Old war machines: trebuchet

Autor: Xavier Pané Seall

In this article I will talk about trebuchet history and design. These big weapons were used for medieval armies to destroy walls and castles with his heavy shells. Trebuchet produced important destroys on their enemies constructions that facilitated attacks.

An important thing was that trebuchet with other inventions for siege allowed armies to attacked castles from a secure distance, during days or months without need cavalry and infantry attacked. In this way, the enemy progressively felt more cornered and weak as a consequence castles didn’t stock up food or construction material, to feed his citizens and soldiers or rebuild damage.

This weapon facilitated the attackers to destroy walls. Trebuchet shells caused holes on the walls trough, which attackers could assault, castles more directly.

This huge weapon was used after the crossbow and catapult by Greeks and Romans. In fact, it’s interesting because in the middle ages armies also used these ancient weapons. Nevertheless trebuchet had preference because it was able to throw heavier shells (300Ibs).  Trebuchet exceeded up to six times catapults load capacity.

In spite of its good performance in the fighting ground also it had some inconvenient: transport and assembly. To set up these mechanical appliance it was needed many persons. The assembly process was slow and tedious.



The material trebuchets were made of wood and hemp. The wood was the principal material.

The trebuchet operating mechanism consisted on pulleys trough ropes tightened on a large beam. At one end of the beam there was a big basket where were shells. In the other side it had a big load that produced inertia when shells launched. The beam was tightened by one ratchet that made it go down. In the moment of launch ropes were released that held wood beam so this came out with great inertia, produced by a big load located in the other side of beam.

As a result to this process, they launched a heavier shells at a large distance about three hundred meters. The trebuchet structure had supported great loads and mechanic forces. For this reason this siege machines had a big and strong base where settle the trebuchet structure. From the base stooded heavier wood brackets that was propped up with each other, configuring rigid structure that could bear launch shells lunges.





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