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Baselard: Wikis


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Design for a Baselard, by Hans Holbein the Younger, c. 1534–38

The baselard (also Basilard, the name is probably from the town of Basel) or "Swiss dagger" (Schweizerdolch) is a historical Swiss blade weapon with a crescent-shaped pommel and crossguard.

The baselard's characteristic hilt features a crescent-shaped pommel and crossguard. Their curved shapes appeared as early as the 13th century and remained peculiar to Switzerland, and do not appear to have been imitated elsewhere. This distinctive hilt design can be made out in many works of Hans Holbein, for which reason the Swiss dagger was sometimes also called a Holbein dagger. Their blade was characteristically double edged, tapering to a point and was, on earlier examples, sometimes diamond shape in cross-section. This form would lend a great deal of strength to the blade, especially useful for piercing armor. The Cgm 558 Fechtbuch mentions a few techniques for unarmed defense against an attack with a baselard.

Baselards were also very popular with the Swiss pikemen throughout the 15th and 16th centuries. They were somewhere between a long dagger and a short sword, with a blade length averaging some 40 cm (16 in) in the early 15th century, reaching up to 70 cm (28 in) towards the end of the 15th century. Their handling largely corresponded to the German großes Messer.

Baselards were not usually issued as ordnance weapons, but purchased privately as secondary weapons by soldiers. For this reason, there never emerged a definite standard form, and variations in hilt and blade design remained the rule from their inception in the 13th century until the weapon's decline in the 17th century.

The baselard type of secondary weapon evolved into the 19th-century fascine knife used by artillerists. In Nazi Germany, the hilts of some political and military daggers (worn by members of SS, SA, and NSKK formations) were modelled on the Swiss baselard.

See also

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