Hello all. I wished to broach this topic as a furthering of my research and to get the international view of reenactors. As I mentioned in a comment on a 1565 woodcut on this site today, I am having some difficulty in finding paintings/woodcuts/statuary of Landsknechte using zweihanders in combat. There are a few woodcuts of single landsknecht with the 'early' zweihander in pose. That is either the cruciform hilt greatsword with egg shaped pommel and leather ricasso, or in woodcuts around the 1520-1565 period showing dopplesoldner with the sword over the shoulder which features two large hoops or a figure 8, like huge katzbalgers. The sword that is popular with reenactors today, featuring langets past the ricasso, sometimes flamberge blades, and with complex hooked quillions on their hilts, does not seem to fit in a pike block, and is certainly underrepresented in art compared to katzbalgers. I am aware of the staggering number of extant swordsof this type in museums; it seems every european collection has to have a few, however they do not seem to have a place in documented warfare encounters. Does anyone have or has seen a woodcut depicting these weapons in battle, or in the hands of a dopplesoldner at all? It is curious that so many remain yet their practical use remains a mystery. Besides striking fear into the hearts of men, how useful would a five foot sword be in the age of shot and pike? Any thoughts or evidence to the contrary, or should we all ditch our zweihanders in preference for arquebus and halbreds?

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Hi Ben, I looked in my "photo" collection.
And I really found a tapestry with a fighting Zweihänder.


This is a great picture! Never seen it before.


One thing I've learned over doing reenactment is that there is nothing that a Bidenhander can do that a halberd (or even, at times, a pike) can not do or improve upon. It is perhaps for this reason that the time period where the Bidenhander was used is really small and these weapons ended up unused in armories and museums. The stuff that worked was used and seldom survived.

In the Battle of Kappel, two handed war swords are depicted; however, they are simply large, two-handed swords without the parrying hooks / lugs above the ricasso. But, judging by their clothes, these soldiers are most likely not Landsknechte.


Even in a picture depicting soldiers that appear to be in Landsknecht styled garments, their swords are still basically a standard cruciform two-handed sword (albeit a big one).


From what I have gathered (although I do not have any sources to quote or cite), the more fancy swords (flambert blade and lugs) were predominantly used outside the fields of war. When maintaining peace in a town or in the encampment, they are intimidating and demonstrate stature and rank. From what it looks like, the image that Berthold posted depicts something in a castle or in a town, not the standard pike square the Landskenchte are known for.

But we come back to the fact that a halberd does everything a Bidenhander can, a halberd is cheaper, a halberd has a greater range, and it is little surprise we see more Landsknecht with a halberd on the battlefield.



Berthold, what is the year of that tapestry? It is quite realistic (and very Beautiful) is it contemporary or Victorian? That is definately what people define a zweihander as. Great pic.
Ok I have not looked to the time of production. These tapestry is made in 1618 and there are serveral verry niche once in the castle Trausnitz in Landshut Bavaria.Ordered by Maxinilian I from Bavaria (House of Wittelbach)
That is still pretty much contemporary, though. Itnteresting that he is also waering a full maille shirt under his armor.
Hello Ben

this is an image of the Battle of Pavia , with landsknecht fighting with zweihander


Hauptmann Wolf

Thanks, Hauptman. Again, as shown here, it is a somewhat generic looking cruciform broadsword, no lugs or hilt hooks. Interesting that he is infront of the pike block alone. I've always been told that you would a have a full rank of dopples at the front of speisstragers. He may be an officer, do you know what the banner reads?

Taking a look again at this woodcut, you can see the dopplesoldner has a cruciform hilt sword with a leather ricasso. This is a 1530's woodcut I have seen many times, it is a little hard to notice, but on the blade forward of the ricasso are two bumps, maybe the style developed from this into the parrying hooks? Take a look:

Is certanly an officer , i have a sword similar and in very usefull in combat. Many picture confirm the use of this type of sword long 1,40 - 1,50 by officer expecially

The banner says : les lanquenects , in french........


Hauptmann Wolf
sweet. I have also seen many many longswords of this type. What i'm looking for is the popularized version of a bindenhander or zweihander with parrying hooks and complex hilts, or a flamberge or wavy blade, and I have yet to see one contemporary example with all of these attributes. Yet many exist in museums. Are they reserved for Trabanten in the military, protecting the Captain and the flag, or used as a 'swagger sword', like a recruiting or discouraging tool? As Sigmund suggested, a large sword like a Bindenhander or the Italian spadone would have been of greater use in the walled medievel city where you would have the room to swing it and would be a great deterrent to footpads and criminals if a squad of town guard was always stamping around carrying them.
Hallo Ben,

All I have is a theory gleaned from mock pike fights.

The fighting style for the two hander is more like a staff than a sword. The entire thing is a weapon and you can wield it like a pike or spear. But, it's not going to lop off 1" thick ash pikes and it's not going to be good at defeating armor.

When two pike blocks meet together they didn't call it "bad war" for no reason. It's basically a stale mate and you could be there for hours hoping your shotte sleaves opened a hole in the line that they could take advantage of or some such. But if you placed your dopples in the front line at some point before the pikes dropped and loosened up the formation by maybe a half arm length against an unarmoured enemy spot in the pike line the dopples could come in under the cover of pikes while holding their weapons like a pikeman.

When the opposing pikes met the heavily armored dopples just had to worry about getting past enemy pike points. Think about a solo sword versus pike fight. If the swordman gets past the point of your pike, he just has to follow the shaft down straight into your gizzards and your best option is to drop the pike and pull your dagger or sword. The problem in a pike fight that he has at least 4 pike points to worry about (assuming that their buddies are engaged with the opposing pikes), but if he can get past them he could do a lot of damage to that spot in the line either by injury or forcing the opposition into dropping their pike. Plus, there might be some pyschological warfare coming into play amongst the common pikeman when there's this dopple that is possibly more heavily armoured than your wiebel trying to kill you ("This wasn't in the drills man!")

We know they used them, we'll never know exactly how, so all we can really do is create theories based on practical application. Criticism has been an excellant teacher for me though and I welcome all ideas on this.



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