Tuesday, May 25, 2021

Medieval Siege Engines - The Power To Destroy

The construction of a medieval castle incorporated many features but the single, most important one was the castle's ability to withstand attack from siege engines. Medieval siege engines comprised a variety of ingenious weapons. Primarily wooden in construction with metal parts for reinforcement of key parts of each structure, the most effective siege weapons were:

Let's take a look at what made these weapons so effective and led to the capture of many castles.


A weapon with tremendous power that not only threatened the castle walls at which it was aimed but could also be dangerous for the soldiers operating it. Such was the dynamic energy unleashed when a trebuchet was fired. Watch a modern day replica trebuchet being fired and you will get some idea of how effective it could be. 

Siege Tower

A medieval siege tower was used by an attacking army to protect its soldiers and scaling ladders as they moved towards a castle's outer walls. The act of scaling defensive walls with ladders was called escalade. The arrows of archers defending the castle walls had no effect in keeping the army at bay until they were essentially 'knocking on the door'. Here is a video of a replica medieval siege tower.

Battering Ram

This weapon was useful at close range in a castle attack, either to weaken a castle's wooden entrance gate or to create breaches in part of the outer wall. It required a number of soldiers to propel it but the force they put behind its movement, along with the battering ram's solid construction was usually enough to make a credible impact, even on the first attempt.

Below is the Château de Tiffauges in France with a replica medieval siege tower standing in the grounds of the castle ruins. The castle has for many years hosted a fabulous medieval siege engine demonstration for visitors.

This photograph was taken from ground level next to the river, looking up. A daunting prospect for any would-be attacker to figure out how to take a castle in such a strategically advantaged position!

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Wednesday, February 24, 2021

A View Into A Medieval Garden: Herbs

Many medieval castles had their own garden in which grew a wide variety of plants and trees. Such gardens were designed and tended meticulously with great attention to detail. As such, a medieval garden yielded the most wonderful array of quality produce, all of which was destined for consumption and use by the lucky inhabitants of the castle and often their guests.

Beautifully designed medieval garden

Fruit and vegetables readily found their way into the medieval castle kitchen where they featured in many medieval recipes - some simple and some quite exotic ones! Pears stewed in red wine and spices was a good example of the latter. Apart from pears there were apples, quince and berry fruits.


Flowers were cultivated for a variety of uses in the castle. Some for decoration, some for consumption as part of a medieval salad and some for medicinal purposes.

The most abundant 'crop' in a medieval garden was usually herbs and that was because of the many, many ways in which medieval people used herbs. This is what we take a look at next.

Medieval Herbs

Herbs were amongst the most important plants in a medieval castle garden and were prized either for their taste or their medicinal properties. 

A typical, well planted medieval garden contained an incredible variety of herbs, most of which are still popular today. The difference back in medieval times, especially medieval England and France, was that herbs were used to a greater extent and many people had a good general knowledge of herbs and how best to use them.

Let's take a look at some medieval herbs which were popular for their medicinal uses, starting with one that many people many have never even heard of!

Used in medieval times for the treatment of stomach problems

Agrimony in flower

Medieval herbs with names that are a little more familiar to people today:

Medieval use: For the digestive system

Medieval use: For the stomach and chest

Medieval use: Good for poultices

Medieval use: To stimulate appetite

Medieval use: To treat colds

St John's Wort
Medieval use: To help with burns and bruising

The list of herbs from the medieval era is a long one and there are some great resources for anyone who is interested in learning more about the general subject of medieval gardening. Here is a great example - a medieval herbs list which explains the variety of uses and gives an A-Z of some of the most commonly used herbs from medieval England and France.

Medieval Garden Reading Resources

Medieval Gardens (An introduction to the role of medieval gardens in England and France courtesy of Medieval-Recipes.com)

Plants In Medieval Art (Metropolitan Musem Of Art - The Cloisters Museum and Gardens)

Trees Of Medieval England (Department of Plant Sciences, University of Oxford)

The above resources are just a sample of the wealth of information that exists and has been published to date. There are many more but these particular 3 were chosen because they exemplify the scope of the subject of medieval gardens as a whole. Hopefully, you will find something of interest there :) 

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Friday, September 28, 2012

Medieval Castle: Château d'Angers

The medieval castle in Angers in France's Loire Valley is a must see for anyone interested in medieval history. The Château d'Angers is not only a stunning piece of medieval architecture and medieval castle design but its list of tenants over the centuries reads like the 'Who's Who' of medieval greats! Here are just some of the people who spent time at the Château d'Angers:

Henry II ~ Eleanor Of Aquitaine ~ Philip II ~ Catherine de Medici

Visiting the castle leaves a unique imprint on the mind - at least that's what we found. Its style and location as well as the colour and pattern of the stonework are like no other medieval castle we've ever seen before.The drawbridge at the entrance with its heavy chains makes you feel like you're walking back through time!

Read more about medieval castles in France on our main website.

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