History of Medieval Crossbows and A Few Facts That You Probably Never Knew
Even though the first crossbows date back to 600 BC in China, and were later used by the Romans and Greeks, the medieval crossbows are the ones that have had the biggest cultural impact. They were reintroduced to England in 1066 by William the Conqueror, and from then on became a staple of war in the Middle Ages.
Medieval crossbow bolts could be accurately fired up to a range of around 300-350 yards. Their main issue during war use was that reloading them took considerable effort, restricting most users from firing around 2 bolts per minute.
Even then, crossbows had a huge advantage over most other weapons in one very important field. They were incredibly easy to use and required little training, which meant a normal peasant could be equipped and could actually be effective in a battle without training.
How Do They Compare to A Bow?
Their predecessor, the short bow, was vastly inferior to medieval crossbows. Thanks to a bit of engineering, bolts fired were deadlier and faster than the arrows loosed from a short bow, and could actually pierce a knight’s armor to kill them. This means that knights became fewer and fewer because a crossbow used by any unskilled person could still take them down.
Thanks to its superiority and its ease of use, groups of peasants would form in medieval towns so that they could protect them. In comparison to normal bows, medieval crossbows could always have a bolt loaded and would help their users react quickly if there was an attack.
Pope Urban II would actually end up banning medieval crossbows in 1096 because they were too effective against high born knights and most members of royalty. They were viewed as an “abomination”, but this ban was quickly ignored by the people. The medieval crossbow would remain a favorite weapon throughout Europe and England.
The Dreadful Disadvantages of Medieval Crossbows
Medieval crossbows still had disadvantages overall, and they weren’t the best medieval ranged weapon. They took a long time to manufacture, were very expensive to make, and had a very slow firing rate. For crossbowmen, their main issue was that they were incredibly vulnerable while they were reloading the crossbow.
This vulnerability of the weapon and the need for protection led to the development of tall shields called pavises. Medieval crossbowmen would duck behind this shield so that they could reload the crossbow during battle. While they weren’t used, they would carry them on their backs. It was common crossbowmen to prop up the pavise in front of them and hide behind the shield before battle.
Knives, swords, and slingshots would be ignored in the battlefield thanks to the effectiveness of the medieval crossbow. They remained in use up to the 15th century and were modified to be more effective. Medieval crossbows of the time were called “Arbalest”, and were heavier, bigger, and could not be reloaded without a cranequin or windlass.
As you can see, the best medieval crossbows could define wars. If you feel interested in finding a good replica medieval crossbow for sale, be sure to check out our recommendations and reviews here. We’ll help you relive the glory of this tool of war.
You may also be interested in: