Christian Orders of Battle in the Reconquista

The DBM Medieval Spanish list stops before the final war with Granada, so I wondered what the invasion army might have looked like.

Castilian at Fall of Granada 1487-92

Oman (1991) in his “Art of War in the Sixteenth Century” has a bit to say on the Spanish at the start of the Italian Wars

  • He mentions “earlier” (i.e. pre-Italian Wars) Spanish armies including Aragonese sword and buckler men.
  • Gonsalvo de Cordova led 600 cavalry (100 men-at-arms, 500 genitors) and 1500 foot (mostly aragonese sword-and-buckler, many crossbowmen, a few arquebusiers) into Calabria in 1495.
  • Oman says Cordova relied on his Genitors over all other troops arms until they got routed by French Gendarms and his infantry were rolled over by Swiss Pikes (in 1496)
  • Which is why he reorganised the foot to include pikes.

Mariejol (1961) in his “Spain of Ferdinand and Isabella” has a bit to say on the army as well:

  • Quoting the Venetian Navagero, the war of Granada was “lovely” because firearms weren’t used much and cavalry still shone.
  • The light Jinetes were well suited to the skirmish warfare in the Granadine mountains (compared to the men-at-arms).
  • After the War of Granada Ferdinand formed an old guard (guardas viejas) of 2,500 (ish) horse in 25 companies of 100. Sounds a bit like Ordenance Men-at-arms to me, although only 998 were men-at-arms and 1,843 were Jinetes.
  • Prior to 1503 the Spanish foot entered battle untrained. we know this because Gonzalo de Ayora was proposing the then radical concept of training the Spanish foot in marches, evolutions, and manoeuvres as he’d seen done with the Swiss.
  • in 1496 the “lightly armed” Spanish foot were excellent for broken ground as in Granada, but were incapable of holding firm in open country (as against the Swiss pikes)
  • When the Great Captain reformed his foot, 1/2 got pikes, 1/3 were sword and buckler and the remaining 1/6 were arquebusiers.

Then there is the Osprey book by David Nicolle called “Granada 1492”

  • A variety of European mercenaries were used including English Archers and axemen, Swiss Infantry, Burgundian gunners and artillerymen.
  • Some Granadine troops acted as temporary allies of the Spanish in the final campaigns.
  • Some Guanches – natives of the Canary islands fought at the final siege
  • The militias provided about 5 times as many foot soldiers as mounted; but the noble and religious contingents included about 40% more horse than foot.
  • The Royal Guard was created in 1493 – after the War in Granada.

Michael Anastasiadis mentioned some relevant points on the DBM Discussion forum:

  • Also, you should note Cardinal Ximenes’ battle of Oran (1502/3?), where
    there is a magnificent tapestry depicting the event. The arquebusiers are
    prominent to the fore, many wearing sallets and for body armour, all wear
    either a breast-plate or a studded leather jerkin. The infantry virtually
    all wear dark red boots and shades of red, pink and crimson are what
    virtually all of the infantry tunics are shown. There are also Spanish
    jinetes shown on the tapestry who wear a pale pink or peach coloured
    studded jerkin, with the typical heart-shaped shield all in white with the
    edge picked out in a bold red colour.
  • I would not use any bowmen figures and you can also forget about slingers
    and unarmoured javelinmen. All infantry universally wore armour of some
    description: either a jacket made of mail, a breast-plate or studded
    leather jerkin: no unarmoured nandy-pandy boys, these guys mean business!

Gush (1975) says

  • The Brotherhood (Hermandad) was a militia from the fortified cities. This provide the main component of the Spanish army. It comprised foot and horse. The foot were organised into battalions of 10 companies and 50. The Hermandad uniform was a woollen tunic with hood and flared sleeves, in white with a red cross front and back. Trousers/hose were red. The Spanish favoured Sallet helmets. In 1490 the Hermandad foot of Andalusia had 7% firearms, 33.5 % crossbowmen, 42% spearmen or pikemen, and the rest pioneers and craftsmen.
  • The Provincial Militia served mainly against rebellions. In 1577 (after our period) they were 33.5% crossbowmen and 66.5% arquebusiers.
  • In the1490s the royals formed a Gendarmerie and Constabulary of the Ordinance. The Constabulary were infantry in companies of 100 men. 1/3 were pikemen (imitation Swiss), 1/3 sword and buckler men, and 1/3 crossbowmen and arquebusiers.


Gush, G. (1975). Renaissance Armies 1480-1650. Patrick Stephens.

Heath, I. (1980). Armies of the Dark Ages 600-1066 (2nd ed.). Wargames Research Group.

Heath, I. (1982). Armies of the Middle Ages, volume 1. Wargames Research Group.

Heath, I. (1989). Armies of Feudal Europe 1066-1300 (2nd ed.). Wargames Research Group.

Nicolle, D. (1998). The Fall of Granada 1481-1492: The twilight of Moorish Spain (Campaign Series 53). Osprey.

Kennedy, H. (1996). Muslim Spain and Portugal: A political history of al-Andalus. London: Longman.

Oman, C. (1987). A History of the Art of War in the Sixteenth Century. London: Greenhill Books. Originally published 1937.

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