Weapons and Armour

LOCATION

Bastion, room n°35 
Keep, room n°42 

Chillon castle has three weapons rooms spread throughout the “fortress” part of the building.

Two floors of the dungeon are reserved for weapons from the Middle Ages to the 17th century – swords, masses, arquebuses and halberds – and the defense tower with armor, including a chain mail.

The defence tower houses three suits of armour, including chain mail.

When archaeologist and art historian Aloys de Molin (1861-1914) became the castle curator in 1893, he set about purchasing a series of items to furnish the castle. He acquired valuable pieces at auction, such as statues and leaded windows, but also weapons and armour. In doing so, he built one of the main axes for the future museum imagined for Chillon.

Twenty years later, Albert Naef (1862-1936), castle architect and the first archaeologist for the canton of Vaud, boosted the collection’s level of quality by intervening during Eugène Aunant’s bequest. The weapons were then distributed between the Cantonal Museum of Archaeology and History in Lausanne and Chillon castle. Naef favoured quality and authenticity over quantity: he most notably recovered a German double-handed sword, dating from 1536, and a 17th-century harquebus made in a workshop in Lucerne. Subsequently, he invested more and more money in acquiring weaponry for the rest of the castle.

The collections were still mostly added to by means of donations, deposits and bequests. Almost all the halberds exhibited come from Charles Marcel’s depot, which the Association for the Restoration of Chillon Castle took over in 1970. More recently, in 2004, the Bron donation helped the castle acquire a 19th-century copy of a 16th-century German suit of plate-armour.

Under the diection of Lionel PERNET, Révéler les invisibles : Collections du Musée cantonal d’archéologie et d’histoire de Lausanne. 1852-2015, Gollion : Infolio Editions, 2017.Nicolas P. BAPTISTE, Armatus corpus : Princes et chevalier (1330-1530). 600 ans du duché de Savoie, Gollion : Infolio Editions, 2016

Weapons

Crossbow and arrowheads

LOCATION
Second floor of the keep, room n°46

Located on the second floor of the keep, the permanent exhibition of old weapons of Chillon castle includes a crossbow and a series of arrowheads dating from the medieval period, as well as a jack called a “windlass” to reload the bolts on the weapons.  

In Switzerland, the first indicated crossbow appears on the seal of Councillor Johann von Hildisrieden of Lucerne in 1235. Although slow, this weapon is precise, powerful (crossbows shoot arrows at more than 300 kilometers per hour) and easy to handle. This makes it an extremely deadly object. The Church forbids its use, but European sovereigns do not take this into account.

The model presented in Chillon – a donation made by a private individual in 1825 – dates from the 15th century. It is made of fruit wood with inlays of deer antlers and horn. Originally, the bow at the front of the weapon was covered with painted birch bark. Its range is estimated at 150 meters, beyond the usual 70-90 meters. When it was manufactured, crossbows became so rigid that jacks were needed to bind them, like the windlass presented in the exhibition window (17th century). After the appearance of firearms, their use was reserved for hunting. Finally, in the 19th century, they became sports weapons.

All of them found at the castle during archaeological excavations carried out at the turn of the 20th century, the various points presented date from the 13th to 15th centuries. They tend to tighten and lengthen, and make it possible to appreciate the enormous size of the projectiles.

Crossbow
15th century
Wood, deer antler, horn
Musée cantonal d’archéologie et d’histoire, Lausanne
MCAHL 00736
Gift from M. Rossier (?), 1825

Windlass
17-18th century
Unspecified metal
Musée cantonal d’archéologie et d’histoire, Lausanne
MCAHL 00736
Unknown origin

Arrowhead (crossbow bolt or arrow)
13-14th century
Unspecified metal
Musée cantonal d’archéologie et d’histoire, Lausanne
PM/1044
Found in the moat in 1903

Crossbow quarrel (large crossbow)
14-15th century
Unspecified metal
Musée cantonal d’archéologie et d’histoire, Lausanne
PM/1054
Found in the Tower Z1 in 1903

Arrowhead (crossbow bolt or arrow)
14-15th century
Unspecified metal
Musée cantonal d’archéologie et d’histoire, Lausanne
PM/1056
Found in the 4th courtyard in 1900

Arrowhead (crossbow bolt or arrow)
14-15th century
Unspecified metal
Musée cantonal d’archéologie et d’histoire, Lausanne
PM/1057
Found in the 4th courtyard in 1900

Arrowhead (crossbow bolt or arrow)
14-15th century
Unspecified metal
Musée cantonal d’archéologie et d’histoire, Lausanne
PM/1058
Found in the 4th courtyard in 1900

Arrowhead (crossbow bolt or arrow)
14-15th century
Unspecified metal
Musée cantonal d’archéologie et d’histoire, Lausanne
PM/1059
Found in the 4th courtyard in 1900

Arrowhead (crossbow bolt or arrow)
14-15th century
Unspecified metal
Musée cantonal d’archéologie et d’histoire, Lausanne
PM/1060
Found in the 4th courtyard in 1900

Matchlock arquebus.

LOCATION
Second floor of the keep, room n°46

 

This arquebus, which came to Chillon castle in July 1913, is part of a set of thirty items bequeathed by Doctor Eugène Aunant of Lausanne. The batch was probably distributed between two institutions by local archaeologist Albert Naef: the castle and the Vieux-Lausanne Association. Most of these weapons and armour are now kept in the Cantonal Museum of Archaeology and History, with the exception of this arquebus and a 15th-century coat of mail, exhibited at Chillon.

On its octagonal barrel, the arquebus bears the hallmark of the town of Lucerne and that of the Lucerne-based gunsmith, Hans Horwer; the latter is mentioned in sources from 1605 to 1602. Consequently, this gun can be dated back to 1600-1620.
It was probably used in shooting ranges and for hunting deer. Furthermore, the rifled barrel enabled extremely accurate shots. It is testament to a type of firearm that emerged at the beginning of the 15th century, which was difficult to handle, heavy and had to be supported by a forked rest.
Arquebuses quickly became a pretext for rich decoration and true regalia. This item is a clear example of this, with its luxuriously decorated grip and barrel, encrusted with engraved gold and mother-of-pearl. The barrel is adorned with floral, rinceau, and feather motifs, along with animals, genre art and landscapes.
The grip, on the other hand, depicts a famous story from Greek mythology: The Judgement of Paris. At the far end, the goddesses Aphrodite, Hera and Athena have been brought together by the god Hermes, who features in the centre with his emblem, the caduceus. At the top of the handle, Paris, dressed in 15th century clothing, is sat on a throne flanked by his horse and dogs. He is preparing to offer Aphrodite, the goddess of love, the prized apple for the most beautiful goddess.
This arquebus is one of the most stunning testaments to this style of 15th century weapon in all of Switzerland.

Armour

Iron half suit of armour

LOCATION
Second floor of the keep, room n°46

This plated suit of armour has been dated back to the 1560s through stylistic cross-checking with other contemporary examples. The top right-hand side of the chest guard bears the hallmark of the Hofmann armourer line. The Hofmanns were of German origin and based in Frauenfeld (Canton of Thurgau) from 1552.

This suit of armour probably joined the Chillon collections in around 1893. That year, the castle curator, Aloys de Molin (1861-1914)attended an auction organised by the antique dealer, Gubler, in Zürich. Since furniture was being sold at exorbitant prices, he settled for weapons and armour, purchasing around 20 items. This half suit of armour is made up of 12 elements pieced together with leather straps: breastplate and backplate, gorget, arms, gauntlets, segmented tassets (two pieces of plate armour designed to protect the thighs), and finally the codpiece, a fairy rare item used to cover the crotch. The only part missing is the visitor, which protected the face.
The year 1592 is engraved in the centre of the breastplate. Since the armour was manufactured prior to this date, it must allude to an important event; it could perhaps be linked to the Frauenfeld Shooting Society, whose memebers were depicted on a painted wooden panel this exact year.

This armour was extensively restored in 2014. It underwent treatment to uncover its orginal, so-called “white” colour – obtained through polishing after forging – which had been forging – which had been altered due to corrison. It had formerly been considered a black suit of armour.

Half suit of armour 
Circa 1560
German or Swiss 
Iron, copper-based alloy and leat 
her
MCAHL

inv : 00161

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