The History of the Mangonel
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 - as were many other types of siege engine. Louis the Dauphin of France crossed the Channel with a large force and laid siege to Dover Castle making a violent and incessant attack on the walls. He used the Mangonel against the walls and men of Dover Castle. The constable of Dover castle was Hugh de Burgh - he refused to surrender.
Description and Design of the Mangonel
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.
Missiles thrown from the Mangonel
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:
- Sharp wooden poles and darts
- Casks of Burning Tar
- Burning Sand ( this became trapped inside armor )
- Pots of Greek Fire
- Dead, sometime mutilated, bodies
- Disease ridden bodies
- Body parts
- Dead animals
- Any rotting matter
The Mangonel and Medieval Warfare
The castle owners ensured that their castles were built to withstand or combat a siege. Medieval Castles were built with access to fresh supplies from the sea. Various forms of defence including the Barbican, Portcullis, Gatehouse, Moat, Crenellations, Murder Holes etc were included in castle design. Castle attackers employed siege Warfare including starvation tactics. Castle walls could fall due to bombardment from Siege Engines such as the trebuchet, the mangonel, battering ram, and of course, the Ballista.
The Mangonel was the most common catapult used during the Medieval Period due to its versatility and manoeuvrability. Its only problem was that it was not very accurate. An everyday weapon employed during the Medieval era where war and violence were expected.