Blog Post 4
Trebuchets are probably my favorite type of medieval siege weapons. They are my favorite because I think it is cool that they can throw such large things so far. These siege engines were very impressive to watch and could deal great damage to enemy castles. The word trebuchet comes from the Old French word ‘Trebucher’, which means ‘Throw over’. That is exactly what these weapons did. They threw things over castle walls and into the castle.
The trebuchet is thought to have originated in China over 2000 years ago. But the medieval trebuchet was introduced in England in the year 1216. It was used during the Siege of Dover to attack the castle’s walls.
The medieval trebuchet was a very accurate and strong siege weapon, but it did require expert building and design skills. A trebuchet is a combination of simple machines. It consists of a long lever arm with a large counterweight. The lever arm could be up to 60 feet in length. The counter weight consisted of a large pivoting ballast box that would be filled up with sand or stones. They put a a throwing sling at the end of the long lever arm where they would load boulders to throw. When released, the counter weight rotates the lever arm around the axis throwing the boulder hundreds of feet through the air. These siege engines were capable of throwing 200 pound boulders accurately up to 300 yards!
These impressive machines could launch up to 2,000 stones a day. Even though trebuchets are generally associated with throwing boulders or stones, they were often used to launch many other things inside the castle walls. Many times it wasn’t possible to have a supply of boulders large enough to keep the trebuchet running so attacking armies would throw whatever they had around at the time. They were known to launch things like sharp wooden poles, fire, casks of burning tar, burning sand, dung, dead disease ridden bodies, and dead animals. All these things were used to cause as much havoc inside the castle as possible. They would throw dead bodies to spread disease and hopefully cause a surrender that way.
The advantages of these siege weapons usually outweighed the disadvantages. They were usually safe to operate because they could be placed out side the attack range of enemies. They were effective in breaking down castles and causing lots of damage. They were very accurate. The disadvantages of these weapons were that they required expert builders and a lot of material to build. Once they were built they could not be moved either. They stayed in that one place.
History of Trebuchets from The Middle Ages On. 25 January 2004. 2 December 2016. <http://www.medieval-castle-siege-weapons.com/history-of-trebuchets.html>.
Kaufmann, J. E., H. W. Kaufman and Robert M. Jurga. The Medieval Fortress: Castles, Forts and walled Cities of the Middle Ages. Cambridge: Combined Publishing, 2001.
Trebuchet. 1 September 2009. 30 November 2016. <http://www.medieval-life-and-times.info/medieval-weapons/trebuchet.htm>.