Medieval Spell Logo
Medieval Travel Guide

Medieval Siege Weapons

The Medieval Siege Weapons of heavier caliber (known also by the name of Petraria) seem to have taken four forms, the Arbalist, a weapon of some precision, constructed on the principle of crossbow, but larger and more powerful, for firing darts, the Mangonel, the Trebuchet, and the Espringold, for keeping up a rain of heavy missiles.

Medieval Siege Weapons-Mangonel

Of these, the Mangonel acted by the force of torsion. It consisted of two massive uprights of timber, joined by two or four strong ropes through which a beam was passed, whose upper end was furnished with a spoon-shaped cavity to hold the missile, generally a large stone. This end was drawn down and loaded, and on being suddenly released the force generated by the torsion of the ropes was sufficient to hurl the stone a considerable distance, with a high trajectory.

The Trebuchet, or catapult, was maybe the most important of the high caliber Medieval Siege Weapons, which was introduced in Western Europe from the East in the 13th Century.  However, it  was little used in England, where it was imported from France. It was a weapon similar to the Mangonel, but working by a counterpoise instead of by the torsion of ropes. It consisted of a pole, balanced on a pivot working between two uprights in such a manner that its butt end was one-fourth of the whole length from the pivot. This end was heavily weighted, while the other had a spoon-shaped extremity in which the missile was placed. When about to be used the longer end was drawn to the ground, and held down by a catch. When the latter was released the heavy counterpoise came into action, the long end of the pole sprang into the air, and the missile was hurled a considerable distance.

There could be little precision of aim in using the Medieval Siege Weapons, but they were useful in rendering the courts or yards of a castle dangerous to be crossed by the garrison, and in bombarding beleaguered cities. The Espringold or Springall was perhaps used more frequently in defense than in attack. It was a weapon by which stone balls were thrown a considerable distance, and with some accuracy, by means of the sudden release of a compressed spring.

Of the Medieval Siege Weapons pertaining to the engineer rather than to the artillerist the most important and useful was the ram. This was a huge beam suspended by chains from the cross-bar of a gallows-like structure of timber. When brought into position, the method of use was to draw back the pole by manual labour to the fullest extent, and by means of its sudden release to batter the chosen portion of the wall until a breach was effected.

Much less effective was the Mouse or Bore, a pole armed with an iron point, used to pick out the stones from the wall one at a time, using a screwing action, so as by degrees to pierce an opening rather then to breach the wall. It is very doubtful whether anything was ever accomplished by this method.

Medieval Siege Weapons-Trebuchet

To protect the artificers, with each of the Medieval Siege Weapons, a movable shelter or penthouse, the cat, known sometimes as a Testudo (from the Roman engine of that name), was provided. This was a covered structure of wood, usually protected with raw hides to obviate danger from fire, and generally mounted on wheels, so as to be easily approached to the wall. The cat was sometimes erected on site in a more massive and substantial manner, either under the cover of darkness, or under the protection of lighter cats of hurdles aided by the artillery fire.

Less known among the Medieval Siege Weapons was the mine, which required more skill than the ram. On the rare occasions when the mine was carried to a successful conclusion, the results were far more destructive than those of battering. The method was for the miners to approach , protected by the cat and artillery fire, as close to the wall as possible, and then to excavate, by preference beneath a tower for example. The cavity was then filled up with brushwood, which was set on fire with the hope rather than the expectation that when the beams were burnt, the mass of masonry above will fall.

Medieval Siege Weapons-The Moving Tower
The Moving Tower

The method was more efficient in the case of castles placed on softer material such as chalk, clay, or sandstone. Such a situation is that of Rochester, where in 1215, the best known instance in English history of a successful mining operation occurred. One angle of the keep was completely destroyed. Even so, the solidity of the massive tower prevented its being irretrievably damaged.

One of the most impressive Medieval Siege Weapons was the temporary tower.  It was either moving or stationary. The latter was an elevated wooden structure, tall enough to overlook the walls, so that defenders might be picked off by sharp-shooters and an assault covered; the former was a lighter tower, mounted on wheels.  The idea was to bring them close up to the besieged building in order that a drawbridge could be lowered on to the walls, and so, access obtained to the interior. The stationary tower may have been of some utility, but it was very exposed to the missiles of the garrison. The movable tower must have been always more dangerous to the assailants than to the defenders.

Although we cannot classify it as one of the Medieval Siege Weapons per se, we should also mention the primitive method of the escalade, the attack by scaling-ladders, which offered a reasonable chance of success to assailants who were overwhelmingly superior in numbers and reckless of life.

 Medieval Gothic
 Medieval Gothic  Cathedrals
 Medieval Castles
 Medieval House
 Medieval Manors
 Medieval Architecture-
 Interior View

 Medieval Code of  Chivalry
 Knights In Middle Ages
 Medieval Knights- Jousting
 Medieval Armor
 Medieval Swords
 Medieval Helmets
 Medieval Tournaments
 Medieval Shields- Designs
 Medieval Life Overview
 Medieval Castle Life
 Roles Of Women In The  Middle Ages
 Medieval Fashion
 Medieval Food
 Medieval Cooking
 Medieval Drinks
 Medieval Feast
 Medieval Entertainment
 Medieval Hunting History
 Medieval Games
 Medieval Guilds
 Medieval Merchants
 Medieval Punishment
 Medieval Medicine
 Medieval Warfare- Weapons
 Medieval Archers
 Medieval Siege
 About us
 Privacy policy

 Medieval Painters
 Gothic Art
 Gothic Sculpture
 Gothic Painting
 Medieval Decor
 Gothic Furniture
 Medieval Towns
 Italian Cities
 The Hanseatic League
 Medieval Church
 The Great Schism
 Saint Benedict
 Medieval Monasteries
 Medieval Monks
 Monastic Orders
 Cluny Abbey
 Teutonic Knights
 -Teutonic Knights History
 Knights Hospitaller
 -Knights Hospitaller   History
 -Knights Of Rhodes
 Knights Templar