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Master Orazio Santelli´s years in Prague 1902-1913

Written by Michael Knazko

23 August 2019

Based on a brief FB conversation exchange with Chris Holzman I have compiled and translated from the Czech language all up-to-date available information on the fencing master Orazio Santelli (Italo Santelli´s brother) who taught Italian fencing in Prague in the early 20th century. All information and photos used in this article come from the archive of the Czech Fencing Club Riegel (est. 1902) from Prague, which I have obtained with courtesy from its longstanding member Mr. Leonid Křížek, well known Czech writer on fencing history and my sabre fencing teacher. I believe the photo of Master Orazio Santelli has never been published before in the electronic form on the internet. So here it is for all classical sabre fencing enthusiasts round the globe.

Orazio Santelli arrives in Budapest in 1896
The very first international fencing tournament in foil and sabre (Das internationale Fechtturnier des Fechtklubs Riegl) in Prague, June 8 1895, organized by the utraquist Fechtklub Riegel of the k.u.k. lieutenant Dominik Riegel (1840 – 1920), was so costly that for a number of years following the event the club had organized domestic tournaments only.
In 1896 upon an invitation of the fencing club Magyar Athletikai Club a fully-fledged Italian fencing master Cavaliere Italo Santelli (1866-1945) moved to Budapest together with his brother Orazio (also spelled Oratio or Horatio) and started teaching fencing there. Both Santelli brothers took part in the National Fencing Exhibition in Budapest the very same year in which the new Italian fencing method proved superior to the old Austrian/French method once and for all. In Hungary Italo Santelli began to create a new style of sabre fencing which became known as the Santelli´s modern style.

Orazio Santelli´s first time in Prague in 1900
In 1900 the Fechtklub Riegel organized a Fencing Academy in the Crop Exchange building in Prague to which famous fencers, such as Eugenio Pini (1859-1939) and his pupil Juan Bay or the Santelli brothers Italo and Orazio, were invited to display their superb fencing skills.

Years 1902-1909 in the Czech Fencing Club Riegel and the Prager Herren-Fechtklub
In 1902 the Czech fencing master k.u.k. lieutenant Dominik Riegel retired from teaching fencing and closed down his Prague based utraquist Fechtklub Riegel. Immediately after his former club members split in two separate groups establishing their own fencing clubs. The German language spoken ex members, mainly k.u.k. army officers, formed the Prager Herren-Fechtklub and the Czech language spoken ex members established the Č. Š. K. Riegel (Czech Fencing Club Riegel), naming the club after their former fencing master.
Out of the two, only the Czech Fencing Club Riegel is still in existence at the present time together with its invaluable archive. The Prager Herren-Fechtklub ceased to exist after the WWI.
Right from the beginning both of the newly established clubs were coached by an excellent fencing master Orazio Santelli, who took the k.u.k. lieutenant Dominik Riegel´s former students under his wings and exposed them to the new Santelli fencing style.
From 1902 until 1904 the Czech Fencing Club Riegel practiced Italian fencing in the Fechtklub Riegel former premises in Karolíny Světlé street, Prague. In August 1904 the club together with Master Orazio Santelli moved to new, specially furnished, fencing premises „Na Studenci“ in Mikulandská street, Prague. Here, until 1909, master Santelli employed a number of assistants, who later became independent fencing masters. Namely Celso Minelli (in 1900 taught in Pilsen, later on in Brno), Giovanni Giandomenici, Amilcare Pietroni and Foresto Paoli Jr.
In 1904 the Czech Fencing Club Riegel organized the Arms to Arms Fencing Academy at the Žofín Palace in Prague attended by Italian masters Luigi Barbasetti (teaching in Vienna) and Italo Santelli (teaching in Budapest) as well as French masters Alphonse Simone Kirchhoffer, Alphonse Fériaud and Janvois.
In 1907 the Czech Fencing Club Riegel organized the 1887-1907 Jubilee Fencing Academy in Prague to which famous fencers such as Italo Santelli (teaching in Budapest) and Cavaliere Luigi Della Santa (teaching in Vienna and running clubs in Brno, Karlsbad, Marienbad) were invited together with French fencing masters Alphonse Fériaud, Alphonse Simone Kirchhoffer (1873-1913) and captain H. Sénat.
One of the most notable students of Master Orazio Santelli in Prague was Vilém Goppold from Lobsdorf (1869-1943), who was a member of both, the Prager Herren-Fechtklub as well as the Czech Fencing Club Riegel. In 1908 Olympic games in London Vilém Goppold from Lobsford won the bronze medal in sabre fencing.
In the 1908 publication „Der Fechtsport“ by Hans Kufahl, Orazio Santelli is mentioned as a fencing master of the Prague based Czech Fencing Club Riegel as well as Prager Herren-Fechtklub.
In 1909 the Czech Fencing Club Riegel moved into premises in „Měšťanská beseda“, Prague, and parted with Master Orazio Santelli. The club´s new fencing master became Foresto Paoli Jr., who taught Italian fencing there until 1915.

Years 1909-1913 in the Czech Fencing Club and Hlavka Dormitories
After leaving the Czech Fencing Club Riegel in 1909, Master Orazio Santelli started to teach Italian fencing in the Czech Fencing Club (est. in 1886 as Fencing Club, in 1897 renamed to Czech Fencing Club) at the Vratislavský Palace in Jilská street, Prague. He employed a number of fencing masters and assistants there, namely Alphonse Fériaud, Bohumil Richter, F. Glize and A. Rothéa. After some time the club moved into premises in Ferdinand street and later on into the Thun-Salma Palace in Jungmann street.
Until 1913 master Orazio Santelli also taught fencing at the Hlavka Dormitories where fencing was one of the compulsory subjects.
At present we don´t have any more information about Master Orazio Santelli after 1913. We would be grateful to receive information about Master Orazio Santelli from sources not available to us.

Note: Just to clarify, in Prague there used to be two different fencing clubs using very similar names – the Czech Fencing Club (est. in 1886 as Fencing Club, in 1897 renamed to Czech Fencing Club) and the Czech Fencing Club Riegel (est. 1902).

„Der Fechtsport“, written by Hans Kufahl, published in 1908.
„100 years of the Czech Fencing Club Riegel“, published in 2002.
„110 years of the Czech Fencing Club Riegel“, published in 2012
„History of European Duels and Fencing“ (Historie evropských duelů a šermu) written and published in 2014 by my teacher Mr. Leonid Křížek, a longstanding member of the Czech Fencing Club Riegel (est. 1902).