Battle of Cerignola

Battle of Cerignola
Part of the Second Italian War
Gonzalo Fernández de Córdoba finds the corpse of Louis d'Armagnac. Federico de Madrazo, 1835. Museo del Prado.
DateApril 28, 1503
Cerignola (present-day Italy)
ResultSpanish victory
Armoiries Espagne Catholique.svg Spain France
Commanders and leaders
Gonzalo Fernández de Córdoba
Prospero Colonna
Pedro Navarro
Fabrizio Colonna
Duke of Nemours 
Yves d'Alègre
Pierre du Terrail


20 guns


  • 650 French gendarmes
  • 1,100 light horse
  • 3,500 Swiss infantry
  • 2,500-3,500 French infantry
40 guns (arrived too late)
Casualties and losses
5002,000 killed

The Battle of Cerignola was fought on April 28, 1503, between Spanish and French armies, in Cerignola, near Bari in Southern Italy. Spanish forces, under Gonzalo Fernández de Córdoba, formed by 6,300 men, including 2,000 landsknechte, with more than 1,000 arquebusiers, and 20 cannons, defeated the French who had 9,000 men; mainly heavy gendarme cavalry and Swiss mercenary pikemen, with about 40 cannons, and led by Louis d'Armagnac, Duke of Nemours, who was killed. It was one of the first European battles won by gunpowder weapons, as the assault by Swiss pikemen and French cavalry was shattered by the fire of Spanish arquebusiers behind a ditch.


Gonzalo Fernández de Córdoba, called "El Gran Capitán" (The Great Captain), had many strategic advantages.[citation needed] . He formed his infantry into new units called "Coronelías," that were the seed of the later Tercios. They were armed with a mix of pikes, arquebuses and swords. This type of formation had revolutionized the Spanish army, which like the French, had also centred upon cavalry from the tenth to the fifteenth centuries, in the battles of the Reconquista against the Muslims in Spain. The Spanish troops had occupied the heights of Cerignola, and de Córdoba entrenched his soldiers with walls and stakes. In front of the hillside, a trench was dug in which the arquebusiers took their positions. The Spanish artillery was placed on top of the hill among the vineyards, having a good view of the entire battlefield. The jinetes, Spanish light cavalry, were placed in front of the rest of the army, while the Spanish heavy cavalry under Prospero Colonna were kept in reserve.[3]

De Córdoba's troops faced a professional French army based on the Ordonnance reforms, relying on the heavily armoured cavalry of the Compagnies d'ordonnance and mercenary Swiss pikemen, but this army had more artillery than the Spanish had. This paradox would be constant in the French armies through the first half of the sixteenth century. The French artillery would not arrive in time to take active part in the battle, however..[citation needed]