Forensic Fashion
(c) 2006-present R. Macaraeg


>Costume Studies
>>1477 Swiss Reisläufer
SubjectReisläufer mercenary infantry 
Culture: Swiss
Setting: Burgundian wars, Hapsburg-Valois wars, western Europe 15th-early 16thc

Context (Event Photos, Primary Sources, Secondary Sources, Field Notes)

* Woosnam-Savage 2017 p73
"The Swiss and Flemings were both famous for fighting on foot, using groups of pikemen together with crossbowmen and halberdiers -- such as at the battle of Nancy (1477) at which Charles the Bold (1433-77) died after being cut down by a blow from 'a halberd which split the centre of his head down to the teeth' and two other halberd thrusts, one to the groin 'and the third near the fundament' (Jean Molinet, Chroniques, 1474-1504)."

* Royal Armouries Museum > War Gallery
"Infantry of the early 16th century  From 1496 until 1529 Italy was the battleground of Europe. During these Italian Wars military tactics and equipment saw several new developments.
      "This period saw the rise of the arquebusier (handgunner) supplemented by large cohesive blocks of pikemen. The most notable pikemen were the Swiss and the Germans. Crossbows were still used, but their significance on the battlefield diminished."

* Norris 1938 p171-172
"The Swiss had made their reputation for bravery, and from this time they became much in demand as mercenaries, being engaged by various War-Lords of different nationalities.  In 1487, at the recommendation, curiously enough, of their former invader's widow, Margaret of York, Duchess of Burgundy, they joined the forces of John de la Pole, Earl of Lincoln, under the captaincy of Martin Schwartz, in the Lambert Simnel rebellion, where, however, these mercenaries were annihilated at the Battle of Stoke by Henry VII's archers.  The Swiss carried 'hand fire machines' of the latest type but the old-fashioned bow and arrow prevailed.  A nasty knock for firearms!
    "The Swiss victory over fifteen thousand Austrians at Dornach in 1499 finally won their independence: and in the same year, at the Peace of Basle, the Emperor Maximilian tacitly acknowledged that the Confederation, although nominally subject to the Empire, was practically independent.
    "Maximilian had a very great regard for these brave and lusty mountaineers, alghouth they had fought continuously against his ancestors, and the father of his wife, Marie of Burgundy; and as early as 1482 he had set his heart on training and organizing them into a company of foot-soldiers, which ultimately became the envy and terror of Europe, and the finest fighters in the world.  By the year 1511, Swiss mercenaries were entirely associated with Germany, and the name 'Landsknechten' was applied to them.  They were sworn to the msotsever discipline, but were allowed to retain their own costume, characterized by excessive slashings, puffings, particolour, and other eccentricities."

* Troso 1988 p88
"La fanteria svizzera, con le sue formazioni che si muovono rapidamente e attaccano, domina i campi di battaglia:
    "<<These battalions were thus capable not only of presenting a formidable obstacle to a charge of cavalry, but also of advancing upon and breaking up any less compact body of men.>>
    "<<Questi battaglioni erano cosi capaci non solo di presentare un formidabile ostacolo a una carica di cavalleria, ma anche di avanzare per rompere qualunque corpo di uomini meno compatto>>."​

* O'Connell/Batchelor 2002 p44
"Like the Greeks, the Swiss placed near total reliance on infantry, with cavalry or missile weaponry basically ignored. As with earlier phalanxes, it was the spirit of equal participation not obedience that drove Swiss pikemen into the fray. Also, like the Greeks, the Swiss were quick to grasp the possibilities for profit in tactical ascendancy and found a niche as mercenaries -- 'pas d'argent, pas de Swisses' [SIC] becoming virtually a national motto. But as cash drew them into battlefields all over Central Europe, exposure brought forth predictable reactions. In Germany, Emperor Maximilian built his own phalanx of pikemen and halberdiers and trained them to fight just like the Swiss. The Confederates more than held their own on many a blood soaked battlefield, but their lethal style of fighting was no longer unique or unchallenged."

* Miller/Embleton 1979 p


* Boeheim 1966 p332
"Die Helmbarte in ihrer ältesten und ursprünglichen Form ist, wie erwähnt, deutschen Ursprungs; sie bildete im 14. und 15. Jahrhundert die gemeine Waffe des Fußknechts; erst mit der Umänderung der Bewaffnung am End des 15. Jahrhunderts, als der Landsknecht den langen Spieß erhielt, führten sie nur bestimmte, in der Führung erprobte Kriegsleute und Unteroffiziere; so war sie für lange Zeit die Waffe des ,,Weibels''."

* Higgins Armory Museum > Great Hall
"Halberds  The name halberd was derived from the German words Halm (staff) and Barte (axe).  Extremely popular in central Europe, it was a versatile lethally effective infantry weapon with which to grab, thrust or hack at an opponent.
    "Like most staff weapons, use of the halberd declined during the second half of the sixteenth century, and from that point on, it became increasingly a ceremonial arm used by guards and town militias."

* Woosnam-Savage 2017 p46
"Another staff weapon was the halberd. Although other countries used it, it was the Swiss infantry which was defined by its use. The halberd had an axe-like blade with a fluke at the back and a spike at the top, on a wooden staff 2.4 m (8 ft) long, and could keep mounted men-at-arms at bay, as well as hook and unhorse them."

* Boutell 1996 p162
"The halberd and the pike, from the time of Louis XI. to that of Francis I. (A.D. 1515-1547), enjoyed a reputation which speaks very highly for the skill and gallantry of the Swiss foot soldiers, who used these weapons almost exclusively.  After the defeat of Charles the Bold, Duke of Burgundy, by the forces of the Swiss Cantons, for a while no sovereign felt confident of victory without having in his army some of the redoubtable mountaineers.  Upon the same principle, for Swiss weapons, the halberd and the pike were supposed to be the only arms which in the hands of foot soldiers were competent to resist the charge of mounted men-at-arms."


* Treasures from the Tower of London 1982 p64
"Although often known today as a pole-hammer, the term pollaxe seems to have been applied to this form of weapon in the fifteenth sixteenth centuries.  Long-handled hammers of this general type, with the hammer-head in the form of a claw, were used both in battle and in the tournament.  They were especially popular with the Swiss cantonal levies from the fifteenth to the seventeenth centuries and, because many are preserved in the old Zeughaus in Lucerne, Swiss weapons of this form are usually known as 'Lucerne Hammers'."

* Troso 1988 p29
"Martello la fante   Ferro asimemetrico sagomato da un lato con penna a becco di falco, dall'altro con bocca a sezione quadrata piatta o variamente sagomata.  In alto sull'asse dell'asta sporge una corta punta di stocco.  Azione di stocco e fendente. Effetto perforante e fratturante.  Il <<Martello di Lucerna>> è un martello da fante con punta di stocco piuttosto lunga e bocca del martello a sezione quadrata prolungata in quattro punte."


* Fryer 1969 p63
"Baselard  A dagger, or short sword, of fourteenth- and fifteenth-century date.  The hilt was similar in form to a capital letter I.  The length of the blade varied."

* Norman 1964 p84-85
"Numerous types of short swords or large daggers were used by both civilians and military throughout the whole period. Many are merely small versions of the normal sword, others have special forms of their own. One of the most popular from the late fourteenth to the end of the sixteenth century, known apparently as a baselard, probably because it came originally from Basle, had a handle like a capital I. It seems to have spread across most of Europe but survived longest in Switzerland.
    "Designs exist for sixteenth-century daggers of this type with richly decorated mounts and sheaths by such artists as Hans Holbein (1497/8-1543) and Heinrich Aldergraver (1502-c.1555). Many have sheaths decorated with pierced gilt metal after Holbein's Dance of Death or with scenes from the legend of William Tell."


* Racinet 1988 p176 (describing France, first quarter 16thc)
"Swiss mercenaries had formed the backbone of the French army for many years, but could not always be relied on. The Swiss soldiers wore doublets and breeches that were slashed in an unusual manner, and, distinctively, hats decorated extravagantly with feathers."

* Norris 1938 p172
"The fame of the Swiss armed forces, the Landsknechten, spread all over Europe, and much interest was taken in their extraordinary apparel.  Originating as their costume did from dire necessity and patched together as best could be contrived from all manner of odd pieces, it revealed involuntarily many a peep of equally disreputable undergarments; but the fame of their military achievements fired the imagination of the courts of Europe, and fashionable Society imitated deliberately what had been a makeshift, making 'cuttes' and 'slashes' important additions to the tailor's vocabulary."

​* Cassin-Scott 1994 p19
"The German/Swiss mercenary soldiers known as Landknecht[e] created a mixture of fashions, the remnants of their plunder, which were copied by fashionable young men. Their large-brimmed leather or felt hats were slashed, curled back and profusely decorated with feathers. The parti-coloured hose worn with ribboned garters below each knee were often slashed to reveal bare flesh. The doublet, of various colours, had very wide slashed sleeves caught in at the wrist. Scanty slashed hose pants were worn with a small cod-piece. Armoured breast plates were attached over these soldiers' doublets. Heavy swords were carried as tools of their trade. Square-toed shoes called void shoes were slashed and had narrow strap fastenings."

* Barsis 1973 p57 (describing soldiers, Switzerland fifteenth century)
"In each town, citizens formed their own militia to settle disputes with neighboring towns and to fight off the bands of robber barons and outlaws.
    "Although the marksman's doublet is modern, he is still wearing the old shoe with extremely elongated toes.  The other soldier has on the new duckbill shoe introduced by the lansquenets, mercenary Swiss and German soldiers who served in foreign countries."​

* Wilcox 1958 p77
"Slashings originated in the costumes of the Swiss soldiers after 1477, when they won their battle against the Duke of Burgundy and mended their ragged uniforms with strips of tents, banners and furnishings left behind in the flight of the Burgundians.  It became a fashion and was indulged in to the extreme by the Germans, especially the soldiers, mercenaries called Lansquenets.  From them, the style passed to the rest of Europe, reaching its height from 1520 to 1535.
    "All articles of clothing, even gloves, shoes and stockings were slashed and paned, revealing puffings of contrasting fabric and color.  The high waistline prevailed in both masculine and feminine dress.  Narrow shoulders, a small tight waist and full hips were the characteristic features of feminine silhouette, while the masculine effect was broad to squareness.
    "[....]  Under the large hats, men often wore a cap, while women wore either caul or cap.  Hats were ornamented with jewels, embroidery and that great favorite, the ostrich plume.  Brims were slashed.  instead of a cap, the man often resorted to a chinstrap or string to hold his hat in place.  The string also enabled him to drop his hat to the back of his neck and there the hat was often carried.
    "[....]  The fronts of shoes were square, of a much broader width than the foot.  Daggers, swords and rapiers in ornate cases were suspended from belts.  ....  Both sexes wore many rings on various fingers adn heavy gold necklaces around their necks." 

* Miller/Embleton 1979 p


* Hermann/Wagner 1979 p16
"Der Schweizerdolch mit der breiten Klinge was eine nationale Ausprägung des Dolches und ein schon immer gefragtes Sammlerobjekt.  Der Schweizerdolch des 16. Jahrhunderts wurde auf der rechten Körperseite waagrecht mit einer Scheidenspange am Gürtel befestigt.  Die Dolche des Mittelalters wurden normalerweise alle in einer Scheide am Gürtel getragen, der durch eine Öse an der Scheidenrückseite geführt wurde.  Die Scheiden der Schweizerdolche, an denen zwei Besteckfächer nie fehlten, sind seit Beginn des 16 Jahrhunderts mit durchbrochenen Bronzebeschlägen verziert worden.  Die Motive hatten bei den schönsten Exemplaren biblischen, allegorischen (Totentanz) und patriotischen (Tellschuß) Charakter.  Entwürfe Holbeins für die Totentanzdarstellung sind bis heute erhalten.  Kennzeichnend für den hölzernen Griff des Schweizerdolches war auch der dünne Eisen- oder Messingbeschlag von Knauf-und Parierbalken, die gegeneinander zugebogen waren.  Die zweischneidige Klinge besaß immer einen scharfen Mittelgrat und wurde zum Ort hin gleichmäßig schmaler."

* Diagram Group 1990 p31
"Baselard.  The medieval name for a type of dagger with a cross-piece at the guard and pommel.  Most have tapered, double-edged blades.  From c.1300-1500."

​* Coe/Connolly/Harding/Harris/Larocca/Richardson/North/Spring/Wilkinson 1993 p43 (Anthony North, "Barbarians and Christians" p30-43)
"One of the best known forms of medieval dagger is the baselard.  This had a distinctive crosspiece at both the guard and pommel end, giving the hilt the appearance of a capital I.  The type almost certainly originated in Switzerland and can be traced back to the thirteenth century.  It seems to have been associated with the city of Basel, hence its name, but was widely carried throughout Europe, especially in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries.  As a satirical English song of the period says: 'There is no man worth a leke, Be he sturdy, be he meke, But he bear a basilard.'  Versions with wood and bone hilts are common, but silver hilts were also made." 

* Fryer 1969 p65
"Holbein Dagger  A sixteenth-century dagger evolved from the baselard, also known as Swiss Dagger.  The hilt was I-shaped and the double-edged blade was short and leaf-shaped."

* Woosnam-Savage 2017 p44
"Daggers of various forms, such as the baselard were carried by civilians as well as knights.  Daggers were used in close combat and were used to dispatch the wounded, hence the possibly generic term miséricorde for any type of dagger or knife used in such a manner" ...