Nursery Rhymes


Middle Ages - Lords and Ladies

Description and Mangonel Design
One of the siege weapons used during the Middle Ages include the Mangonel. The Mangonel was an invaluable Medieval siege attack weapon, similar to a catapult which worked by using torsion or counterpoise. Mangonels fired heavy projectiles from a bowl-shaped bucket at the end of its arm. The Mangonel was used for aiming various missiles at castles, fortresses and cities.

This type of catapult was easy to construct and wheels were added to the design to ensure manoeuvrability. The Mangonel complimented the other available siege weapons. The Mangonel was not as accurate as the Ballista but it was able to throw missiles further than a Trebuchet. Missiles were thrown in an overhead arc as opposed to the straight trajectory of the dart throwing Ballista.

Definition and Origin of the Mangonel
The word Mangonel is derived from the Latin word manganon which means “an engine of war”.

Mangonel History
The Mangonel is believed to be an ancient war engine which invented by the Romans in 400BC as a light alternative to the Ballista which also had the addition of wheels. The Mangonel reached Europe during the Medieval era and was used extensively by the French. It was introduced in England in 1216 during the Siege of Dover.

Building and Design of the Mangonel
The Mangonel was a highly accurate siege engine requiring expert building and design skills. Mangonels were capable of firing projectiles up to 1,300 feet. The Mangonel had one arm which was made of timber. Missiles were launched from a bowl-shaped bucket at the end of the arm. The rope attached to the arm was the spring of the Mangonel. The ropes are made of twisted strands of human hair or animal sinew. The rope at the bottom end of the throwing arm was twisted, providing the force to propel the arm.. Wheels were added to the base of the Mangonel ensuring manoeuvrability.

Mangonel Catapults
The Mangonel could launch missiles across long distances. Attackers were ingenious in their ideas for launching projectiles which would cause as much distress and discomfort inside the castle walls. Mangonel missiles included the following:

  • Stones
  • Sharp wooden poles and darts
  • Fire
  • Casks of Burning Tar
  • Burning Sand ( this became trapped inside armor )
  • Pots of Greek Fire
  • Dung
  • Dead, sometime mutilated, bodies
  • Disease ridden bodies
  • Body parts
  • Dead animals
  • Any rotting matter
  • Quicklime

Building a Mangonel
Building a  Mangonel required the design and building skills. Siege weapons, such as the Mangonel, were made to order! They were far too cumbersome to move from one place to another. In a siege situation the commander would assess the situation and the siege weapons design requirements to break a siege. Engineers would instruct soldiers as to the construction and building of siege weapons such as the Mangonel.

Siege Weapons
Middle Ages Index

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