13.05.2022 – 14.08.2022


Exhibition Hall of the Patriarch's Palace, Exhibition Hall of the Assumption Belfry

Organized by

The Moscow Kremlin Museums


The Moscow Kremlin Museums; Russian Academy of Sciences Library, St. Petersburg; Military-Historical Museum of Artillery, Engineer and Signal Corps, St. Petersburg; State Hermitage, St. Petersburg; State Historical Museum, Moscow; Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts, Moscow; Russian State Library, Moscow; Russian National Library, St. Petersburg


Prints from the Capricci series – Duel with Swords and DaguesDuelling was born long before the affair of honour of the 18th-19th centuries, well-known thanks to Russian classical literature. Postulates of defending the nobleman’s honour were formed in the 16th-17th centuries to the sound of crossing blades and moans of the deadly wounded. It is to this fascinating time that the exhibition "The Duel: from Trial by Combat to a Noble Crime" is dedicated. Duels of that era are mostly familiar to us because of the novels of Alexandre Dumas and numerous movies based on them, depicting duellists as noble heroes. But actual duels and duellists are much less known.

Unique exhibits will help to immerse in the world of duels of the 16th-17th centuries; many are exhibited in Russia for the first time and never before seen in the same space. The display features over a hundred and forty artefacts – rare drawings, engravings, paintings, treatises on the art of fencing, arms and armour of that time, given on loan by Russian museums and libraries.

Duels were preceded by the medieval tradition of trial by combat. In a judicial duel, God was believed to help the one standing up for a righteous cause, as it happened in the Old Testament battle of David and Goliath. The duellers believed that a crime against honour was like murder, and the perpetrator deserved death, so they were entitled to the honour defence in a duel.

The honour defence idea was not alien even to monarchs who esteemed the laws of chivalry. The exhibition tells about the planned duel between Holy Roman Emperor Charles V and King Francis I of France that never took place — the portrait of the French King and his armour and arms, as well as the armour of Charles V, are on display. A landmark in the history of duels is the last trial by combat in France, held in 1547 between Baron de Jarnac and Seigneur de La Chateigneraie. That duel was caused by the actions of the future King Henry II, who tried to smear Jarnac. A fine portrait that preserves Henry II's appearance and an engraving of his death scene at the tournament are also on display. Visitors to the exhibition can visualize the 16th-century court duelist thanks to the drawings and engravings, arms and armour and elegant jewellery of that period.

The monarchs, the church, and the jurists tried to fight duels considering it an enormous crime. However, they had to reckon with the position of the aristocracy, which often took duellists under its protection. Kings themselves were brought up on chivalric ethics, were considered the first nobles of their kingdoms, and could not ignore the rules of the code of honour. Therefore, the anti-duel policy was inconsistent – the severity of the laws that threatened duellers with capital punishment and confiscation of property was compensated by their non-compliance. Only in some particularly scandalous cases, duellists were subjected to actual prosecution. On display is a portrait of Jean-Baptiste Budes de Guébriant, who had to hide in exile because of his involvement in a duel — but that did not later interfere with the brilliant military career of this French marshal.

The art of swordsmanship, which nobles were taught in childhood, is inextricably linked to the advent of duels. On display are duelling weapons and treatises on fencing from the most famous teachers and masters of the 16th-17th centuries. The famous printmaker Jacques Callot's etchings depicting duel scenes accompany the swords used in duels by noble aristocrats.

Struggle against the duelling became part of the monarchical policy of subordinating the nobility. King Louis XIV achieved the utmost success in that – he even was proclaimed the vanquisher of duels. A special medal was coined to commemorate this supposed victory. However, he did not manage to eradicate the duelling custom in full. During the Sun King’s reign, duels became rarer and less bloody; they were hidden from the authorities and carried out without witnesses in secluded places. But immediately after the French monarch died, several high-profile duels occurred, marking a new stage in the duelling history. An affair of honour tradition continued and gradually disappeared only in the 20th century.


The Moscow Kremlin Museums have launched a theme-based satellite site duel.kreml.ru/en

A free audio guide prepared by the Moscow Kremlin Museums together with izi.TRAVEL is available for all visitors to the exhibition.

Special offer

  • Buy the famous GUM's branded ice cream in one of the kiosks in the GUM Department Store
  • Get a coupon from the seller
  • Exchange the coupon for a discount ticket at the Moscow Kremlin Museums' kiosk situated in the GUM
  • Go to the show "The Duel: from Trial by Combat to a Noble Crime" in the Kremlin

The special offer is valid for the duration of the exhibition – until 14 August 2022!

Admission fee to the exhibition – 500 RUB
Free for under 7-year-olds.
for the ICOM members.

Tickets are available:



Exhibition halls



The Art, Science and Sport Charity Foundation established by Russian entrepreneur and patron of arts Alisher Usmanov



Media partners