The siege artillery: the trebuchet

3d model and reconstruction

The siege artillery: the trebuchet

The model of the trebuchet was reconstructed based drawings from the Enyclopédie médiévale by Viollet-le-Duc, a French 19th century architect, best known for the restoration of the Cathedral of Notre-Dame. Thanks to virtual reality it is also possible to see how the machinery, a catapult used during sieges to throw large rocks, worked.

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Short history of

The siege artillery: the trebuchet

With the barbarian invasions and the fall of Roman Empire, it lost an important heritage of technical skills, essential to military operations in particular for sieges and defenses. It will be the Byzantine and Arab engineering that reintroduce a set of tactics and machines derived from the great tradition of Hellenistic-Roman technology.

The trebuchet was a large catapult consisting of a very long beam (up to 18 meters) that worked thanks to a counterweight, generally a large chest containing boulders. The long arm was pushed down by opposing the counterweight mass. Upon release of the arm the weight fell down, dragging the arm upward and throwing the bullet with a high arc trajectory. A trebuchet could hurl a projectile of 100 kg to a distance of 250-300 meters. The ammunition used were not just stones. Sometimes, to disrupt the humour of the defenders, they were thrown body or human heads; other times, in hope to cause contamination, infected animal carcasses. The projectiles were hurled down with this weapon mainly used to destroy the top of the towers. After the capture of Constantinople it was introduced the explosive mixture called “greek fire”, made up of pitch, naphtha and sulfur, launched with special sealed glass or earthenware.