- Object type
14th century, possibly
walnut, yew, iron
The bow of this crossbow is an exceptional example of an extremely rare object indeed. One of the leading authorities on the subject has pointed out that ‘wooden medieval crossbows are very rare and all of uncertain date’.
A bow of similar form was excavated at Berkhamsted Castle in the early-20th century that may date from the siege of 1216. It is the gnarled and knobbly appearance of the bow’s back that is most diagnostic. Many late-13th and early-14th century manuscript illustrations show artistic portrayals of this feature. An excellent example of this is a crossbowman in a crucifixion scene in the Book of Hours (prayer book) of Jeanne d’Evreux by Jean Pucelle dated to 1324-28. This knobbly shape has been achieved by the bowyer carving round the knots in the yew to retain the optimum strength. Wooden bows, however, were used in Europe up to the 15th century and this carving technique also continued to be used.
Whatever its exact date, this bow is an extremely rare and important survival of a weapon that would have been a commonplace sight in medieval Europe. An indication of this is the 1,131 crossbows inventoried in the Venice Arsenal in 1314.
- ID Number