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Characteristics of Medieval Artillery in the Light of Written Sources from Bohemia and Poland

Battle of Domažlice, 15th century Jena Codex
Battle of Domažlice, 15th century Jena Codex
Battle of Domažlice, 15th century Jena Codex

Characteristics of Medieval Artillery in the Light of Written Sources from Bohemia and Poland

Piotr Strzyż

Fasciculi Archaeologiae Historicae: vol. 25, (2012)

Abstract

Artillery appears in Central Europe at the end of the 14th c. and it starts playing a more significant role only in the next century. In the Kingdom of Bohemia it became more widespread as early as during the Hussite Wars of 1419-1436, while in the territory of the Kingdom of Poland and its northern neighbour, i.e., the Teutonic Order, an increase in popularity of firearms can be rather dated to the Thirteen Years War of 1454-1466. On the other hand, earlier conflicts, from the Great War of 1409-1411 onwards, witness a steady growth in significance of the new weapon. In this context, it is comprehensible that the use of both gunpowder artillery and hand-held firearms in the mentioned states found its place in numerously originating chronicles which described current or past events. Among a great deal of data concerning the new weapon, in this paper we decided to concentrate on the characteristics of effectiveness and accuracy of fire, as well as the range and infallibility of artillery of that time. An attempt at such an assessment is possible based on the analysis of available written sources.

Effectiveness and accuracy

From the very beginning of the existence of firearms, they were used in two main areas – during sieges and battles in the open field. Effectiveness of early artillery in the bombardment of fortified sites, such as castles or towns, cannot be assessed unequivocally. There are numerous examples which inform us that during a bombardment considerable damages were inflicted both concerning buildings, property of inhabitants as well as people themselves. However, sources also contain data on bombardments which proved completely ineffective, in spite of the fact that considerable means were made use of.

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