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Michael Anderson

Location: Nottingham, England
Joined: 09 Mar 2011

Posts: 32

PostPosted: Sat 15 Oct, 2011 10:05 am    Post subject: use of katzbaglers and other landsknecht questions         Reply with quote

Ive recently invested in a katzbagler and am hoping to build a soft kit around it but i have some questions about its usage in the early 16th c. It is such an iconic weapon associated with the landsknecht that i began to wonder if any others used it? ill list my questions to make them more easily digestible.

1. was the katz used by the swiss reislaufer mercenaries that the landsknecht modelled themselves on or was it solely used by the landsknecht?

2. I have read that the reislaufer used skirmishing crossbowmen around their pike block and the landsknecht used arquebusiers around theirs. was there any evidence that the landsknecht used crossbows as well?

3. the landsknecht were allowed freedom from the sumptry laws because of the patronage of the emperor maximillian and his opinion of their short brutal lives. were the reislaufer " uniforms" of a similar structure but less elaborate? More subdued colours? some slashing but less?

The situation i find myself in is a divided one. My natural leaning is toward the less ostentatious reislaufer but if i cannot use the katzbagler it may be a sticking point for me. i already own a suitable early 16thc longsword and dagger and crossbow but before i start gathering patterns for my clothes i need to make a informed decision.

any help would be most appreciated
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Nicholas A. Gaese

Location: Montreal, Quebec, Canada
Joined: 06 Aug 2007

Posts: 100

PostPosted: Sat 15 Oct, 2011 10:48 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Good evening,

i'll try to answer your questions as consisly as you have numbered them.

1. For the most part, no. The Swiss used longswords and arming swords of various styles as well as their symbolic holbein style daggers/short swords. Some artwork of the Sweizer Reislaufer occasionally show figure-eight guards, but usually flatted slightly, like a bow-tie of sorts. I can think of only one example with katzbalger-style guard, but fitted to a longsword. I saw a pic of an Italian nobleman wearing a katz once though, very interesting.

2.It's very possible that crossbows were used by landsknecht, but unfortunatly if that were true its undocumented. Roll calls of whole landsknecht feahnleins can be found in this thread: but to my knowledge no mentioning of crossbows. however, looking into artwork it seems some crossbowmen can be found, but only during the 1530's and before, after this time crossbows were largely no longer in use for warfare across Europe.

3. The Swiss seemed to be every bit as crazy as their German counterparts were in terms of clothing, How elaborate the clothing was depended more on the individual than ethnicity. However, some groups who were recruited together might choose to be more or less elaborate, forming a gang or something like it. The last part was strictly thoughts and conjuncture on my part and I wouldn't have a clue if that were true, just an idea.

as per your devision in choice, you sound like your in a tough spot mate. Longsword and dagger would work fine for a reislaufer, but it might be a problem if it's not a holbein dagger, it was a part of the Swiss national identity. Likewise, the Katzbalger was a part of the whole Landsknecht identity. There was normally no cross-over between them in this regard. If the Katz is an important part of your arsenal, then the way of the Landsknecht might be the way to go for you.

Before you make a final decision, i'd recommend doing a bit more research on the two. There's many threads about the landsknecht in this forum besides the one i provided, and you could try google search images for Albrecht Durer, Urs Graf, and Erhard Schon, and many others who I can't think of right now, but have drawn about the Landsknechte and Reislaufers.

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Gabriele Becattini

Joined: 21 Aug 2007

Posts: 703

PostPosted: Sun 16 Oct, 2011 6:28 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I agree, the iconic reislaufer was more associated with a hand and half with a simple cross guard and holbein dagger, the short sword with holbein style hilt was used in the late XVth century and it is more suitable for a Burgundian war period than for "Classic" landsknecht period.

the crossbow was still used in the burgundian war but from the 1510s it was obsolete, may be still used but supplanted by firearms, i have not seen crossbow depicted in any landsknecht-swiss source off the italian war period

the dress was very similar,, the main difference was the confederate white cross for thew swiss, some time in form of slashing,

you already have a nice set of weapons for an early period reislaufer, with a single costume, changing slightly the weaponry you could built two sets
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Nicholas A. Gaese

Location: Montreal, Quebec, Canada
Joined: 06 Aug 2007

Posts: 100

PostPosted: Sun 16 Oct, 2011 9:36 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote


Agreed for the most part, but just to throw out thoughts to challange peoples understanding of things, I want to provide two examples to contradict some points you've made.

With the Holbein style short swords, they are indeed more apropriate for the 15th century. However, I have seen various examples, including one in the Wallace collection, which were attributed as late as the 1530's or so. Just through observation, you can tell the difference between the 15th c. versions and the later versions by the hilt styles, which seem to match contemporary hilt styles for the daggers. Arma Bohemia actually makes two Swiss style swords with holbein hilts, one for the 15thc. and the other for the 16th. Cool stuff.

As for proof of Landsknechte with crossbows, as said before thats hard to come by without relying on artwork. Keep in mind, even in these depictions the crossbow is not nearly as numerous as the arquibus. In fact if I remember correctly I only have seen as many as many as 5 men with crossbows for the entire Landsknecht feahnlein. In the picture I have saved in my hard drive, you can see only 1 fellow with a crossbow, standing near the standard bearer. While thinking of other accounts including the use of crossbows in this period, I'm guessing they were used essentially for sharp shooting. The French still used crossbows extensivly though, even during the battle of Pavia the French King had a large contingent of mounted crossbowmen, presumably of Italian origins.


 Attachment: 3.15 KB
Swiss-style short sword, circa 1530.

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Schlacht in Beohmen, circa 1520-30. Note only 1 visible crossbowman. [ Download ]
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Gabriele Becattini

Joined: 21 Aug 2007

Posts: 703

PostPosted: Sun 16 Oct, 2011 11:57 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote


the late example of swiss short swort is interesting, and now that you have reminded me, i have seen the two arma bohemia cool replicas, the image that you have posted is a little bit a mistery, it looks like a depiction of landsknechts from the swabian war period than 1520-30, if you look at the katzbalgers they are all of the very early pattern with countercurved quillons that disappear from around the 1510s, the style of dress is a very early one too, is the first example of a landsknecht crossbowman that i see depicted in a battle scene, but as i you have noted is a very isolated one that could have been really a kind of "sniper" . if i remember correctly the french dropped he crossbow after pavia or no much after, i mean as a large formatiom weapon of war, it remained popular for a longer in other contexts like the war at sea.
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Nicholas A. Gaese

Location: Montreal, Quebec, Canada
Joined: 06 Aug 2007

Posts: 100

PostPosted: Sun 16 Oct, 2011 6:44 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

While I agree about your assumption with the early style of clothes and weapons, simpler clothes like those in the painting were worn well into the 1540's and longer by some. The artist Hans Wertinger drew the majority of his works between 1517 and 1533, just before he died (born 1465 and died 1533). Schlacht in Beohmen literally translates into "battle in Bohemia" so the place is not in question. During 1520-30 there were political desputes between Charles V brother Ferdinand and the lords of Bohemia and Moldavia, often leading to armed disputes like those depicted. Some believe these events also played a role in the eventual siege of Vienna, since some of the eastern states were vassals to the Ottomans.

As for the crossbows as used by the French, your pretty close somewhere between 1528-32 the French dropped the crossbow in in large formations. The weapon might had seen continued service with the Swedes and Bohemians/Eastern Europeans for a bit longer but I can't confirm that. The featured article Renaissance armies: the French in myArmoury's featured content page is a great read and goes into more detail about the French use of the crossbow.
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