge strongly upward at his right arm. From there, attack him further as you will, with such techniques as you will find above or below in this treatise.” (1.40v.3)
“Item, bind him as before, and as soon as the swords connect in the bind, then break through below with the Rose between you and him, and cast the short edge in at his head on the other side.” (1.41r.2)
“Or after you have broken through below from the bind with the Rose, then wrench his sword sideways from the other side with the short edge, so that your hands cross over one another in the air; strike deep with the short edge over at his head.” (1.41r.3)
“Item, bind against his incoming cut, and as soon as the blades connect, push your pommel through under your right arm, stepping at the same time well out toward his left side; and go up with crossed hands, and cut with the long edge through the Rose sideways from below behind his arm at his head.” (1.41r.4)
“Item, when you see that your opponent will bind or cut at you, then send your sword in against him, as if you also intended to bind, and just when the blades are about to connect, push your pommel up quickly, and turn your blade up from below through the Rose, catching his stroke on your long edge, as is shown in the small scene on the right in Image N. After you have thus caught his cut, you can finish this device in two ways. Firstly thus: when the swords have connected, then go right through below with your blade, and wrench his blade toward your right, and let your hands snap around in the air again, or cross over one another, and cut with the short edge strongly at his head.
For the second, when you have caught his sword, then as the swords clash together, step well to his left side, and cut back with the long edge from outside over his left arm at his head.” (1.42r.2- 1.42r.3)
“Rose Cut. If you find an opponent waiting in the Bow, then act as if you intended to cut from above at his head; do not let the cut connect, but go outside his right arm and through below, so that you come around in a circle around his dusack, and let it run off again in the air beside his right, and cut at his face.” (2.11r.2)
“Deceitful Thrust. In the Onset, send a powerful thrust from the right High Guard of the Ox at his face; but as you thrust in, turn your thrust up from below with a broad step forward on your foot, and thrust under his hilt up at his belly. When you correctly reverse this High Thrust into a Low Thrust through the Rose, then it seems at first as if you were thrusting from above, then before he realizes it, you have hit below.” (2.64r.3)
“How you shall take him out upward with the long edge from your left) and thrust through the Rose back up from below from your right at his face: In the Onset, position yourself in the Low Guard on the left as before; if he thrusts in at you, then go up with both arms, and strike out his thrust with the foible of your staff up from your left toward your right with the long edge, so that in striking him out your staff comes right up through; then turn your staff back by your right side up from below, and thrust from that side back up at his face.” (3.20v.1) 
Meyer, Gründtliche Beschreibung der freyen Ritterlichen und Adelichen Kunst des Fechtens, 1570
Finally, and perhaps not as distinctly relevant to the topic of the Rose and the Pentagram, it is also interesting to compare the images of Heinrich Agrippa to those of Fechtmeister Joachim Meyer, the treatise Codex Wallerstein and the treatises of Fiore dei Liberi, Achille Marozzo and Salvator Fabris, where cutting lines, divisions and weak and strong areas are displayed.
The similarities between the images in the treatises of Fiore Dei Liberi and Filippo Vadi and the images showing the correlations between the signs of the Zodiac and the organs (called Melothesia, astrological medicine), for instance in Ketcham’s Fasciculus Medecinae from 1495AD is striking, but there are likely no deeper relations involved here other than a common pictographical form of expression, as the idea of dividing a man into different sections and attaching symbolism to the various body parts and organs can be seen in both astrological and medical treatises as well as in illustrations in fencing treatises, going all the way back to the Middle Ages.
It is noteworthy though, that Tobias Stimmer, one of the illustrators of Fechtmeister Joachim Meyer’s 1570 treatise Gründtliche Beschreibung der freyen Ritterlichen und Adelichen Kunst des Fechtens also made a portrait of the aforementioned Heinrich Agrippa in 1587.
Still, we should also keep in mind that this is a time when mathematics and geometry were highly influential on warfare, artillery, architecture, geometrics, city & fortification planning and not least in the Art of Fencing.
This can also be seen in Meyer’s illustrations where the geometrically decorated floor patterns teach us correct stepping and use of angles in our fencing. This geometrical approach to the Art of Fencing would soon be a very common tool for teaching as can be seen in many treatises of the Verdada Destreza tradition, but also fencing masters like the Dutch Gerard Thibault with his Academie de l’Espée of 1630 and many others.
Finally, if we are to fully understand the medieval and renaissance fencing treatises and especially the culture of the fencers and the fencing guilds and the mentality of the fencers, then concepts like the four humours & the four temperaments, astrology & the planetenkinder, and many other important Christian, hermetical, mystical and even alchemical symbols are important to understand. And when we understand these we will be better equipped to understand the concepts behind the techniques and their terminology at a more profound level, thus hopefully being more likely to succeed in what we aspire to do; make the Historical European Fighting Arts come alive again.
I would like to thank Chris Vanslambrouck of the Meyer Frei Fechter Guild for the delightful conversations we have had regarding Meyer, the Freyfechtere, alchemy and many other related topics, and for his insightful comments on this article while proofreading it. I owe you.
1. See Stucke 15, 23 & 47 in Opus Amplissimum de Arte Athletica.
2. See regarding Mittelhut and Langort in his 1570 treatise Gründtliche Beschreibung der freyen Ritterlichen und Adelichen Kunst des Fechtens.
3. Jakob Sutor, Christian Egonolph (editor) and Lienhart Sollinger.
4. According to Lars Åke Gustavsson’s Rosor för nordiska trädgårdar, the Medieval/Renaissance roses “came” to Europe in the following order:
??? Rosa Alba
1310 Rosa Gallica Officinalis
1500 Rosa Gallica
1500 Rosa Villosa
1542 Rosa Foetida
1551 Rosa Rubignosa
1581 Rosa (Gallica Officianis) Mundi
1581 Rosa Major
1583 Rosa Frankfurt
1590 Rosa Bicolor
1596 Rosa Tuscany
1597 Rosa Majalis Foecund
Not all of them spread to all of Europe and when they arrived to different countries of course varied greatly.
5. See Jesus Christ in Comparative Mythology, Wikipedia.org <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jesus_Christ_in_comparative_mythology> (retrieved 10 July 2012)
6. See The Christian Symbolism of the Rose, Rev. Theodore A. Koehler, S.M <http://campus.udayton.edu/mary/rosarymarkings36.html> (retrieved 18 July 2012)
7. See for example 12th cent. Church of Santa Maria do Olival built by the Order of the Knights Templar in Portugal. The church was used as a burial place for the Knights Templar of Tomar and 22 Master Templars are buried there. The church has several examples of five-petaled roses and pentagrams used for decoration, both in the architecture itself and on gravestones.
8. See Stone, B. (1974) Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. (p 45) Penguin Group.
9. From Joachim Meyer’s Gründtliche Beschreibung der freyen Ritterlichen und Adelichen Kunst des Fechtens of 1570, 2.9R, as translated by Dr. Jeffrey Forgeng.
10. Translated by Kevin Maurer of the Meyer Frei Fechter Guild.
11. Translated by Keith P Myers of the Black Swan Fechtschule.
12. From Joachim Meyer’s Gründtliche Beschreibung der freyen Ritterlichen und Adelichen Kunst des Fechtens of 1570, as translated by Dr. Jeffrey Forgeng.
Fisher, Celia, Flowers of the Renaissance, Frances Lincoln, UK/J. Paul Getty Museum; 1 edition <http://books.google.se/books?id=zDJ8Sj3fGcQC&lpg=PA21&ots=kJ8mJwCF3s&dq=roses%20in%20the%20renaissance&hl=sv&pg=PA21#v=onepage&q=roses%20in%20the%20renaissance&f=false>(May 24, 2011)
Marozzo, Achille: Opera Nova. 1536, Modena <http://www.hroarr.com/manuals/fiore/Marozzo-Achille-Opera nova-Mutina-1536-Res-4-Gymn-26.pdf>
Meyer, Joachim: Gründtliche Beschreibung der freyen Ritterlichen und Adelichen Kunst des Fechtens. 1570. Strassburg <http://www.hroarr.com/manuals-books/new-manual-section/?did=2>
History of the Rose. Herbs2000.com. <http://www.herbs2000.com/flowers/r_history.htm> (16 July, 2012)
Gustavsson, Lars Åke, Rosor för nordiska trädgårdar, Natur och Kultur, Sweden (1998)
The Pentagram in Depth, Symboldictionary.net <http://symboldictionary.net/?p=1893> (16 July, 2012)