How does a trebuchet work

Medieval siege gun: BLIDE or TRÉBUCHET

Castles and monasteries, historic cities and huge cathedrals are still visible and extremely imposing legacies of that historical period.

The rise of the Christian church to the most powerful institution, the emergence of important feudal states, but also the emergence of a new social class, the urban bourgeoisie and the development of powerful alliances such as the Hanseatic League are just a few of the milestones from this time.

The history of the Middle Ages is above all a sequence of wars, feuds and military conflicts. Castles and fortified cities were the bases of the ruling class, the feudal nobility, but also starting points and targets of conflicts and outstanding events such as the Crusades - the struggle between Christianity and Islam over the Middle East - or massive clashes between feudal states such as the Hundred Years War between England and France was and is still the focus of perspectives and reporting.

Historical films like “Bravehart”, “Ironclad” or “Kingdom of Heaven” shape our image of that time and stimulate our imagination. Even if this does not always give a particularly correct picture of historical reality, when we visit historical objects we have the opportunity to at least get some impressions from history.

 

The great and often very picturesque witnesses of the Middle Ages to visit are an important part of our travel programs, indeed their combination prompts many people to make certain trips in the first place.

“Time travel” in the sense of vivid, tangible history is possible with many travel programs and some regions or special features are particularly worth highlighting.

Anyone who has seen films like “Kingdom of Heaven” remembers the battles for castles and cities, with lavish sieges and heroic defenders. But what was that really like? What a castle or city wall looks like is actually known to everyone - but what, for example, the siege technology looked like before modern weapons such as grenade launchers, tanks and cannons existed - because even the most primitive long-range weapons that work with gunpowder did not exist until the 14th century in Europe.

However, large slingshot weapons had been known since ancient times: catapults, which hurled stones, or ballistae, which mainly fired huge arrows. However, they can be reconstructed from finds - sparse enough, as the weapons were mostly made of perishable wood and were dismantled at some point - reports of battles and sieges and from a few surviving images.

The largest of these siege and throwing weapons were the BLIDEN (from the Greek word "palida" for slingshot) used in Europe - during the Crusades, for example, or during the siege of cities or castles - called TRÉBUCHET (from Latin "trabatium") in French were.

 

The gigantic siege engines could throw stones weighing 30 kilograms up to 300 meters and thus wreak havoc.

These slings work on the principle that a lever or throwing arm is moved by a (counter) weight on the short side of the arm, causing the long side of the arm to snap upwards. A loop is attached to it, in which the bullet rests until it is thrown away by the sudden acceleration.

Many European castles now have full-size reconstructions, some of which are fully functional and prove that this type of siege device could actually be used effectively.

It is a special experience and a real “time travel” to witness how such a siege gun is prepared for shooting and then actually hurls a huge stone through the air. Our travelers can treat themselves to this "show" in Warwick Castle during our England - Wales - Scotland trip, because "England's best-preserved castle" has housed one of the world's largest functional trebuchets since 2005. With an 18-meter-high limb and a weight of around 22 tons, this gun achieved the unbroken record in 2006 of hurling a stone weighing 13 kilograms 250 meters.

Every day in summer, this historical device is charged twice a day and fired to the applause of the audience and with many explanations and show effects. Two wheels, four meters high, in which four men each have to run for half an hour to move the short section of the limb with its counterweight, a wooden box filled with large stones, ensure that the Trébuchet is "loaded" becomes. The long side of the limb moves downwards and a stone is inserted into the throwing loop, which is now on the ground. On command, the lock is released, the stone box attached to the short side of the arm sags and suddenly pulls its long counterpart upwards. The stone leaves the loop attached to the limb and is thrown fairly precisely over a long distance in the targeted direction.

It is a bit moving feeling to watch in our high-tech age of remote-controlled drones and advanced rocket technology the shooting down of such a medieval siege gun, which is composed solely of natural materials - including around 300 pieces of oak - and is purely mechanical through the use of gravity and leverage is working. Despite its relative simplicity, this type of siege gun was the largest and arguably the most precise of the historical long-range weapons and siege equipment.