The golden era of the medieval crossbow was around the 14th and 15th centuries, there were particularly admired weapons in continental Europe amongst the nations of France, Germany, Italy, and Spain.
The Medieval Crossbow was the first type of Medieval Bow that had a mechanized loading system and it was designed in a cross shape, hence the name Crossbow.
Foot soldiers *Infantry used the Medieval Crossbow weapon to great effect, it was much easier to load than conventional longbows which needed to be drawn back manually and required great strength and skill.
Crossbowmen used a winding mechanism to draw back the Crossbow string over a nut on the stock of the Crossbow.
The string was released by a trigger on the Crossbow, this trigger when retracted the nut that was holding the string in place when pulled and in turn, fired the bolt.
The Medieval Crossbow is fairly small compared to longbows but the design is thicker and more solid, they had a small wooden stock which the Crossbowmen could hold comfortably, because they were fairly small they were easy to handle.
Medieval Crossbows existed before the Medieval period and there is historical evidence of them being used in the ancient world by Chinese and Roman warriors.
Early crossbows were not as advanced as the later medieval crossbows and had to be drawn back by using the foot to hold the bow in place whilst drawing back the string with the hands.
Different mechanical devices were invented to make the loading of bolts into the Crossbow much easier by drawing back the string, these advancements continued throughout history.
Mechanical devices such as the goat’s lever which was a type of pulley, the windlass which was a winding device, and the cranequin were invented.
Later in the medieval period, steel crossbows were made and this was one of the best advancements because it increased the firing range of the crossbow to around 400 to 500 yards and increased the power of the bolt fired, during this period the Crossbow came into its own as a Medieval weapon.
Early medieval crossbows were made from wood, however by the 13th century crossbows were made out of a mixture of materials using Wood, Horn, and sinew to make a composite material that was ideal for the purpose of the Crossbow design.
From around the 15th century, a metal Crossbow started to be introduced however the composite material used before was still popular. The nut part of the Crossbow was usually made from animal horns.
Medieval crossbows were used by foot soldiers (infantry), they were excellent weapons against medieval pikemen and knights, crossbowmen usually took forward positions and fired their bolts from behind the cover of a large Pavise Shield.
The Normans used crossbows in the Battle of Hastings and they were often used by mercenaries who could be hired by medieval armies as Medieval longbowmen were. The French for example hired Genoese Crossbowmen in various medieval battles including the Battle of Crécy.
The Crossbow was not commonly used in England in the early medieval period but it was used in later periods, in battle Medieval Crossbowmen would load and fire off a bolt or quarrel that fitted into the groove on the stock of the Crossbow at the enemy.