Focus on.. the Arbalest


Today we are going to take a look at one of the roles mentioned in the Burgundian Ordinances, namely  – The Arbelest, otherwise known as the crossbowman.

We covered the Ordinances in a different article, but to recollect the equipment specification for an Arbalest was as follows:

Arbalest (Crossbowmen)
Sallet, bevor or maille standard, brigandine over padded jack, leg harness. Crossbow and quiver, bastard sword, dagger.

It is obvious when looking at contemporary manuscripts that a martial context needs to be split out from a civilian context. Although there are a number of fantastic images of crossbows from the time, many are in use during hunting for example.

Below are a selection of images where we believe show the arbalest in a martial context:



Looking at the images it is immediately apparent that they do not 100% match the equipment level in the Ordinances in each case. Some are more heavily armoured, some less so. Leg armour particularly is variable. Hence some variety might perhaps be permitted.  All are wearing some form of body protection above a padded garment – though not so padded as to alter the shape of the higher layers.

Pavaises are also used to protect the arbalest whist he is loading.


Below are images of our reference interpretation for a arbalest in the Companye.

Photos by Matthew D Crosby Photographics

His shoes are leather, and he wears hose tight to the leg. His primary protection is a 5 ft pavaise which covers him whilst he loads his powerful crossbow, it is so strong it requires a goats foot mechanical aid to do so. His quiver of bolts hangs from his belt ready for use.

Over his shirt he wears a padded doublet, above which he wears a maille shirt and brigandine. He has forgone his maille standard in this instance – only time will tell if that was the right choice for this battle.  His helmet will protect him when shooting above the top of the pavaise.

His pouch hangs from his belt and perhaps contains his firelighting kit, the money he has in the world, and some dry rations. He has a general purpose bullock dagger,  and his sword is his secondary weapon after the crossbow.

Notes on References & Sources:

The Helmet choice is from the mounted crossbowman in the Wolfegg Hausbuch.


The arrow in the mouth during loading is a nod to an earlier manuscript illustration.


Though pouches are rare in a military context, there is some supporting evidence.



Shoes, Belt, Pouch – Phil Fraser

Hose, Shirt – Historic Enterprises

Brigandine – Armour Services Historical

Helmet – Arma Bohemia

Pavaise  – Sir William Harrington’s Companye

Crossbow & bolts – Chris Swidwa

Maille – Cap a Pied

Dagger – Tod’s Stuff


  1. Leave a comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: