June 29, 2010
Bourjaily On Trebuchets
By Phil Bourjaily
The trebuchet was the ultimate weapon of the medieval world. It could heave very large rocks into castle walls, and sometimes it was used to throw corpses and dead cattle and the like over the walls in an effort to spread disease. Often the mere arrival or construction of a trebuchet was enough to prompt castle defenders to captitulate. English King Edward Longshanks was so eager to try out his new trebuchet “War Wolf” that he refused the garrison’s surrender at the siege of Stirling Castle and knocked their walls down anyway.
Counterweight trebuchets like the one in the video date to around the 13th century and they lasted until they were replaced by cannon in the 1400s. Fascination with the trebuchet endures to this day: you can find plenty of plans and even kits to build trebuchets of various sizes. You’ll see smaller ones at renaissance festivals, where they throw water balloons 100 yards or so. Then there are a few really large ones built by eccentrics like the guy in this video, and that is a Good Thing, because if you have a flaming piano you need flung into the air, how are you going to throw it if you don’t have a gigantic trebuchet handy?