|Battle of Bicocca|
|Part of the Italian War of 1521–26|
Lombardy in 1522. The location of the battle is marked.
|Commanders and leaders|
|Casualties and losses|
The Battle of Bicocca or La Bicocca (Italian : Battaglia della Bicocca) was fought on 27 April 1522, during the Italian War of 1521–26. A combined French and Venetian force under Odet of Foix, Viscount of Lautrec, was decisively defeated by an Imperial–Spanish and Papal army under the overall command of Prospero Colonna. Lautrec then withdrew from Lombardy, leaving the Duchy of Milan in Imperial hands.
Italian is a Romance language of the Indo-European language family. Italian descended from the Vulgar Latin of the Roman Empire and, together with Sardinian, is by most measures the closest language to it of the Romance languages. Italian is an official language in Italy, Switzerland, San Marino and Vatican City. It has an official minority status in western Istria. It formerly had official status in Albania, Malta, Monaco, Montenegro (Kotor) and Greece, and is generally understood in Corsica and Savoie. It also used to be an official language in the former Italian East Africa and Italian North Africa, where it still plays a significant role in various sectors. Italian is also spoken by large expatriate communities in the Americas and Australia. Italian is included under the languages covered by the European Charter for Regional or Minority languages in Bosnia and Herzegovina and in Romania, although Italian is neither a co-official nor a protected language in these countries. Many speakers of Italian are native bilinguals of both Italian and other regional languages.
France, officially the French Republic, is a country whose territory consists of metropolitan France in Western Europe and several overseas regions and territories. The metropolitan area of France extends from the Mediterranean Sea to the English Channel and the North Sea, and from the Rhine to the Atlantic Ocean. It is bordered by Belgium, Luxembourg and (Germany) to the northeast, Switzerland and Italy to the east, and Andorra and Spain to the south. The overseas territories include French Guiana in South America and several islands in the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian oceans. The country's 18 integral regions span a combined area of 643,801 square kilometres (248,573 sq mi) and a total population of 67.02 million. France is a unitary semi-presidential republic with its capital in Paris, the country's largest city and main cultural and commercial centre. Other major urban areas include Lyon, Marseille, Toulouse, Bordeaux, Lille and Nice.
The Republic of Venice or Venetian Republic, traditionally known as La Serenissima, was a sovereign state and maritime republic in what is now northeastern Italy, which existed for over a millennium between the 7th century and the 18th century from 697 AD until 1797 AD. It was based in the lagoon communities of the historically prosperous city of Venice, and was a leading European economic and trading power during the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. Citizens spoke primarily the still-surviving Venetian language, although publishing in (Florentine) Italian language became the norm during the Renaissance and after.
Having been driven from Milan by an Imperial advance in late 1521, Lautrec had regrouped, attempting to strike at Colonna's lines of communication. When the Swiss mercenaries in French service did not receive their pay, however, they demanded an immediate battle, and Lautrec was forced to attack Colonna's fortified position in the park of the Arcimboldi Villa Bicocca, north of Milan. The Swiss pikemen advanced over open fields under heavy artillery fire to assault the Imperial positions, but were halted at a sunken road backed by earthworks. Having suffered massive casualties from the fire of Spanish arquebusiers, the Swiss retreated. Meanwhile, an attempt by French cavalry to flank Colonna's position proved equally ineffective. The Swiss, unwilling to fight further, marched off to their cantons a few days later, and Lautrec retreated into Venetian territory with the remnants of his army.
Milan is a city in northern Italy, capital of Lombardy, and the second-most populous city in Italy after Rome, with the city proper having a population of 1,395,274 while its metropolitan city has a population of 3,257,535. Its continuously built-up urban area has a population estimated to be about 5,270,000 over 1,891 square kilometres. The wider Milan metropolitan area, known as Greater Milan, is a polycentric metropolitan region that extends over central Lombardy and eastern Piedmont and which counts an estimated total population of 7.5 million, making it by far the largest metropolitan area in Italy and the 54th largest in the world. Milan served as capital of the Western Roman Empire from 286 to 402 and the Duchy of Milan during the medieval period and early modern age.
Swiss mercenaries (Reisläufer) were notable for their service in foreign armies, especially the armies of the Kings of France, throughout the Early Modern period of European history, from the Later Middle Ages into the Age of the European Enlightenment. Their service as mercenaries was at its peak during the Renaissance, when their proven battlefield capabilities made them sought-after mercenary troops. There followed a period of decline, as technological and organizational advances counteracted the Swiss' advantages. Switzerland's military isolationism largely put an end to organized mercenary activity; the principal remnant of the practice is the Pontifical Swiss Guard at the Vatican.
Bicocca is a district ("quartiere") of Milan, Italy, part of the Zone 9 administrative division. It was incorporated in the city in 1841. The main historic landmark of the district is the 15th century Villa Arcimboldi. In the last decades of the 20th century, the district has been subject to a major requalification project that led to the construction of important facilities such as the University of Milan Bicocca seats and the Teatro degli Arcimboldi theatre.
The battle is noted chiefly for marking the end of the Swiss dominance among the infantry of the Italian Wars, and of the Swiss method of assaults by massed columns of pikemen without support from other troops. It was also one of the first engagements in which firearms played a decisive role on the battlefield.
The Italian Wars, often referred to as the Great Wars of Italy and sometimes as the Habsburg–Valois Wars, were a long series of wars fought between 1494 and 1559 in Italy during the Renaissance. The Italian peninsula, economically advanced but politically divided between several states, became the main battleground for European supremacy. The conflicts involved the major powers of Italy and Europe, in a series of events that followed the end of the 40-years long Peace of Lodi agreed in 1454 with the formation of an Italic League.
At the start of the war in 1521, Holy Roman Emperor Charles V and Pope Leo X moved jointly against the Duchy of Milan, the principal French possession in Lombardy. A large Papal force under Federico II Gonzaga, Duke of Mantua, together with Spanish troops from Naples and some smaller Italian contingents, concentrated near Mantua.The German forces which Charles sent south to aid this venture passed through Venetian territory near Valeggio unmolested; the combined Papal, Spanish, and Imperial army then proceeded into French territory under the command of Prospero Colonna. For the next several months, Colonna fought an evasive war of maneuver against Odet of Foix, Viscount of Lautrec, the French commander, besieging cities but refusing to give battle.
The Holy Roman Empire was a multi-ethnic complex of territories in Western and Central Europe that developed during the Early Middle Ages and continued until its dissolution in 1806 during the Napoleonic Wars. The largest territory of the empire after 962 was the Kingdom of Germany, though it also included the neighboring Kingdom of Bohemia and Kingdom of Italy, plus numerous other territories, and soon after the Kingdom of Burgundy was added. Its size gradually diminished over time, particularly from 1648 onward, and by the time of its dissolution, it largely contained only German-speaking territories, plus the Kingdom of Bohemia which was bordered by the German lands on three sides.
Charles V was Holy Roman Emperor from 1519, King of Spain from 1516, and ruling prince of the Habsburg Netherlands from 1506. Head of the rising House of Habsburg during the first half of the 16th century, his dominions in Europe included the Holy Roman Empire extending from Germany to northern Italy with direct rule over Austria and the Low Countries, and a unified Spain with its southern Italian kingdoms of Naples, Sicily, and Sardinia. Furthermore, his reign encompassed both the long-lasting Spanish and short-lived German colonizations of the Americas. The personal union of the European and American territories of Charles V was the first collection of realms labelled "the empire on which the sun never sets".
Pope Leo X, born Giovanni di Lorenzo de' Medici, was pope from 9 March 1513 to his death in 1521.
By the autumn of 1521, Lautrec, who was holding a line along the Adda river to Cremona, began to suffer massive losses from desertion, particularly among his Swiss mercenaries.Colonna took the opportunity this offered and, advancing close to the Alps, crossed the Adda at Vaprio; Lautrec, lacking infantry and assuming the year's campaign to be over, withdrew to Milan. Colonna had no intention of stopping his advance, however. On the night of November 23, he launched a surprise attack on the city, overwhelming the Venetian troops defending one of the walls. Following some abortive street-fighting, Lautrec withdrew to Cremona with about 12,000 men.
The Adda is a river in North Italy, a tributary of the Po. It rises in the Alps near the border with Switzerland and flows through Lake Como. The Adda joins the Po a few kilometres upstream of Cremona. It is 313 kilometres (194 mi) long. The highest point of the drainage basin is the summit of la Spedla, at 4,020 metres (13,190 ft).
Cremona is a city and comune in northern Italy, situated in Lombardy, on the left bank of the Po River in the middle of the Pianura Padana. It is the capital of the province of Cremona and the seat of the local city and province governments. The city of Cremona is especially noted for its musical history and traditions, including some of the earliest and most renowned luthiers, such as Giuseppe Guarneri, Antonio Stradivari, Francesco Rugeri, Vincenzo Rugeri, and several members of the Amati family.
The Alps are the highest and most extensive mountain range system that lies entirely in Europe, and stretching approximately 1,200 kilometres (750 mi) across eight Alpine countries : France, Switzerland, Monaco, Italy, Liechtenstein, Austria, Germany, and Slovenia. The mountains were formed over tens of millions of years as the African and Eurasian tectonic plates collided. Extreme shortening caused by the event resulted in marine sedimentary rocks rising by thrusting and folding into high mountain peaks such as Mont Blanc and the Matterhorn. Mont Blanc spans the French–Italian border, and at 4,810 m (15,781 ft) is the highest mountain in the Alps. The Alpine region area contains about a hundred peaks higher than 4,000 metres (13,000 ft).
By January 1522, the French had lost Alessandria, Pavia, and Como; and Francesco II Sforza, bringing further German reinforcements, had slipped past a Venetian force at Bergamo to join Colonna in Milan.Lautrec had meanwhile been reinforced by the arrival of 16,000 fresh Swiss pikemen and some further Venetian forces, as well as additional companies of French troops under the command of Thomas de Foix-Lescun and Pedro Navarro; he had also secured the services of the condottiere Giovanni de' Medici, who brought his Black Bands into the French service. The French proceeded to attack Novara and Pavia, hoping to draw Colonna into a decisive battle. Colonna, leaving Milan, fortified himself in the monastery of Certosa south of the city. Considering this position to be too strong to be easily assaulted, Lautrec attempted instead to threaten Colonna's lines of communication by sweeping around Milan to Monza, cutting the roads from the city into the Alps.
Alessandria is a city and comune in Piedmont, Italy, and the capital of the Province of Alessandria. The city is sited on the alluvial plain between the Tanaro and the Bormida rivers, about 90 kilometres southeast of Turin.
Pavia is a town and comune of south-western Lombardy in northern Italy, 35 kilometres south of Milan on the lower Ticino river near its confluence with the Po. It has a population of c. 73,086,. The city was the capital of the Kingdom of the Lombards from 572 to 774.
Como is a city and comune in Lombardy, Italy. It is the administrative capital of the Province of Como.
Lautrec was suddenly confronted, however, with the intransigence of the Swiss, who formed the largest contingent of the French army. They complained that they had not received any of the pay promised them since their arrival in Lombardy. The Swiss captains, led by Albert von Stein, demanded that Lautrec attack the Imperial army immediately—else the mercenaries would abandon the French and return to their cantons. Lautrec reluctantly acquiesced and marched south towards Milan.
Colonna had meanwhile relocated to a formidable new position: the manor park of Bicocca, about four miles (6 km) north of Milan. The park was situated between a large expanse of marshy ground to the west and the main road into Milan to the east; along this road ran a deep wet ditch, which was crossed by a narrow stone bridge some distance south of the park. The north side of the park was bordered by a sunken road; Colonna deepened this and constructed an earthen rampart on the southern bank. The Imperial artillery, placed on several platforms jutting forward from the earthworks, was able to sweep the fields north of the park as well as parts of the sunken road itself. The entire length of the north side of the park was less than 600 yards (550 m), which permitted Colonna to place his troops quite densely. Immediately behind the rampart were four ranks of Spanish arquebusiers, commanded by Fernando d'Avalos, Marquess of Pescara; they were backed by Spanish pikemen and German landsknechts under Georg Frundsberg. Most of the Imperial cavalry was placed at the south end of the park, far behind the infantry; a separate force of cavalry was positioned to the south, guarding the bridge.
On the evening of 26 April, Lautrec sent a force of about 400 cavalry under the Sieur de Pontdormy to reconnoiter the Imperial positions. The patrol reported that the ground was cut by irrigation ditches and ill-suited for maneuvering, but this failed to dissuade the Swiss.Colonna, having observed the French presence, sent messengers to Milan to request reinforcements; Francesco Sforza arrived the next morning with 6,400 additional troops, joining the cavalry near the bridge to the south of Colonna's camp.
At dawn on 27 April, Lautrec began his attack. The Black Bands brushed aside the Spanish pickets, clearing the ground before the Imperial positions. The French advance was headed by two columns of Swiss, each comprising about 4,000 to 7,000 men, accompanied by some artillery; this party was to assault the entrenched front of the Imperial camp directly.Lescun, meanwhile, led a body of cavalry south along the Milan road, intending to flank the camp and strike at the bridge to the rear. The remainder of the French army, including the French infantry, the bulk of the heavy cavalry, and the remnants of the Swiss, formed up in a broad line some distance behind the two Swiss columns; behind this was a third line, composed of the Venetian forces under Francesco Maria della Rovere, the Duke of Urbino.
The overall command of the Swiss assault was given to Anne de Montmorency. As the Swiss columns advanced towards the park, he ordered them to pause and wait for the French artillery to bombard the Imperial defences, but the Swiss refused to obey.Perhaps the Swiss captains doubted that the artillery would have any effect on the earthworks; historian Charles Oman suggests that it is more likely they were "inspired by blind pugnacity and self-confidence". In any case, the Swiss moved rapidly towards Colonna's position, leaving the artillery behind. There was apparently some rivalry between the two columns, as one, commanded by Arnold Winkelried of Unterwalden, was composed of men from the rural cantons, while the other, under Albert von Stein, consisted of the contingents from Bern and the urban cantons. The advancing Swiss quickly came into range of the Imperial artillery. Unable to take cover on the level fields, they began to take substantial casualties; as many as a thousand Swiss may have been killed by the time the columns reached the Imperial lines.
The Swiss came to a sudden halt as the columns reached the sunken road in front of the park; the depth of the road and the height of the rampart behind it—together higher than the length of the Swiss pikes—effectively blocked their advance. Moving down into the road, the Swiss suffered massive casualties from the fire of d'Avalos's arquebusiers.Nevertheless, the Swiss made a series of desperate attempts to breach the Imperial line. Some parties managed to reach the top of the rampart, only to be met by the landsknechts, who had come up from behind the arquebusiers. One of the Swiss captains was apparently killed by Frundsberg in single combat; and the Swiss, unable to form up atop the earthworks, were pushed back down into the sunken road. After attempting to move forward for about half an hour, the remnants of the Swiss columns retreated back towards the main French line. In the fields which they had crossed and before the rampart, they left more than 3,000 dead; among these were twenty-two captains, including both Winkelried and Albert von Stein. Of the French nobles who had accompanied the Swiss assault, only Montmorency survived.
Lescun, with about 400 heavy cavalry under his command, had meanwhile reached the bridge south of the park and fought his way across it and into the Imperial camp beyond.Colonna responded by detaching some cavalry under Antonio de Leyva to halt the French advance, while Francesco Sforza came up the road towards the bridge, aiming to surround Lescun. Pontdormy held off the Milanese, allowing Lescun to extricate himself from the camp; the French cavalry then retraced its path and rejoined the main body of the army.
Despite the urging of d'Avalos and several other Imperial commanders, Colonna refused to order a general attack on the French, pointing out that much of Lautrec's army—including the bulk of his cavalry—was still intact. Colonna suggested that the French were already beaten, and would soon withdraw; this assessment was shared by Frundsberg.Nevertheless, some small groups of Spanish arquebusiers and light cavalry attempted to pursue the withdrawing Swiss, only to be beaten back by the Black Bands, which were covering the removal of the French artillery from the field.
Colonna's judgement proved to be accurate. The Swiss were unwilling to make another assault, and marched for home on 30 April. Lautrec, believing that his resulting weakness in infantry made a further campaign impossible, retreated to the east, crossing the Adda into Venetian territory at Trezzo.Having reached Cremona, Lautrec left Lescun in command of the remnants of the French army and rode unescorted to Lyon, to make his report to Francis I.
Lautrec's departure heralded a complete collapse of the French position in northern Italy. No longer menaced by the French army, Colonna and d'Avalos marched on Genoa, capturing it after a brief siege.Lescun, learning of the loss of Genoa, arranged an agreement with Francesco Sforza by which the Castello Sforzesco in Milan, which still remained in French hands, surrendered, and the remainder of the French forces withdrew over the Alps. The Venetians, under the newly elected Doge Andrea Gritti, were no longer interested in continuing the war; in July 1523, Gritti concluded the Treaty of Worms with Charles V, removing the Republic from the fighting. The French would make two further attempts to regain Lombardy before the end of the war, but neither would be successful; the terms of the Treaty of Madrid, which Francis was forced to sign after his defeat at the Battle of Pavia, would leave Italy in Imperial hands.
Another effect of the battle was the changed attitude of the Swiss. Francesco Guicciardini wrote of the aftermath of Bicocca:
They went back to their mountains diminished in numbers, but much more diminished in audacity; for it is certain that the losses which they suffered at Bicocca so affected them that in the coming years they no longer displayed their wonted vigour.
While Swiss mercenaries would continue to take part in the Italian Wars, they no longer possessed the willingness to make headlong attacks that they had at Novara in 1513 or Marignano in 1515; their performance at the Battle of Pavia in 1525 would surprise observers by its lack of initiative.
More generally, the battle made apparent the decisive role of small arms on the battlefield.Although the full capabilities of the arquebus would not be demonstrated until the Battle of the Sesia (where arquebusiers would prevail against heavy cavalry on open ground) two years later, the weapon nevertheless became a sine qua non for any army which did not wish to grant a massive advantage to its opponents. While the pikeman would continue to play a vital role in warfare, it would be equal to that of the arquebusier; together, the two types of infantry would be combined into the so-called "pike and shot" units that would endure until the development of the bayonet at the end of the seventeenth century. The offensive doctrine of the Swiss—a "push of pike" unsupported by firearms—had become obsolete. Indeed, offensive doctrines in general were increasingly replaced with defensive ones; the combination of the arquebus and effective field fortification had made frontal assaults on entrenched positions too costly to be practical, and they were not attempted again for the duration of the Italian Wars.
As a result of the battle, the word "bicoca"—meaning a bargain, or something acquired at little cost—entered the Spanish language.
The Battle of Pavia, fought on the morning of 24 February 1525, was the decisive engagement of the Italian War of 1521–26 between the Kingdom of France and the Habsburg empire of Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor as well ruler of the Low Countries, Spain, the Two Sicilies, and Austria.
The War of the League of Cambrai, sometimes known as the War of the Holy League and by several other names, was a major conflict in the Italian Wars of 1494–1559. The main participants of the war, fought from 1508 to 1516, were France, the Papal States and the Republic of Venice, joined at various times by nearly every significant power in Western Europe, including Spain, the Holy Roman Empire, England, the Duchy of Milan, the Republic of Florence, the Duchy of Ferrara and Swiss mercenaries.
The Battle of Marignano was fought during the phase of the Italian Wars (1494–1559) called the War of the League of Cambrai, between France and the Old Swiss Confederacy. It took place on 13-14 September 1515, near the town today called Melegnano, 16 km southeast of Milan. It resulted in a victory for French forces.
Winkelried was a family of Unterwalden, recorded as members of the lower nobility during the second half of the 13th century and as commoners during the 14th to early 16th centuries. The name is mostly associated with Arnold von Winkelried, the hero of the Battle of Sempach (1386) in Swiss historiography. Because of the importance of Arnold Winkelried in 19th-century Swiss nationalism, much research has gone into the genealogy of this family.
The Battle of Cerignola was fought on 21 April 1503, between Spanish and French armies, in Cerignola, Apulia. 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.
Georg von Frundsberg was a German military and Landsknecht leader in the service of the Holy Roman Empire and Imperial House of Habsburg. An early modern proponent of infantry tactics, he established his reputation in active service during the Italian Wars under Emperor Maximilian I and his successor Charles V.
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Fernando Francesco d'Ávalos, 5th marquis of Pescara, was an Italian condottiero of Aragonese extraction. He was an important figure of the Italian Wars: in the Battle of Ravenna in 1512 he was taken prisoner by the French, but was released at the conclusion of the War of the League of Cambrai. He was the chief commander of the Habsburg armies of Charles V in Italy during the Habsburg-Valois Wars and defeated the French at Bicocca and Pavia.
The Battle of Ceresole took place on 11 April 1544, during the Italian War of 1542–46, outside the village of Ceresole d'Alba in the Piedmont region of Italy. A French army, commanded by François de Bourbon, Count of Enghien, defeated the combined forces of the Holy Roman Empire and Spain, commanded by Alfonso d'Avalos d'Aquino, Marquis del Vasto. Despite having inflicted substantial casualties on the Imperial troops, the French subsequently failed to exploit their victory by taking Milan.
The Italian War of 1521–1526, sometimes known as the Four Years' War, was a part of the Italian Wars. The war pitted Francis I of France and the Republic of Venice against the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V, Henry VIII of England, and the Papal States. The conflict arose from animosity over the election of Charles as Emperor in 1519–20 and from Pope Leo X's need to ally with Charles against Martin Luther.
The Black Bands, sometimes referred to as the Black Bands of Giovanni, was a company of Italian mercenaries formed and commanded by Giovanni de' Medici during the Italian Wars; their name came from their black mourning colors for the death of Pope Leo X. Composed primarily of arquebusiers—including Europe's first mounted arquebusiers—the company was, by the Italian War of 1521, considered to be the finest Italian troops available. Initially in the service of Charles de Lannoy and the Pope, the company fought at Bicocca in 1522 and the Sesia in 1523. A pay dispute led to it transferring its allegiance to Francis I of France; it took part in the Pavia campaign, but did not participate in the Battle of Pavia itself.
Thomas de Foix-Lescun, commonly known as Lescun, was a French commander during the Italian War of 1521, and the brother of Odet de Foix, Vicomte de Lautrec, André de Foix, Lord of Lesparre and Françoise de Foix.
Pike and shot is a historical infantry combat formation that evolved during the Italian Wars before the late seventeenth century evolution of the bayonet. The infantry formations of the period were a mix of pike and early firearms ("shot"), either arquebusiers or musketeers.
The Black Band was a formation of 16th century mercenaries, largely pikemen, probably serving as Landsknechts. They fought in the French army for ten years, seeing service in several notable engagements, including the Battle of Marignano and the Battle of Pavia.
The Italian campaign of 1524–25 was the final significant action of the Italian War of 1521–26.
The Battle of Serravalle took place on June 2–4, 1544, at Serravalle Scrivia, in the Apennine Mountains, between the Imperial-Spanish army commanded by Don Alfonso d'Avalos, Marquis del Vasto, and a force of freshly raised Italian mercenaries in French service, led by Pietro Strozzi, member of the rich and famous Florentine family of the Strozzi, and Giovan Francesco Orsini, Count of Pitigliano, during the Italian War of 1542–1546.
The Battle of La Motta, also known as the Battle of Schio, Battle of Vicenza or Battle of Creazzo, took place at Schio, in the Italian region of Veneto, Republic of Venice, on 7 October 1513, between the forces of the Republic of Venice and a combined force of Spain and the Holy Roman Empire, and was a significant battle of the War of the League of Cambrai. A Venetian army under Bartolomeo d'Alviano was decisively defeated by the Spanish/Imperial army commanded by Ramón de Cardona and Fernando d'Ávalos.
The Battle of the Sesia or Battle of the Sesia River, took place near the Sesia River (Latin: Sesites or Sessite), situated in north-western Italy, Lombardy, on 30 April 1524, where the Imperial–Spanish forces commanded by Don Carlos de Lannoy, inflicted a decisive defeat to the French forces under the Admiral Guillaume Gouffier, Lord of Bonnivet and Francis de Bourbon, Comte de St. Pol, during the Italian War of 1521–1526.
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