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Old 1st May 2020, 04:24 PM   #1
Luka Borscak
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Default Weirdly recurved sword guards

I've been looking at the Urs Graf's and some other depictions of Landsknechts and Swiss Reisläufer and I noticed Landsknechts wear single handed and two handed swords with typical katzbalger guards recurved so they make almost perfect circle and Swiss wear single handed swords and longswords with guards also recurved but in a more "flattened circle", more of an elipse, each arm of guard curving back to guard block... Does any body knows more about this style? Is it specifically Swiss? How long was it popular? Are there any surviving longswords with such guards?
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Old 4th May 2020, 03:50 PM   #2
Jim McDougall
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Hi Luka,
You have chosen a most interesting and somewhat under discussed topic, which is the 'landsknecht' mercenaries, which essentially prevailed as mercenary soldiers, primarily pikemen and foot soldiers from 15th into 17th c.

While always associated with the Swiss Confederations, the first officially recognized 'armies' of these men were organized in Burgundy, and later c. 1486 in German regions, but trained by the Swiss.

The familiar S shape or figure 8 guards were well known on the 'katzbalger' swords and many 'zweihander' (two hander) huge swords, but cannot be distinctly designated a 'Swiss' style. As mercenary soldiers in these times tended to supply their own arms and equipment, these styles of weapon were being produced in various arms centers throughout these regions, and tended to adopt the popular designs and style of the times.

The 'katzbalger' was the smaller sword worn by these forces to be employed in the ensuing melee after the pikemen and two hander men broke the ranks of the enemy. Its name denotes a 'cat fight' as in a brawl of feral cats and alludes to the vicious attacks associated.

These forces took great pride in thier fearsome demeanor, and wore wildly colored clothing which was often deliberately tattered to recall the aftermath of battle, which reflected those well seasoned in combat.

There are many of these katzbalger swords still around (remember there were tens of thousands of these popular forces before principalities were established countries and no standing (regulation) armies.
There are less of the huge two hander swords, which fell out of use as warfare changed and they became more typically a sword with parade or ceremonial applications.

The S or figure 8 guards evolved into more complex hand guard systems adding various bars to them as sword designs evolved.

Hope this might offer some insight, and using the search features here or online using the terms 'katzbalger' or 'zweihander' will give you far more depth and information. Thanks for asking a great question!!!
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Old 5th May 2020, 05:08 PM   #3
NeilUK
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Hi Luka,
here are some 2-handers with fully recurved, figure 8, quillons, A&B from Hermann Historica auctions, C in the Deutsche Geschichte Museum. Best, Neil
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Old 5th May 2020, 05:10 PM   #4
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I need to minimise the photo B. Hold on.
Neil
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Old 5th May 2020, 07:20 PM   #5
Luka Borscak
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Thanks guys! BUT... There are two types of these figure 8 guards... One typically landsknecht, german, and one that seems to be connected with Swiss, but I'm not yet sure and hoped somebody knows more...

Below, first picture is german style and lower two are reproductions of the possible Swiss style... Last picture is Lutel reproduction of both, side by side...
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Old 5th May 2020, 07:44 PM   #6
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Double post.

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Old 5th May 2020, 09:24 PM   #7
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Here’s an interesting katzbalger from the armoury of Castel Sant’Angelo in the Vatican, Rome. Perhaps it was used by the famous Swiss Guard? This type of sword is bigger than I thought. The style should probably be described as Germanic rather than specifically German.
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Old 6th May 2020, 10:48 PM   #8
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There strange hand guards were preserved in German fencing foils of 19-20th century. The " windows" were covered with thick pigskin.
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Old 8th May 2020, 05:38 AM   #9
Philip
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jim McDougall
Hi Luka,


The familiar S shape or figure 8 guards were well known on the 'katzbalger' swords and many 'zweihander' (two hander) huge swords, but cannot be distinctly designated a 'Swiss' style. As mercenary soldiers in these times tended to supply their own arms and equipment, these styles of weapon were being produced in various arms centers throughout these regions, and tended to adopt the popular designs and style of the times.


Hi, Jim
Great thumbnail overview of the topic, as usual! If I may elaborate on your last sentence, above...

The familiar deeply rounded, almost circular S or figure-8 on the "classic" katzbalger hilt (as amply represented in previous posts) can be traced back to smaller, more rudimentary S forms popular on medieval Hungarian hilt weapons of the 15th cent. The crossguards take the form of a horizontal S composed of ribbed straps of iron curling from each side of the écusson or quillon-block. Both double edged broadswords and kilij-like saber blades can be found on these Hungarian weapons, many of which are preserved in Hungary and elsewhere (see Temesváry Ferenc, Vas, Ezüst És Arany pl 3 for two examples in the Hungarian National Museum.-- on one of these, the arms of the S are so recurved so as to form almost complete loops}

Medieval Dalmatia (present Croatia) was heavily influenced by Hungary, and S-guard swords became common if not iconic there. In the service of the Republic of Venice, Croatian mercenaries introduced the style to northern Italy,where it eventually became known as la spada schiavonesca, the Slavonic sword. These remained in use throughout the 15th and well into the 16th cents., made in both standard, bastard, and two handed hilt lengths, until replaced by the basket-hilted schiavona.

Here is an example of a spada schiavonesca in my collection. For examples of others including the longer hilts, see some published examples from the Armory of the Palazzo Ducale in Boccia / Coelho, Armi Bianche Italiane.
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Last edited by Philip : 8th May 2020 at 05:49 AM.
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Old 8th May 2020, 05:24 PM   #10
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Thank you very much Philip! and resounding exemplar of the development of the guards in hilts, the 'schiavona' !
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