Siege of Alesia. Cupronickel Fezelen (c. 1495-1538), 1533 Rondash shields used by warriors are clearly visible
... three mines of gold went to each shield.Weapon from museums.
10 Kings 17:XNUMX
Today is our special day. We will not only continue our acquaintance with history
shield-ronda, we will not only admire samples of such shields from the collections of the Hermitage, the Metropolitan Museum and the Museum of the Army, but we will get acquainted with their history based on the testimony of a number of Spaniards who lived in the XNUMXth-XNUMXth centuries. and left us their memories.
Shield pistol 1540. Royal Arsenal, Tower, London
Let's start with Gonzalo Fernandez de Oviedo, who reports that rodela (as he calls these shields) was not used in Spain and was not known when he arrived in Italy in 1498. However, after a few years, they, he said, became very common. For example, there is a list of militias from Mallorca for 1517, in which, out of 1667 people, 493 had rondashes.
Rondash. Germany, between 1520-1540 Material: steel, leather. Technique: chasing. Diameter 58 cm.Photo: State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg
Hernán Cortez began his campaign in Mexico with seven hundred hidalgos and an equal number of swords and shields, most of which were rondas. De Oviedo directly says that the Spaniards met the Rodela in Italy, but that the armourers from the Basque Country ("Basque Country") learned how to make them already in 1512.
Sometimes the surface of the shield looked more like a festive dish than combat equipment. But on the other hand, the image on the shield was very often flattered by its owner, since sometimes he was compared with the characters depicted there. Italy, 1560-1570 Material: steel. Technique: forging, chasing, gilding. Diameter: 60,0 cm.Photo: State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg
Many authors of that time write that, being a means of defense, rodela played an important role in assaults and sieges, but not in field battles. Except for Mexico. There, it was these shields that helped fight the Indians, who had nothing to oppose them.
Another design option was medallions, most often four, but also six or eight, which depicted plot pictures. So it was possible to "draw" the most real "comics" on the board. Rondash. Italy, second half of the 60th century Material: steel. Technique: chasing, gilding. Diameter: 1847 cm. Entered the Hermitage in XNUMX; purchased from a private person. Photo: State Hermitage, St. Petersburg
In 1536, in his second book, Diego de Salazar advocated the use of the rodela in the squad of pikemen and arquebusiers. He wrote that the pike with which they are armed allows them to defend themselves against cavalry. But if you need to fight with a sword, then a shield is preferable to a lance.
Rondache with four medallions and a central image. Italy, 1570s Milan. Material: steel, copper. Technique: chasing, gilding. Diameter: 58,0 cm.Photo: State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg
He further points out that rodelier warriors, like pikemen, should be well armed, that is, wear helmets and armor, although they may do without leg protection. Protected in this way, they gain a real advantage that they would lose if they could move easily without armor, since they were able to fight the enemy at a distance of the edge of the sword.
And here is a truly multi-figured composition, and even trophies on the border and fringe! Rondash. Italy, 1560-1570 Material: steel, velvet, copper alloy. Technique: forging, chasing, gilding, engraving. Diameter: 62,0 cm. Receipt: acquired in 1836. Photo: State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg
In his opinion, it was enough to bypass the "first points of the lance" in order to defeat the spearmen, among whom few have protected arms and legs.
Don Diego gave examples from the battles of Barletta  and Ravenna , where enemy troops were defeated by the "blow of swords" of the rodellers.
Rodelier masters demonstrated amazing skill, didn't they? Although the thing in front of us is exclusively ceremonial. Germany, mid-63th century Augsburg. Material: copper. Technique: relief chasing, gilding. Diameter: XNUMX cm.Photo: State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg
I offer an excerpt from a modern account of this battle as evidence of exactly how it all happened then:
“Then, when they saw our detachment, they gathered up to eight thousand Gascons and they had a strong desire to get close to us, but ours immediately got along with them in such a close way that the peaks could no longer harm them.
Meanwhile, the warriors with swords and rodels acted like reapers in the harvest and made their way through the lances ...
Well, what can we say about all the rest and very hardworking infantry, except for the fact that from the first squad of eight thousand, she left alive at the first meeting only fifteen hundred soldiers. And then, when this detachment was defeated, she also defeated another ...
Then the French detachment began to retreat, and ours, pursuing them, defeated their artillery; and then the French fled, and ours pursued them.
However, it seems that breaking through the "hedgehog from the peak" was not easy. "
Who is fighting whom and who is winning whom is not very clear. Most likely, the Spaniards fought with the Gascons, and they attacked them first, but they came together in battle so closely that the long peaks of the fighters were useless. The outcome of the battle, as we see, was decided by the "hardworking" Spanish infantry with swords and rondashes, cutting through the ranks of the Gascon pikemen right down to their artillery.
And here is the coat of arms on the shield. It would be interesting to find out whose it is ... Rondash. Italy, early 60th century Material: steel. Technique: forging, chasing. Diameter: 1845 cm Admission: entered in XNUMX; acquired by F. Gilles in Italy, in Rome. Photo: State Hermitage, St. Petersburg
According to the testimony of Hernan Cortes (1521) and Vargas Machuca (1599), rodeliers fought poorly alone, especially without the support of cavalry and crossbowmen or riflemen. Therefore, Diego de Salazar, for example, proposed creating detachments of six thousand infantry, with three thousand pikemen, two thousand rodelier and a thousand arquebusiers, although later he suggested using also crossbowmen.
Rondache 1550 Army Museum, Paris. From such carefully traced images, it is quite possible to form an idea of how the Renaissance masters saw the warriors of Ancient Rome
Another Italian rondache of 1550 in the same figural style. Army Museum, Paris
Milan Rondache 1570-1580 with medallions and a central umbil in the form of a faun's head. Army Museum, Paris
Since in the Battle of Pavia (1525) 35% of the soldiers had firearms, the thousand arquebusiers (17% of the soldiers) proposed by Salazar clearly did not meet the requirements of the time.
That is, the rodeliers were needed, but they played a very specific role, and the rest of the time they simply stood idle in battle, especially after the musketeers began to replace the arquebusiers.
Milan Rondache 1570-1580 A popular depiction on the rondash was the face of Medusa the Gorgon. Army Museum, Paris
In 1567, Diego Gracian, in his book "De Re Militari", argued that rodela was not often used, "if not the storming or taking of the city." With all this, only a few bring it. Or "if you see a warrior with a rodela, then most likely it's the captain!"
Rondash, approx. 1560 Augsburg. Material: steel, gold. Diameter 56,5 cm.Weight 3232 Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
And this is one of the lions depicted on its surface. Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
In 1590, a book by Don Diego de Alaba and Viamont was published, which was called: "The perfect captain, trained in military discipline and new artillery science." Interestingly, its author recommended that spearmen wear a shield on their back in order to use it when it was necessary to attack the enemy. But when it was necessary to repel the attacks of the cavalry, the pike had to be held with both hands - both the infantrymen of the first line (they still had to get down on one knee!) And the second.
A ceremonial shield-rondash depicting the conversion of St. Paul, c. November 1570, XNUMX Milan. An interesting professional art history description of this shield given by the staff of the Metropolitan Museum in New York: “The round shield of blue-black steel has a slightly convex shape, with embossed chasing and notching, richly decorated with gold and silver. The outer edge is inverted and has oblique gold and silver stripes. A wide stripe along the outer edge is decorated with four embossed round medallions, framed by an embossed ribbon, inside which are portrait busts of four Roman emperors. Medallions are interconnected by ribbons, which depict trophies of antique and Renaissance weapons, bouquets of fruits and flowers, putti - the image of small naked or half-naked children in the Renaissance and classical art, dating back to ancient erotica or cupids, and striped draperies fluttering. A large circular field in the center, framed by a laurel wreath of alternating gold and silver leaves, contains the image of St. Paul's conversion. The figures are dressed in Roman armor, their bodies are silver-plated, and their costume and landscape details are decorated with various patterns. A series of holes along the edge of the shield used to hold rivets to secure the pad with an arm pad and forearm and hand straps that are now missing. The scene depicted on the shield tells about the most dramatic moment in the life of St. Paul, his conversion on the road to Damascus: “And as he walked, he approached Damascus, and suddenly there shone a light from the sky, and he fell to the ground, and heard a voice saying to him: Saul, Saul! why are you persecuting me? " (Acts of the Apostles 9: 3-4). Saul (as St. Paul was called before his conversion) is depicted as being thrown to the ground, his horse collapsed under him, his hands shielded his eyes from the blinding vision. Two of his soldiers try to help him while the rest of his group stares in amazement or flees in horror. The landscape that opens up in the background includes a city with domed buildings, pyramids and statues, while on the left, three tiny figures can be seen: the blind Saul, being led by two comrades to Damascus. Round or oval iron shields with relief embossed scenes taken from ancient, biblical or even modern history, or from classical mythology, were the specialty of Milanese armourers and jewelers in the second half of the XNUMXth century. These shields were often accompanied by open helmets such as burgonets or cabassets, appropriately decorated, which, when worn with a cloth suit, chain mail, or even plate armor of the Roman counterpart, constituted ceremonial armor in a heroic style. The embossed iron, richly colored and decorated with gold and silver, served as an excellent medium for depicting complex figurative scenes, which were usually based on engravings by Italian and French masters. The graphic sources for the decoration of this shield can be identified: the putti and bunches of fruits and flowers, suspended on ribbons decorating the rim, appear to be based on engravings by the French engraver Jean Mignon at Fontainebleau, and scenes of the conversion of Saint Paul on engravings on the same theme by the Parisian engraver Etienne Delon. Delon's engraving is not dated, but it should have been issued before 1567, when a replica was published by Mario Catharo in Rome. In light of the fact that there are no major differences between Delon's print and Kataro's copy, it is impossible to determine which print served as a model for the gunsmith's work. If Kataro's engraving was used, the shield must be dated 1567. The conversion of Saint Paul seems to have been a popular Christian theme for decorating shields-rondashes and was found on two shields in the Army Museum in Paris (inv. I.65 and I.79), four shields in Armeria Reale, in Turin (inv. F.17, F.19, F.20 and F.21), and on a cassette in the Wallace collection, London (inv. No. A. 133). The Cabassette scene also appears to be based on an engraving by Delon or Catharo. Material: steel, gold, silver. Diameter 56,2 see Weight 3742,1 Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
According to Martin de Egilus (1595), the armament of the rondachier, that is, the shield and the sword, should have been exactly the captain - the commander of the pikemen company. A cuirass and a helmet must have been complemented by a buckler or rodela shield, and decorated with a fringe along the edge, because it is beautiful, and so that everyone can see that its owner is the captain!
Another ceremonial shield-rondash depicting Saint George killing a dragon. OK. 1560-1570 Milan. “The Italian armourers of the mid to late 1575th century produced armor with surprisingly rich and sophisticated decor. They used a technique known as embossing or repusse ("gouging") - embellishing metal by extruding a relief pattern from the back surface, and then chiselling and filing the details on the front side. Since this method seriously weakened the shield plate and removed smooth surfaces from it that served to deflect weapons, the embossed armor was created exclusively for ceremonial use on military and civil holidays. Following the traditions of the Negroli armory workshop, the Milanese armourers developed new pictorial and sculptural styles of armor decoration. Shields, helmets, and whole armor were adorned with intricate, multi-figured scenes from ancient history, legends, mythology, and the Bible. To further enrich the raised surfaces, they were often decorated with gold or silver to contrast better with the reddish brown or blued background. The best armor decorator of this period was Lucio Piccinino (active circa 1590–59,1), who was reputed to have designed, minted and decorated the armor himself, combining skills usually assigned to individual craftsmen. Material: steel, gold, silver. Diameter 3810 cm.Weight XNUMX Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
From the reverse side, this shield is almost more interesting to look at than from the front! Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
“It protects well enough against the arquebus, and even if a musket fires, it is still better to have it than not to have it. So let the captain of the arquebusier company also serve with the same shield, since it frees the wearer from the need to wear a strong but heavy breastplate, which still will not give him protection from a musket shot.
According to the author, all soldiers had to be able to use a pike, halberd, arquebus, sword, dagger and buckler, as well as ride a horse and swim, that is, from the ability to use a fencing shield even in 1595, when de Egilus's book appeared, was not yet refused!
Don Bernardino de Mendoza also writes that in May 1652 the Catalan soldiers defending Montjuïc attacked the fort of San Farriol and attacked with "sword and shield, and with great courage."
Rondashes in the catalog of the Royal Armory in Madrid have a diameter of 0,54 to 0,62 m. They can be smooth or with a point in place of the umbilicus. Their weight is also indicated: the lightest - 2,76 kg. There were also very heavy ones, giving protection even from a musket: 17,48 kg and 11,5 kg. On average, a combat shield designed to protect against a bullet weighed from 8 to 15 kg.
Rodela was also used on naos ("big ships") and galleys. In 1535, it was established that ships with 100 crew on board must have at least a dozen rodel.
But, of course, much more often there were rondashes, either ceremonial, or ... of the palace guard, in fact, also ceremonial. These shields were often in the form of a drop, similar to those of medieval shields.
For example, this was the shield of Henry II of France (reigned 1547-1559), made ca. 1555 The scene in the center of the shield is believed to depict the victory of Hannibal and the Carthaginians over the Romans at Cannes in 216 BC, which can be interpreted as an allusion to France's struggle against the Holy Roman Empire in the XNUMXth century. Along the edge of the shield are intertwined letters: "H" - Henry II; and "C" - Catherine de Medici, queen, his consort; and possibly also a "D" for Diane de Poitiers, the mistress. The initials are interspersed with crescents, the king's personal badge and a reference to the moon goddess Diana and her namesake Diane de Poitiers.
The design of the shield is very similar to the series of armor designs attributed to Etienne Delon, Jean Cousin the Elder and Baptiste Pellerin, artists who worked in Paris during his reign. Material: steel, gold, silver. Diameter 63,5 cm.Weight 3175 g. Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
Detail of a shield close-up. Well, then they loved the image of "crooked swords", which speaks of the obvious spread of Turkish influence in Europe and a certain pictorial tradition: they say, everything ancient has eastern roots! Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
In 1619, Pedro Chiron, the third Duke of Osuna, sent 19 arquebusses, 425 muskets, 170 pikes, 475 stockings, 425 shields, 144 incendiary bombs, 204 boxes of ammunition, 19 barrels of gunpowder, 565 centners of lead in bullets to 90 galleys of the Kingdom of Naples.
An interesting type of rondash was the so-called rifle shield, or pistol shield, created for King Henry VIII of England in 1544 by the master Giovanni Battista from Ravenna. This is a regular rondash shield, but with a hole in the center for the barrel of a pistol. The peculiarity of the pistol was that it was loaded from the breech. For observing the enemy and aiming, there was a window covered with a frequent lattice. Victoria and Albert Museum, London
Henry liked this military curiosity so much that he immediately ordered a hundred of these shields for his guards. But it soon became clear that the large weight interferes with aiming, since it is difficult to hold the shield in the air without support, and it is simply impossible to load.
However, employees of the Victoria and Albert Museum found out that the armor shields of the era of Henry VIII from their collection were used in battles, or at least they were fired from them more than once, since traces of gunpowder were found on them ... Such shields were also found on board the ship Mary Rose ". It is possible that at sea they were used for firing from an emphasis on the side while repelling boarding.
A very popular theme for these shields was the Trojan War and its heroes. This is where it was possible to show everything, as, for example, on this shield ok. 1580-1590, made in France. His mythological scenes include the abduction of Helen (bottom left), the struggle between Achilles and Hector in front of Priam and his court (bottom right), the battles at sea and on land between the Greeks and the Trojans (center), and the dragging of a wooden horse through the gates of Troy (above) ... Material: steel. Diameter 64,1 cm.Weight 4080 g. Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
View of the inner surface of this shield. Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
Well, over time, the rondashi took their place on the walls of castles and palaces. It turned out that they very effectively cover the place of the crosshair of the pikes, halberds and protasans, and also because of them two-handed swords peep out very effectively. That is, they turned into an element of the interior ...
PS The administration of the site and the author of the material would like to thank the Deputy Director General of the State Hermitage, Chief Curator S. B. Adaksina and T. I. Kireeva (Publications Department) for permission to use photographic materials from the State Hermitage's website and for assistance in working with illustrative photographic materials.