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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