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Kristjan Runarsson





Joined: 07 Nov 2015

Posts: 133

PostPosted: Fri 08 Feb, 2019 6:13 am    Post subject: The beast of Quedlinburg         Reply with quote

I went to Quedlinburg in Germany a while ago and found this enormous crossbow in the local museum. The prod on this thing was originally about 3,5 meters long and made of composite horn and wood. The energy of a bolt shot from this thing would have been about equivalent to a 9mm Parabellum cartridge, so this is how big a crossbow needs to get to obtain that kind of projectile energy. The wall crossbow next to it (which had a prod about 1,6-1,8 meters) had about the equivalent in projectile energy to a 22 magnum cartridge. So if anybody is wondering why Arquebuses replaced bows there you have it, they had vastly superior kinetic energy for the same form factor.

Here is a 1/2 scale reconstruction: https://youtu.be/E9FU-HBG7H4


















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Craig Peters




PostPosted: Fri 08 Feb, 2019 7:50 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hi Kristjan,

Nice find. I've never seen one of these before.

By the way, the German text actually gives a hint about the name of this weapon in English. Rather than call it a "crossbow", we refer to these siege weapons as a "ballista".
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Arne G.





Joined: 31 Jul 2014

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PostPosted: Fri 08 Feb, 2019 10:21 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

An important detail: while kinetic energy is important for determining armor penetration, momentum is more important for determining wounding ability. There is no question that a bolt from this ballista is going to be far more lethal than a 9mm slug.

And don't discount the ballista's ability to penetrate, either. Keep in mind that even a 9mm FMJ is going to flatten somewhat and have a relatively large cross-section when hitting an iron or steel plate, whereas the ballista bolt has a sharp, iron point that will have a much smaller cross-section, and thus will actually outperform even higher energy firearms (to a point, anyway).

K.E. is important, but it is not everything.
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Kristjan Runarsson





Joined: 07 Nov 2015

Posts: 133

PostPosted: Fri 08 Feb, 2019 12:10 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Craig Peters wrote:
Hi Kristjan,

Nice find. I've never seen one of these before.

By the way, the German text actually gives a hint about the name of this weapon in English. Rather than call it a "crossbow", we refer to these siege weapons as a "ballista".


Yeah but ballista kind of conjures up images of Roman torsion artillery for me. This is literally a composite prod crossbow complete with a roller nut, it has little in common with a 'ballista' in the way I've come to think of them other than the passing resemblance. The thing that blows my mind about this thing is that the prod has a wingspan of 3,5 meters!! and it shoots small spears. I can only imagine the amount of work, time, buckets of glue and most of all time that went into gluing up that prod. That said, I always wondered whether the Roman torsion ballista type weapons just disappeared after the fall of the West and apparently the answer is no, although they seem to have dropped the torsion system in favour of a regular crossbow prod. I have since found references to these weapons that state they were used as mobile artillery mounted on carts.
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Kristjan Runarsson





Joined: 07 Nov 2015

Posts: 133

PostPosted: Fri 08 Feb, 2019 12:19 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Arne G. wrote:
An important detail: while kinetic energy is important for determining armor penetration, momentum is more important for determining wounding ability. There is no question that a bolt from this ballista is going to be far more lethal than a 9mm slug.

And don't discount the ballista's ability to penetrate, either. Keep in mind that even a 9mm FMJ is going to flatten somewhat and have a relatively large cross-section when hitting an iron or steel plate, whereas the ballista bolt has a sharp, iron point that will have a much smaller cross-section, and thus will actually outperform even higher energy firearms (to a point, anyway).

K.E. is important, but it is not everything.


I'll believe this thing had good penetration. The signs in the museum in Quedlinburg stated that these things were used in a defensive capacity to take out trebuchets and other siege engines and having seen trebuchets in action at the Medieval Centre on Falster in Denmark I'll believe that it takes some major oomph to put one of those things out of action.

P.S I recommend the Falster Medieval Centre to anybody. It's out of the way but not only do they have those trebuchets, they have cannon, a Hussite war waggon, a Knightly sports demonstration, a medieval market and a whole medieval village. I staid an un-planned extra day in NykŲbing just so I could go there again to watch them fling big rocks with those giant trebuchets one more time. they even let me pull the cord on one of them. That place is absolutely awesome.
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Niels Just Rasmussen




Location: NykÝbing Falster, Denmark
Joined: 03 Sep 2014

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PostPosted: Fri 08 Feb, 2019 12:53 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Kristjan Runarsson wrote:

P.S I recommend the Falster Medieval Centre to anybody. It's out of the way but not only do they have those trebuchets, they have cannon, a Hussite war waggon, a Knightly sports demonstration, a medieval market and a whole medieval village. I staid an un-planned extra day in NykŲbing just so I could go there again to watch them fling big rocks with those giant trebuchets one more time. they even let me pull the cord on one of them. That place is absolutely awesome.


As I live in NykÝbing Falster I can certainly also recommend it.
The guy behind the trebuchets in NykÝbing F - Dr. Peter Vemming - also designed the one in Warwick Castle.
Presentation movies with the NykÝbing trebuchets in action:
See: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UhE_FxaUpfU
See: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nsuWKUnYnmY

Opening hours: https://www.middelaldercentret.dk/da/besoeg-os/aabningstider-2019

So when it came to experimental archaeology especially the trebuchets and the early guns/early gunpowder is a specialty of the Medieval center.
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Kristjan Runarsson





Joined: 07 Nov 2015

Posts: 133

PostPosted: Fri 08 Feb, 2019 3:05 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Niels Just Rasmussen wrote:
Kristjan Runarsson wrote:

P.S I recommend the Falster Medieval Centre to anybody. It's out of the way but not only do they have those trebuchets, they have cannon, a Hussite war waggon, a Knightly sports demonstration, a medieval market and a whole medieval village. I staid an un-planned extra day in NykŲbing just so I could go there again to watch them fling big rocks with those giant trebuchets one more time. they even let me pull the cord on one of them. That place is absolutely awesome.


As I live in NykÝbing Falster I can certainly also recommend it.
The guy behind the trebuchets in NykÝbing F - Dr. Peter Vemming - also designed the one in Warwick Castle.
Presentation movies with the NykÝbing trebuchets in action:
See: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UhE_FxaUpfU
See: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nsuWKUnYnmY

Opening hours: https://www.middelaldercentret.dk/da/besoeg-os/aabningstider-2019

So when it came to experimental archaeology especially the trebuchets and the early guns/early gunpowder is a specialty of the Medieval center.


Do they demo the cannon like they do the trebuchets? I'd make an extra trip down there just to see that. I also bought their booklet on testing their Loshult gun replica it was very interesting especially the way they found that gun had mostly been used as a big ass shotgun rather than to fire arrows or cannon balls.
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Niels Just Rasmussen




Location: NykÝbing Falster, Denmark
Joined: 03 Sep 2014

Spotlight topics: 15
Posts: 822

PostPosted: Sat 09 Feb, 2019 9:52 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Kristjan Runarsson wrote:
Niels Just Rasmussen wrote:
Kristjan Runarsson wrote:

P.S I recommend the Falster Medieval Centre to anybody. It's out of the way but not only do they have those trebuchets, they have cannon, a Hussite war waggon, a Knightly sports demonstration, a medieval market and a whole medieval village. I staid an un-planned extra day in NykŲbing just so I could go there again to watch them fling big rocks with those giant trebuchets one more time. they even let me pull the cord on one of them. That place is absolutely awesome.


As I live in NykÝbing Falster I can certainly also recommend it.
The guy behind the trebuchets in NykÝbing F - Dr. Peter Vemming - also designed the one in Warwick Castle.
Presentation movies with the NykÝbing trebuchets in action:
See: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UhE_FxaUpfU
See: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nsuWKUnYnmY

Opening hours: https://www.middelaldercentret.dk/da/besoeg-os/aabningstider-2019

So when it came to experimental archaeology especially the trebuchets and the early guns/early gunpowder is a specialty of the Medieval center.


Do they demo the cannon like they do the trebuchets? I'd make an extra trip down there just to see that. I also bought their booklet on testing their Loshult gun replica it was very interesting especially the way they found that gun had mostly been used as a big ass shotgun rather than to fire arrows or cannon balls.


They should fire their guns every saturday at 15.00 (when they open).

They will fire "bombarden" [that might be the Loshult copy] and the newly build Anholt-gun [found in 1990 on Anholt].
"Svingbassen" must be a swivel gun and hagebÝsser = the arquebuses.
Source: https://www.middelaldercentret.dk/da/oplevelser/kanoner-og-krigsvogne
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James Arlen Gillaspie
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Location: upstate NY
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PostPosted: Mon 11 Feb, 2019 7:46 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Such large crew-served 'crossbows' were more common than we think, since few of them survived. Mounted on wheels, they were instrumental in Carmagnola's victory over Milan at Maclodio.
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Niels Just Rasmussen




Location: NykÝbing Falster, Denmark
Joined: 03 Sep 2014

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PostPosted: Tue 12 Feb, 2019 4:29 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

James Arlen Gillaspie wrote:
Such large crew-served 'crossbows' were more common than we think, since few of them survived. Mounted on wheels, they were instrumental in Carmagnola's victory over Milan at Maclodio.


James: do you know when they start to appear inn the literature?
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James Arlen Gillaspie
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PostPosted: Tue 12 Feb, 2019 12:16 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

No. I remember seeing them in artwork, primarily, but documents would be much better.
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Sean Manning




Location: Austria
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PostPosted: Tue 12 Feb, 2019 12:47 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

James Arlen Gillaspie wrote:
No. I remember seeing them in artwork, primarily, but documents would be much better.

I think the standard introduction is Springalds and Great Crossbows. Books on medieval siege warfare like Bradbury cover them too.

www.bookandsword.com
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Niels Just Rasmussen




Location: NykÝbing Falster, Denmark
Joined: 03 Sep 2014

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PostPosted: Tue 12 Feb, 2019 8:26 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Sean Manning wrote:
James Arlen Gillaspie wrote:
No. I remember seeing them in artwork, primarily, but documents would be much better.

I think the standard introduction is Springalds and Great Crossbows. Books on medieval siege warfare like Bradbury cover them too.


So the Springald (from old french espringal?) is the torsion versions and the "great crossbows" are what they are -> crossbows
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