Standardisation of performances and competitions between organising cities: crossbow and long gun shooting in High Germany (1458-1478)
Shooting contests – either with crossbows or with firearms – were the main sportive and festive events in the urban culture of the Holy Roman Empire during the 15th and the 16th centuries. Not only were they a, mostly friendly, confrontation of individuals, but also a gathering of delegations funded by their home cities. Each city council would then benefit symbolically from their champions’ prizes.
This paper will compare a small number of the main contests of the 15th century in Southern Germany: those of Nuremberg (1458), Nördlingen (1464 and 1478), Augsburg (1470 and 1476) and Strasbourg (1473). For two decades, these contests gathered almost systematically the athletic elite of Southern German cities. The comparison of the registers listing hundreds of contestants reveals the registration processes and the fee system, as well as the proceedings of the events and the quantification of the results. It is possible to initiate a typology of the competitors regarding their performance and their recurrent presence in the different contests, but also to address the question of the difficulty of each contest. These registers demonstrate an advanced organisation and implicit standardisation processes. Similarly, the increase of innovation and the enhancement of the ludic program show the competitive quality of prestige among the main cities of the Holy Roman Empire.