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)

* 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."

* Miller/Embleton 1979 p

​* 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."


* 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'."


* 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."


* 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."

​* 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."

* Miller/Embleton 1979 p

* Miller/Embleton 1976 p


* 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."

* 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."