Subject: Landsknecht mercenary infantry
Culture: Imperial German
Setting: Hapsburg empire, Germany/Italy 16th-mid 17thc
Context (Event Photos, Period Sources)
* Tallett & Trim 2010 eds. p163 (Olaf van Nimwegen, "Army organization in western Europe, 1500-1789" p159-180)
"The Landsknechte mirrored the Swiss in organisation, weaponry, and tactics, but were raised in the Holy Roman Empire. They were typically organised in regiments, usually of ten companies, each of between 300 and 400 men. Their weapons consisted of pikes, halberds, two-handed swords, and arquebuses, with the pikemen forming the backbone of the unit. Like the Swiss, they were drawn up in massive formations called Gewalthaufen, with a depth of forty to sixty men, and they copied Swiss tactics. The close order, use of combined weapons, and discipline of the Landsknechte made them able to defeat numerically superior forces ...."
* Fliegel 1998 p112
"[T]he German Landesknecht [were] a mercenary infantry that during the early sixteenth century established a reputation for fearless fighting. The Landesknecht wore little armor, usually just an iron skullcap and a mail collar. They did, however, affect an oulandish, multicolored, 'puffed and slashed' mode of dress."
* Imperial Austria 1992 p28 f25,26
"Some soldiers retained types of mail defences long after plate armour replaced mail as the primary knightly defence. The German Landsknechte wore a mail cape, sometimes called a 'bishop's mantle,' well into the 16th century."
* 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."
* Wilkinson 1970 p56
"[H]alf-armours became increasingly common. Known as corslets, these comprised a breast- and backplate, tassets, arm defences, simple gauntlets -- often no more than two or three overlapping plates covering the back of the hand -- and a light helmet. A cheap version of this corslet, mass produced for armies, was known as the 'Almain rivets', and and Milan was certainly one of the main centres for such armours.
"German mercenaries known as Landsknechts favourred these corslets worn with a collar which protected the neck and shoulders -- others preferred a cape of mail, a 'Bishop's mantle,' which covered the shoulders and reached nearly to the elbows. Many armours of the period were covered with thick black paint except for a border about an inch or so wide, which was left polished bright. The painting was primarily for protective purposes, to guard against rust -- a constant problem for campaigning troops."
* Tallett & Trim 2010 eds. p164 (Olaf van Nimwegen, "Army organization in western Europe, 1500-1789" p159-180)
"Becoming a Landsknechte meant leaving normal society and joining an organisation that, similarly to a monastic order, lived by its own rules. This does not of course mean that soldiers and monks lived a comparable life; on the contrary. Monks were supposed to be pious chaste, whereas Landsknechte emphasised their manhood as expressed by their unruly behaviour and extravagant clothing. Drinking bouts were part of their daily life, and although uniforms were not introduced until the later seventeenth century, one could easily recognise Landsknechte by their colourful and baggy clothes. They could afford these because they were paid partly in cloth in lieu of ready money, which was always in short supply."
* Miller ill. Embleton 1976 p35 (describing a pikeman ca. 1520)
"It was uncommon for the normal footsoldier to wear armour. The 'true' Landsknecht never wore a backplate since he never turned his back on the enemy. It was, however, due to lack of resources that this custom was adopted. The left leg was often left bare, free of any hindrance, so that pike drill could be carried out with greater dexterity. Sometimes this was carried to the extreme, the buttocks being completely exposed. The hose were sometimes slashed in the upper part and striped in the lower. The legs were of different colours and decorated in various ways with pipings, stripes and spiral bands."
* Erasmus 2008 p33 (writing ca. 1530)
"Clothing that's been slashed apart suggests madness. Embroidered or multicoloured clothes are for fools and apes. So make sure your style of dress is in keeping with your means and standing, and well-suited to your country and custom. Don't be conspicuous by your shabbiness, nor by any opulence, wantonness or arrogance."
* Edge & Paddock 1988 p149
"[C]ertain categories of sword were ... developed during this period [the 1500s] in response to specific needs and requirements. The two-handed Landesknecht sword was one of these; carried by lightly armoured infantry who often bore no other weapon, it could be wielded with deadly effect to 'soften up' an enemy force before the main attack, for example by lopping off the heads of pikes and generally demoralizing his infantry. The ricasso of the blade was usually covered with leather to enable one's grip to be extended to the maximum possible width when used in this way."
* Zbirka oružja i vojne opreme u Muzeju seljačkih buna 2006 p6
"Njemački najamnici naoružani su kopljima ili helebardama, o pojasu im je visio mač, a u pojas im je bio utaknut bodež. U prvim borbenim redovima bili su dvostruko plaćeni odredi naoružani teSkim mačevima -- dvoručnjacima. Zadatak im je bio lomiti koplja i nanositi gubitke neprijateljskoj navali."
* Royal Ontario Museum > Samuel European Galleries > Arms & Armor
"Two-Handed Swords Among the weapons used by Swiss infantry and German Landsknechts were large, two-handed swords. Like halberds, these were employed to protect formations of pikemen or to open up gaps in enemy ranks. They could be held in either of two ways: by leather covered grip alone, or by the grip and the long, flat ricasso below the hilt. Many two-handed swords were fitted with crescent-shaped lubs or projections below the hilt; these were useful for parrying opponents' weapons."
* XVII Exposição Europa de Arte, Ciênca e Cultura 1983 p60 f46
"Espada de duas mãos alemã, utilizada pelos Doppelsöldneren, soldados que recebiam o dobro do soldo normal porque necessitavam de mais alimentação. Vinham em grupos de 50, para abrir brechas nas linhas dos piqueiros e alabardeiros e assim permitir o avanço da cavalaria." ...
* Coe, Connolly, Harding, Harris, LaRocca, Richardson, North, Spring, & Wilkinson 1993 p48 (Donald J. LaRocca, "The Renaissance spirit" 44-57)
"The two-handed sword was a specialized and effective infantry weapon, and was recognized as such in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. Although large, measuring 60-70 ins/150-175 cm overall, it was not as hefty as it looked, weighing something of the order of 5-8 lbs/2.3-3.6 kg. In the hands of Swiss and German infantrymen it was lethal, and its use was considered a special skill, often meriting extra pay. ... [During the sixteenth century in Germany] a more flamboyant form developed. Two-handed swords typically have a generous ricasso to allow the blade to be safely gripped below the quillons and thus wielded more effectively at close quarters. Triangular or pointed projections, known as flukes, were added at the base of the ricasso to defend the hand."
* Miller ill. Embleton 1976 p11
"The Zweihander, the enormous battle swords about 66 inches long, also had a double-edged blade, sometimes undulating in design with a long grip covered in leather or cloth. The hilt was reinforced with two curved quillons and two ring-guards on each side. The lugs at the heel of the blade served as a second guard, to parry blows as well as to enable the user to grasp the weapon at a lower point, as prescribed in the drill movements. The was facilitated by a leather ricasso between the ring guards and the lugs. On the march it was sometimes slung over the back crosswise by means of a strap."
* Weapons 2006 p102
"In 16th and early-17th century Germany, particularly ornate two-handed swords ... were used on ceremonial occasions. These paratschwerter [SIC] (parade swords, also called 'bearing swords') were longer and heavier than battlefield weapons, and often so ornate that they were of little use as offensive weapons. The flame form of the blade (flammenschwert [SIC]) was impressive, but made little difference to its cutting abilities."
* Coe, Connolly, Harding, Harris, LaRocca, Richardson, North, Spring, & Wilkinson 1993 p47 (Donald J. LaRocca, "The Renaissance spirit" p44-57)
"Another distinctive short weapon for use on foot was the Landsknecht sword or Katzbalger ('brawler' or, more literally, 'cat skinner'), favoured by German mercenaries from the later part of the [fifteenth] century onwards. The characteristic features of this sword are a metal grip that flares out into an integral pommel, strongly recurved S-shaped quillons, and a short stout blade with parallel edges and a short point. In the sixteenth century, the terminals of the S-shaped quillons were occasionally extended to form a figure of eight. Landsknecht swords (and the related Landsknecht dagger) for officers and commanders could be richly ornamented, with chiselled, engraved or gilt hilts and etched blades."
* Richards ill. Embleton 2002 p43
"[T]he Landsknecht's favourite weapon [was] the katzbalger. 'Katz' means cat, while 'balgen' means to scrap, so a rough translation would be 'weapon for a fight with tooth and claw.'"
* Miller ill. Embleton 1976 p11
"[T]he Katzbalger or 'mangler' had a short metal hilt which joined a broad double-edged blade about 28 inches long and had a guard of two S-curved quillons forming rings. It was carried in a leather or metal scabbard, and the weapon was usually worn horizontally over the stomach at the belt."