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Thread: Mexinensis = Messina

  1. #1
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    Mexinensis = Messina

    Greetings, All!

    Recently, I came across a manuscript necrology (book listing the dead) which contained an obituary notice of a "Iohannes de Columna qui fuit archiepiscopus Mexinensis." This translates as "Giovanni di Columna, who was Archbishop of Messina." Messina is a town in Sicily. The manuscript is cited in Necrologi e libri affini della provincia Romana, p. 67, Vol. 44, Fonti per la storia d'Italia (Istituto storico italiano, Rome, 1890). A similar reference to Mexinensis can be found on p. 9 of Ugo Balzani's Landolfo e Giovanni Colonna secondo un codice Bodleiano (Società Romana di Storia patria, Rome, 1885).

    In this case, we know for sure that "Mexinensis" means Messina in Sicily, since Giovanni Colonna can be documented as the Archbishop of Messina, who died in 1255. (The Colonna family was a powerful Italian dynasty; in earlier times the name was spelled "Columna".)

    The significance: This is the only reference I've ever found of a Mexinensis, in any source. This raises the very real possibility that the "Nicolai de Toblem, diocesis Mexinensis" mentioned in Fiore dei Liberi's Pisani-Dossi manuscript may well have come from a town in the diocese of Messina in Sicily.

    For those needing a refresher, Maestro Fiore named his mentor as Johane Suveno, who he says was a student of Nicolai of Toblem in the Diocese of Mexinensis. Francesco Novati translated Mexinensis as "Metz." His translation has generally been accepted at face value, even though I can find no documentation of Metz ever having been called Mexinensis in any source, past or present. This new information means that Fiore dei Liberi's martial lineage may be far more Italian than has been generally assumed.

    Here is a map of Sicily, showing the Diocese of Messina: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedi...di_Messina.png

    So far, I have not isolated any town in the diocese of Messina with a name that sounds remotely like Toblem, which means that some doubt still remains. Hopefully, I will be able to resolve this in the near future. It is possible that "de Toblem" was a family name, since I have not found a town called Toblem anywhere in Europe, but I have come across quite a few instances of Toblem as a Jewish surname.

    Regards,
    Last edited by Matt Galas; 07-31-2008 at 01:16 PM.
    Matt Galas
    Mons, Belgium

  2. #2
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    Hi Matt!

    Well, that certainly complicates things again. Good stuff!

    Thanks, as always,

    Christian
    Christian Henry Tobler
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    Suveno

    Forgot to mention this as well:

    I recently found a mention of a village of Suveno in the Rochetta valley in northern Italy, near Bergamo. Source: P .783 of Karl Cäsar von Leonhard's Neues Jahrbuch für Mineralogie, Geologie und Paläontologie (Schweizerbart, Stuttgart, 1844).

    I also found a more period reference, a mention of a "suveno diocesis Bergami" (Suveno in the Diocese of Bergamo) from a 15th century document. Source: p. 281 of Storie a confronto: le riformanze dei Comuni della Tuscia alla metà del Quattrocento (Vecchiarelli, Rome, 1995)

    Bergamo is northeast of Milan, a town noted for producing fencers. Modern maps do not show a "Suveno", but they do show a town called Selvino. This is not a stretch to have a name morph over time; linguistically, that's not a huge change. Here is the website of Selvino, which looks pretty: http://turismo.comunediselvino.it/

    Finally, I have found a fair number of examples of Suveno as a surname in modern Italy. Thus, it may well be that Johane dicto Suveno was simply John from Suveno.

    Again, the significance of this is that it makes Fiore's lineage entirely Italian (aside from the Germans he said he studied with).

    Regards,
    Matt Galas
    Mons, Belgium

  4. #4
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    Christian wrote: "Well, that certainly complicates things again."

    Yeah, I know. And it was already getting complicated. I can document around 3-4 Johannes Liechtenauers around the cusp of 1400. One was an imperial notary living in what's now northern Italy (then part of Austria). He's just a hair too late.

    There are other candidates as well, but nothing clear or certain. As archives become more accessible, we're likely to find that "Johannes Liechtenauer" is a lot like "John Smith" - not a rare name at all.

    Also, I found a German fencing master named Nicolai (of Toblem?) who was sentenced to a public whipping for a conviction of theft in Venice in the 1380s. Sounds like one of the common fencers, though, and unlikely to have been Fiore's grand daddy master, since Fiore was from a noble family.

    So lots of leads, but nothing definite. On the other hand, what I posted earlier will really change things. I expect some folks I know in the Italianist community will be overjoyed...

    Regards,
    Matt Galas
    Mons, Belgium

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    Funny how nobody ever challenged Novati's translation of Mexinensis as "Metz" in the past. There are plenty of Italian works from the 1950s and 1960s mentioning Fiore, and they always just repeat it as "Metz."

    I guess it's a combination of Novati being well-known (so folks didn't challenge him) and academic laziness (no-one could be bothered to look it up).

    Surprising to me, though...
    Matt Galas
    Mons, Belgium

  6. #6
    Quote Originally Posted by Matt Galas View Post
    Funny how nobody ever challenged Novati's translation of Mexinensis as "Metz" in the past. There are plenty of Italian works from the 1950s and 1960s mentioning Fiore, and they always just repeat it as "Metz."

    I guess it's a combination of Novati being well-known (so folks didn't challenge him) and academic laziness (no-one could be bothered to look it up).

    Surprising to me, though...
    I don't find it that surprising. Just look at all the rubbish that people like Hutton and Castle spouted and is constantly repeated as gospel truth. I suspect similar things are true of Silver and Ropley...
    Learn English Martial Arts

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    Quote Originally Posted by Matt Galas View Post
    Funny how nobody ever challenged Novati's translation of Mexinensis as "Metz" in the past. There are plenty of Italian works from the 1950s and 1960s mentioning Fiore, and they always just repeat it as "Metz."

    I guess it's a combination of Novati being well-known (so folks didn't challenge him) and academic laziness (no-one could be bothered to look it up).

    Surprising to me, though...
    I agree about the laziness, I have found almost direct quotes from material in Novati in some Italian works when discussing Fiore or some of the history of fencing in Italy. I do wish we had (easy) access to the archival material from whence Novati draws much of his material. Also, his work is far more documented as to sources.
    Steve

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    Amazing finds Matt. Well done!

    Honourably,

    Bob
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  9. #9
    Allow me to echo what everyone else has said. That's quite a fascinating discovery!

    Thanks Matt!
    "...so setz den linken fuß für und halt dein swert mit der flech an dein rechten achsel..." Cod. I.6.40.3

  10. Matt,
    You are on fire this week! First you give us Jehan the hunchback and now this! Thank you for all your hard work

  11. #11
    Hi Matt,

    Quote Originally Posted by Matt Galas View Post
    Greetings, All!

    Recently, I came across a manuscript necrology (book listing the dead) which contained an obituary notice of a "Iohannes de Columna qui fuit archiepiscopus Mexinensis." ...........
    This is really good stuff.

    Last year I found a similar link to Messina by following the phonetic route of Messanensis - the Latin name for the diocese around Messina.

    I did hit a couple of problems with the dates, though (it was an Archdiocese by the 14/15c), so left it for a "later" pick up - but your reference does seem to put this firmly back on track. Excellent news!

    I also found an interesting link down there back to the d'Este family - but I'll need to dig this out.

    Good work!

    Cheers,

    Mark

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  13. #13
    Quote Originally Posted by Matt Easton View Post
    Interesting that we've gone off in a different direction from the same original info:
    http://www.fioredeiliberi.org/phpBB2...pic.php?t=9128

    Matt
    Curious if it is possible to view that direction without a membership to that board... I've got enough already
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  14. #14
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    Matt,

    Love it, love it, love it!

    Brian
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