GERMAN MOUNTED CROSSBOWMAN c.1320

An extract from Armies of the Middle Ages, Volume 2
by Ian Heath



[Based on f.359r Von Buwenburg. Codex Manesse, early 14th century. Große Heidelberger Liederhandschrift Cod. Pal. germ. 848.]
113.      GERMAN MOUNTED CROSSBOWMAN c.1320

Pictures of mounted crossbowmen are uncommon in contemporary sources and when found usually tend to depict them as indistinguishable from men-at-arms. This figure from the 'Manessa Codex' is an exception to this general rule, and in the original from which he comes he is shown participating in a cattle-raid with another such figure and a similarly-equipped lancer. Under his green-lined red surcoat he wears an off-white, long-sleeved gambeson and dark green leggings that may be tall riding boots, his only other armour comprising a hemispherical bascinet with mail aventail, and a pair of mail gauntlets. Mail as opposed to plate gauntlets remained in common use in Germany until the third quarter of the 14th century, even being occasionally found thereafter.

Mounted crossbowmen, somewhat like later dragoons, were expected to use their crossbows on horseback as well as on foot. As a result they were probably unable to use the belt-claw, windlass, or any other loading mechanism that required the co-ordination of both hands and feet (but see note to figure 16). Instead they were later to use either the expensive cranequin (in the case of wealthier men) or else the unsophisticated 'goat's-foot lever'. Cavalry crossbows were anyway invariably weaker than those used by infantrymen.

Mounted crossbowmen comprised the Reisige or armed retainers of a German knight's banner or lance, while a number of cities had their own units of mounted crossbowmen, probably mercenaries since burghers wealthy enough to fight from horseback preferred to do so in knightly fashion with lance and sword.



Next: 114-115. GERMAN INFANTRYMEN, MID-14th CENTURY in Armies of the Middle Ages, Volume 2 by Ian Heath