'We crossed the Alps in 40kg of armour'

Historian retraces the route of 16th-century French king's troops

26 July 2019
By Selma Daddi

An historian has shared these photos with Connexion of how he and 40 others crossed the Alps with horses and donkeys, wearing 40kg of armour in a re-enactment of the conditions faced by French king François I and his troops before the Battle of Marignano in 1515.

The king went through Col de Var et de Larche to go to Italy, whereas a part of his troops guided by one of France’s greatest heroes the Chevalier de Bayard took an alternative route, probably passing by the Col de Mary.

Historian and lecturer at Grenoble University, Stéphane Gal, chose this second route for the re-enactment.

Paralympic cycling champion Patrick Ceria was part of the group and the project had financial help from the Australian and Irish businessman Cameron O’Reilly, who lives in the region and liked the idea. They worked on this project for two years.

On July 6, they walked from Maljasset, passing through the Col de Mary to reach the Italian border, at an altitude of 2,641metres - wearing the heavy armour.

Mr Gal said: “It was not a pleasant walk. It was hard and dangerous. The horses were scared to go through the streams and two of our experts got hurt.”

The group was not able to come back by walking as a storm struck the day after.

The project had a scientific goal to measure the effort and to see how the human body reacts when wearing metallic armour.

The crossing – and their findings - will be the subject of a documentary released in November for the mountain and science festival of Grenoble.

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