The Battle of Murten (Morat), by Schilling the Elder
Official Bernese Chronicle


Diebold Schilling: Amtliche Berner Chronik, Band 3
Manuscript title: Diebold Schilling: Official Bernese Chronicle, Volume 3
Place of origin: Bern
Date of origin: 1478-1483
Medium: Most fine vellum, translucent in some places.
Size: 38 x 27.5 to 28 cm



An extract from Armies of the Middle Ages, Volume 1 by Ian Heath
MORAT (MURTEN), 22 June 1476

Charles the Bold, besieging Morat on the shores of the lake of the same name with an army of perhaps only 10,000 men, and at the most 12-15,000, was attacked by a superior Swiss force of some 25,000 infantry, plus 1,800 cavalry from Lorraine, Alsace and Swabia under René, Duc de Lorraine. (Commynes gives the Swiss 11,000 pikemen, 10,000 halberdiers, 10,000 culverineers and 4,000 cavalry - highly improbable figures, but interesting proportions.)

Charles ordered his army to take up position behind the Grünhag, a defensive palisade and ditch he had constructed to protect his encampment against any Confederate attempts to relieve Morat, but after several false alarms over a period of several days he had - on the very morning of the battle - ordered most of his troops to stand down, leaving only 2,000 archers and handgunners (many of the former English) and 1,200 horse to guard the Grünhag.

That afternoon the Swiss advanced in echelon towards the Burgundian entrenchments, their Vorhut of 5,000 men (with René's cavalry on their left flank), the Gewalthut of 12,000 and the Nachhut of 7,000. The Vorhut was met with heavy bow, handgun and light artillery fire from the Grünhag which momentarily brought its advance to a halt, but its Schwyzer contingent managed to bypass the earthworks and fall on the Burgundian flank, while a pike charge by the main Vorhut swiftly overran the Grünhag and pushed rapidly on towards Charles' main encampment. Successive Burgundian units coming up to the Grünhag's defense were swept aside by the momentum of the Swiss advance, and soon the majority of the Burgundian army - with the exception of their men-at-arms - was in flight. However, clever manoeuvring of the Gewalthut and Nachhut had effectively cut off escape to the south, in the process killing or driving most of the Italian division of Troylo da Rossano, which had been prosecuting the siege, into the Lake of Morat, and few were able to escape in that direction. Retreat to the north was made equally difficult by a detached Swiss unit positioned to the north-east of the lake for this very purpose, but the Savoyard division of Jacques, Comte de Romont, which had not been involved in the main fight, nevertheless managed to fight its way out eastwards.

Commynes says witnesses reported that the Burgundians lost 8,000 regular soldiers and 'many common people' (presumably non-combatants), perhaps to a total of 18,000. Of the soldiers some half were from Rossano's division and most were infantrymen. In addition another 200 pieces of artillery were lost. The Swiss allegedly lost only 410 men, mostly Bernese from the Vorhut killed in the first volleys from the Grünhag. However, the Duke of Milan's envoy, who was present in the Burgundian camp, reports that the Swiss lost 3,000 men, which seems more probable.


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