Medieval Crossbowmen in Warfare

Crossbowmen played a key role in medieval European warfare, particularly as the infantry weapons of choice from the 11th to 15th century.

Pavise Shield
A Pavise was a type of shield made for specialised use by medieval crossbowmen

During this period, military commanders would often integrate crossbowmen into phalanxes and shield walls to support their front line of knights and men-at-arms.

Medieval Crossbow Weapon

It wasn’t until the advent of gunpowder that crossbows were relegated to second-class weapons, but crossbowmen still have an enduring legacy today as popular characters in fantasy literature and video games like The Elder Scrolls series .

Crossbow Weapon Information

How The Crossbow Changed Medieval Warfare

As the crossbow became more widespread and its mechanisms improved, it began to dominate medieval battlefields.

“Crossbowmen were valued for their accuracy and range, and they could rain down bolts on enemy troops from a safe distance.” – Michael Prestwich, Emeritus Professor of History at Durham University, author of “Armies and Warfare in the Middle Ages: The English Experience”

These weapons were very effective on the battlefield because they were lightweight and used less physical exertion to load than a traditional bow. With these advantages, the crossbow became a very popular weapon.

Italian Crossbowmen
Medieval Crossbowmen from the Italian army

How was the Crosssbow Loaded

The crossbow was loaded by pulling the string back to the butt of the weapon, placing the bolt against a groove in the stock and then releasing it. To fire, a trigger mechanism was used that required only a light touch.

Medieval Soldier loading a Crossbow
Medieval Military Loading up a cross-bow

How was the Crossbow used in Battle?

In medieval warfare, crossbowmen were usually deployed in the front of an army. The crossbow was a much more accurate weapon than the longbow and could shoot from a farther distance with greater force.

Crossbowmen could also be used in tight spaces where the longbow was difficult to use, such as battlements or between closely spaced buildings.


What was the Range of the Medieval Crossbow

The range of the medieval crossbow was different depending on the type of crossbow and the type of bolt used. A medieval crossbow that shot a long bolt could have a range of up to 350 yards, but some shorter bolts may only reach up to 100 yards.

“The crossbow was a weapon of choice for both professional soldiers and urban militias, providing a deadly means of defense in times of war.” – John France, Emeritus Professor of History at Swansea University, author of “The Crusades and the Expansion of Catholic Christendom, 1000-1714”

Who were the Genoses Crossbowmen

Genoses crossbowmen were the backbone of medieval warfare. These elite archers hailed from the Italian city of Genoa and were a formidable force on the battlefield, whether they were fighting from horseback or from the ground.

Italian Crossbowmen
Medieval Crossbowmen from the Italian army

Genoses crossbowmen were well paid infantry soldiers, mercenaries who would fight for the highest reward, they used the crossbow weapon that was both deadly and accurate over long distances to conquer kings and to change the course of battle.

Famous Battles won by Medieval Crossbowen

The crossbow is a medieval weapon that was used by armies on all sides of the battlefield.

There are many stories of battles won by medieval crossbowen, but one of the most famous battles is the Battle of Crecy.

Battle of Crécy Froissart

Here, English archers led by Edward III won an important victory over a larger French army led by Philip IV. This battle was so significant that it became synonymous with victory and even had its own name given to it – Crécy!

Medieval Crossbow Types

The crossbow was a medieval weapon that was used from the 10th to the 15th century. There are three types of crossbows – light, heavy, and repeating – but all three were used in medieval warfare.

The light crossbow is also known as a self-bow because it doesn’t need any mechanical assistance. It’s easier to use and doesn’t require as much strength, making it easier to handle than the heavier crossbow types.

“The crossbow was a formidable weapon that could penetrate armor at close range, making crossbowmen an essential component of any medieval army.” – Kelly DeVries, Professor of History at Loyola University Maryland, author of “Medieval Military Technology”

Crossbows have been used in warfare since ancient times. In medieval crossbow warfare, crossbowmen would shoot at opposing forces and targets from a long distance.

Medieval crossbowmen tactics were varied, but typically they would maintain a distance of between 300-900 yards from the target and fire a volley of quarrels (bolts) before retreating to reload their weapon.

They would then either return to the same spot or relocate to another position and repeat the process when it was time for another round of shooting.

Medieval Crossbow History

The crossbow was invented in China before the 4th century BCE, and spread westwards in time. It is thought that it was introduced to Europe by the Avars around 600 CE.

There were many types of medieval crossbows, but they all shared the same basic parts – a bow-like assembly which shot projectiles called bolts or quarrels.

Medieval Crossbow Vs Medieval Longbow

Medieval crossbow warfare had a number of advantages over longbow archery. Crossbows were more accurate, and more powerful. But the most important advantage was the ability to use a crossbow in close range combat.