Just some brief reflections on  images from Chronicon Helvetiae by Christoph Silberysen, dated to 1576, currently kept in the Aargauer Kantonsbibliothek in Aarau, Switzerland.

Christoph Silbereysen (* 1541 in Baden AG; † 1608 in Wettingen)  was  abbot of the Cistercian Monastery of Wettingen. The chronicle was illustrated by Jacob Hoffmann and it is part of the Swiss Chronicles. It is currently kept in  the Aargau Cantonal library.

The two parts from which these images are taken describe the early history of Switzerland, the founding of the cantons and amongst many other interesting battles, the Battle of Morgarten against the German King Rudolf I in 1315 and the 2nd Kappel War in 1531, between various protestant and and catholic cantons of the Swiss Confederacy. They are based on the chronicles of Henry Brennwald and Werner Schodoler respectively. And as a sidenote, the story of Wilhelm Tell is also told in this chronicle.

Considering the publishing date, the weapons, and the halberds in particular appear to be a bit out of style. By this time the halberds had evolved beyond what we see here, and these look more like what we would see in the 1400s or early 1500s.

Looking at the images there are several interesting details to ponder upon.

First of all, when attacking opponents in armour, the hook of the halberds appear to be much more commonly used in striking. Most people would probably assume that the axe blade would have been used, but the hook can penetrate armour more easily, which seems to be the likely reason for this usage.

Urban warfare with pikes and halberds is perhaps not how we tend to think of Renaissance warfare, but here it is, it all its horrific splendour.

The bidenhänder are shown in some images but are not as common. However, regular longswords are shown at the hip of a lot of the Reisläufer troops. Interestingly, the bidenhänder soldiers appear to be facing each other. Also, the longswords are quite long, reaching into the armpit.

The armoured judicial duel shows attacking with a dagger into the visor. The same image shows broken swords on the ground.

Again, we see the flute players and drummers that are so commonly depicted in association with the fechtschulen and are shown in for instance, Joachim Meÿer’s “Gründliche Beschreibung der Adeligen und Ritterlichen Kunst des Fechtens” from 1570.

One of the images show men armed with “small trees”, which is interesting since Paul Hektor Mair describes how to fight with these in his treatise Arte Athletica of 1542.

In one of the images where the troops are sitting down at a table, eating, one of the men appear to be wearing a maille hauberk.

Very few wear protection for the hands, although plate mittens can be seen on a halberdier in one of the images depicting urban warfare. The same image also shows a crossbow.

And as an end note: I have a feeling I will be returning to this article and rewrite it, since I find this material so interesting. Amongst other things, Kappel, is a stonethrow from Basel (some 60km/20mi), where Freifechter Joachim Meÿer was born, only about six years after the 2nd Kappel War.

Interestingly enough, a certain Henni Zollinger lived in Basel some time in the 1500s, which might be a relative of freifechter Lienhart Sollinger, the messerschmidt, fechtbuch collector and author of CGM 3712 and Cod.I.6.2°.2, which was a copy of a treatise by another freifechter; Andre Paurñfeyndt. However, we do not yet know for sure which Swiss town Sollinger originates from. We do know, however, that he came to Strassburg in 1587 together with his wife, who also was a fencer, and held some form of fencing exhibition.

Sollinger eventually sold four fechtbuchen to Paul Hektor Mair, all of them containing treatises by Jörg Wilhalm Hutter. He is also thought to have been in possession of the MS German Quarto 2020 (Goliath), another Swiss fechtbuch, describing quarterstaff fencing very similar to the treatise of Paurñfeyndt and parts of it was copied into his Cod.I.6.2°.2 treatise.

Nearby Solothurn is where the Codex S.554, a copy of Paul Kal’s 1470 treatise, dated to 1506-1514, is kept. It is also where Urs Graf, painter, printmaker and mercenary soldier was born. He later moved to Basel where he became a burgher. The life of Urs Graf is a fascinating history in itself, but I will leave that for another time…

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Here are the images.






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