Military Review

Battle of Murten: costly arrogance

This battle was one of the most bloody and significant battles of the period of the Burgundian Wars. Then, 22 June 1476, near the fortress Murten (in French - Morat) in the Swiss canton of Bern met Swiss troops and the army of the Duke of Burgundy Karl the Bold. The previous defeat did not teach him anything, and he again contacted the Swiss. This was his mistake, because he also lost this battle with them. By the way story Murten is a good example of how stupid perseverance is punished and that no personal courage wins where experience and skill are involved.

Battle of Murten. Panorama of Ludwig Brown. "The Burgundian camp, attacked."

Siege of Murten

And it was that, having barely recovered from the defeat of Granson, Karl the Bold once again decided to get involved in a fight with the Swiss and, having gathered new forces, he already in June 1476 of the year invaded their territory. Already on June 9 his army laid siege to the fortress of Murten just 25 kilometers from Bern. It would be more logical to go to Bern itself, but Karl apparently decided not to leave an enemy garrison in his rear, so for the beginning he decided to take Murten. The city was defended by the garrison in 1580 fighters, so the seemingly serious resistance to the army of Karl, armed with powerful artillery, was not supposed to be!

Battle of Murten: costly arrogance

Engraving on 1879-80, depicting the battle of Murten. Louis Midart. The funds of the Central Library of the city of Soloturn.

The Burgundians began by pouring a rampart around Murten, then putting bombers on it, reinforcing the gaps between them with a palisade and began to burn them along the city walls. That is, they did the same as Julius Caesar did in his time near the walls of Alesia: a control line was built around the besieged fortress, installing artillery on it, and in the case of the approach of Swiss troops in 1,5 - 2 km from the city built a circular distribution line (though solid it was not), defending their army outside. After that, 12 June they went to the assault, but he was recaptured, as reinforcements arrived on the lake to the garrison of the fortress. Karl understood that Swiss troops were about to come to Murten’s help. Therefore, he did not re-attack the fortress, but confined to shelling, and began to prepare for battle with the enemy. The Burgundians spent several days in alarm, expecting that the Swiss were about to come. An alarm was declared several times, and the army was built behind a palisade to repel the attack of the enemy, but the Swiss did not appear, and the Burgundians again returned to the camp. 21 June Carl personally made a reconnaissance of the location of the Swiss and considered that they were not going to attack him.

Karl the Brave (Karl Daredevil), Duke of Burgundy (1433-1477). Roger van der Weyden painting (approximately 1460 year).

And what did the Swiss do?

After learning about the actions of the enemy, 10 June Bern announced mobilization. As early as June 11, the Berne units began to arrive at border points and the very next day they began to engage in clashes with the Burgundians. On Wednesday, June 19, the Bernese militia (5-6 thou. People) camped at Ulmitsa, just a distance of 5 km from the forward positions of the Burgundian troops. The militia of their allies also began to approach here: the Basel militia (from 2 000 manned infantry and 100 cavalrymen) and the cavalry from Alsace under the command of Duke Rene of Lorraine and Oswald von Tirstein, who was an assistant to the Upper Alsace Bali.

Battle of Murten. Miniature from the Lucerne Chronicle of Schilling the Younger 1513 of the Year. Zurich Library.

In total, according to one of the participants of the battle, Jörg Mollbinger, who fought in the noble cavalry, here turned out to be 26 000 allied forces, of which more than 1 800 were horsemen. Hans von Kahenek, another member of this battle, who also fought in cavalry, names a smaller number - 1100 riders.

Rene II, Duke of Lorraine. Lorraine Museum.

The vanguard of the Swiss was commanded by Hauptmann Hans von Gollville of Aargau. It included arrow-crossbowmen and also cooler printers, and half were pikemen. The total number of avant-garde reached 5 000 people. Kagenek wrote that there were “Bernians, Friburs and Schwyzians” in it.

Milan helmet 1440. Weight 4196. Metropolitan Museum, New York.

The main forces (Gewalthaufen), commanded by several Hauptmans, among whom Hans Waldmann stood out, were a “battle” in the form of a “spear” or “hedgehog” with pikemen along the whole perimeter of the 4 line, and arrows in the center. The battles ranged from 10 to 12 thousand people.

1480 armor of the year. Metropolitan Museum, New York.

The rearguard (nahhut) was commanded by Hauptmann Caspar Gartenstein from Lucerne. It was 5-6 thousand fighters, armed about the same. Between the vanguard and the main battle the cavalry moved.

1475 Helmet; Weight 3374; Metropolitan Museum, New York.

Meanwhile, it began to rain, from which the allies had nowhere to hide. In addition, the Zurichs were waiting, and they came at night, although they were exhausted by an incredibly difficult road. Immediately they gathered a military council and entrusted the general command of Wilhelm Herter von Gertenegg, who became the "chief Hauptmann."

Helmet 1475 Sallet Propulsion 2778 Metropolitan Museum, New York. The development of iron-making production at that time allowed mass production of similar armor and, in particular, sallet helmets, which were used by Swiss infantry and Burgundy. Since the armor was similar, it was necessary to sew multicolored crosses on the clothes for identification.

On Saturday early in the morning reconnaissance was carried out. 500 mounted horse gendarmes and 800 infantrymen under the command of Gerter and Waldmann went to the positions of the Burgundians. They reached the Burgundian positions, but then moved back under artillery fire. Nevertheless, they managed to examine both the barrage built by the Burgundians and the location of their artillery.

Map of the battle.

The battle itself began shortly after noon. Petermann Etterlin, one of the Hauptmann commanders of the Swiss avant-garde, later wrote in his "chronicles" that they were going hastily, and many of the soldiers did not even have time to have breakfast. That is, even then they slept a long time and ate late, although it was possible that this was due to rain and the late approach of the Zurich militia. Whatever it was, the Allies lined up and left the camp, but they did not even go one kilometer, they stopped at the edge of the forest, lined up in a battle, and then Oswald von Thirstein did what Rene Lorraine did and more 100 nobles knighted. So to say, raised their morale, because to die a knight is not at all that just to die ... "a rich landowner"!

Swiss halberd weighing 2320 Metropolitan Museum. New York.

The course of the battle

After that, the Swiss infantry, reinforced by cavalry troops of the dukes of Lorraine and Austrian, began an attack at the very center of the position of the Burgundians under the din of the drums. And it was here that it turned out that there was no intelligence from Karl the Brave! He, you see, did not expect their attack, since it had rained heavily the day before. Like, the roads will be difficult, and if so, then the Swiss will not be able to approach the city. The fact that the enemy could walk in the fields, on the grass and on the routed roads would not stop him, somehow it simply did not occur to the brave duke, but he did not guess to send scouts.

Plate gauntlet 1450 Italy. Weight 331.7 Metropolitan Museum, New York.

The battle formation of the Swiss consisted of three battles of spearmen and alebardis, between which there were knights (at least 1 thousands of 800 people) and arrows. In the first line there were two battles and horsemen, in the second one. And the attack of the Swiss turned out to be completely unexpected for the Burgundians. Moreover, Karl himself was distrustful of the report of his escort, so he did not immediately give the order to declare a combat alarm, because of which a lot of time was lost, so precious in any battle.

Burgundy Pollex. Weight 2976.7 Metropolitan Museum, New York.

Nevertheless, the Burgundians were able to open heavy fire from their bombards and small cannons and were able to thwart the attack of the Swiss. But they were not scared at all, but came out from under artillery fire, turned around at 180 degrees, rebuilt and ... just changed the direction of the attack. All this perfectly describes the high combat skills of the Swiss and their discipline, and at the same time shows the low level of martial art of Karl the Bold and his entourage. Still, rebuilding in front of the enemy and close to him is a dangerous business. After all, Karl could (and should in theory!) Send his gendarmes to attack.

Battle of Murten. Panorama of Ludwig Brown "Attack of the Lorraine and Austrian cavalry."

The gendarmes of the XV century. Metropolitan Museum, New York. The armor by this time had become so strong and perfect that the need for riders' shields disappeared.

Guizarm 1490. Weight 2097.9. Metropolitan Museum, New York.

However, he did not do this, and the rebuilding itself took place so quickly that the Burgundians could neither refocus their artillery fire on them, nor build their own forces into battle order. As a result, a very heavy blow was dealt to the troops of Charles, which they could not stand. But here, seeing what was happening from the walls of the besieged Murten, his garrison opened the gates and hit the rear of the Burgundian army. Here again the question arises: how much did the Burgundian bombers not aim at the city gates? Well, just in case ?! Where were the gunmen of the siege bombardment, from which literally just fired at the city? After all, it was obvious that in the event of an attack “from the field,” the garrison would necessarily go on a sortie? But, apparently, it was all for Carl the Bold that it was just not obvious why everything happened that way, and not otherwise. As a result, in his army only those killed were from 6 to 8 thousands, and the duke himself shamefully fled from the battlefield. Moreover, a significant number of English archers hired by him fell into the number of the fallen, and the mercenaries do not like such a command, and such losers are usually not hired anymore.

Battle of Murten. Panorama of Ludwig Brown "The Burgundy Camp and the English Archers".

Battle of Murten. Panorama of Ludwig Brown. "The flight of the army of the Burgundians".

Thus, the battle of Murten once again demonstrated the high fighting qualities of the Swiss infantry. Skillfully using the terrain, she using a gunshot weapons could successfully repel attacks even knightly cavalry. In hand-to-hand combat, due to her halberds, she had a number of advantages over infantry with long peaks.

"Karl the Bold flees after the Battle of Murten." Eugene Bournand 1895

The same picture, presented in the form of a picture in the magazine "Niva". Yes, then, in order to see the pictures in color, one had to travel. Now enough to get on the Internet.

Interestingly, this battle inspired the German battle of Ludwig Brown to create a panorama of the Battle of Murten 1476, which he wrote in the 1893 year. This really huge 10 canvas on 100 m is impressive at the same time with its colorful and wide scope. True, it was written in the "romantic style", because of which the depicted individuals are excessively dramatized, and the composition looks somewhat staged. But be that as it may, this is a true work of art.

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  1. parusnik
    parusnik 1 November 2016 07: 37
    The conclusion is clear, the defeat was largely due to the weak control of their own troops by the Duke of Burgundy. Different contingents recruited from different places did not constitute a cohesive army, unlike the Swiss. Thank you Vyacheslav .. Pictures, photos are gorgeous ...
  2. Cartalon
    Cartalon 1 November 2016 10: 18
    The most interesting thing is that Karl the Bold was by no means a fool and fought all his life, his helplessness in the war with the Swiss is amazing.
  3. tiaman.76
    tiaman.76 1 November 2016 10: 51
    Karl is bold ... hmm .. bold doesn’t mean smart ... he fought a lot but didn’t achieve anything and then he lost both his life and his burgundy. by the way, thanks for the good photo -art material
  4. Mikado
    Mikado 1 November 2016 16: 17
    Another colorful article! good
    I wonder how common was pollex?
    1. kalibr
      1 November 2016 16: 38
      It is believed that very. After halberds and guizarms. There are images of tournament fights on these weapons.
      1. Mikado
        Mikado 1 November 2016 17: 02
        It used to seem to me that it was quite specific, and was used only in certain national regions. thank!
        Looking at the photo of the weapon you listed, at first you do not believe in a relatively light weight, the length of the shaft was probably 2 meters?
        At one time I read an article on Wikipedia about the Landsknechts - it seems that they and the Swiss hated each other so fiercely that they did not even take each other prisoner. And it is to the landsknechts that we are "grateful" for the words "gang" and "marauder", as well as for the famous portrait of Henry XVIII in fact in their costume ..
        I think that would be a good topic for the article. wink
        1. kalibr
          1 November 2016 21: 04
          I have an interesting book about landsknechts in my "store", although I don't remember the author offhand. Either Swiss or English. But there is ... We need to think. The topic is really interesting, you are right. But even if "yes" it will not be solved in one week. You need to re-read it, translate it, write an article, get into museums in Zurich and Bern, that is, a lot of work.
          1. Mikado
            Mikado 1 November 2016 21: 28
            Vyacheslav Olegovich, even the Wikipedia article about them is interesting, from a description of the organization and clothing, and up to a description of armor and weapons - the same flamberg or "zweichender". If you dig seriously, then you can get a wonderful cycle, while, as usual, colorful! with respect hi
  5. tanit
    tanit 1 November 2016 18: 48
    Well, there is still no arrogance. Beautiful did everything that is prescribed by the canon.
    It's not his fault. This is the merit of his opponents. After all, one hundred new knights before the battle - they fought much more efficiently than the same 100 initially. Well, and really - the infantry exhausted by the long march - well, it shouldn't have created problems. But - if there is no strength to run away, but there is strength to raise the "guizarma" - so why run ... We joke about iododefktsitis .... Yeah ...
    Dad was still saved in a hopeless battle. And almost everyone died there. And let them tell them about their iododeficiency - whoever, be it?
    1. tanit
      tanit 1 November 2016 18: 56
      Well, there was such material as "mercenaries" - the Swiss tried to save the King (then with a capital letter), Louis (before Napoleon). The mercenaries were mercenaries, but they made their way. Without waiting for a salary, leaving their wounded to be torn apart by the crowd - we got there. And then - the "king" betrayed them .. Well, he paid with his life.
      1. 3x3zsave
        3x3zsave 1 November 2016 19: 41
        And to throw mercenaries is always harmful for well-being, I’ll say for myself, although a mercenary is in a completely different area of ​​human life.
  6. Ulan
    Ulan 1 November 2016 20: 56
    Interesting article. The swan song of the chivalry era, which was already drawing to a close.
  7. Grandadmiral
    Grandadmiral 7 March 2017 16: 39
    Great article. Carlosha fell in love with this battle.
    “Karl the Brave flees” - it sounds!
  8. Ilja2016
    Ilja2016 25 July 2017 22: 04
    English combat bow is a serious thing. However, he did not help in this case.