Warfare During the Medieval Period


Warfare During the Medieval Period

ancient history encyclopedia History Channel english hreitage western reserve history today medievalist
Warfare During the Medieval Period
The Medieval period of European history took place between the 5th and 15th centuries. It started after the end of the Classical period, which was marked by the fall of Rome in 476 CE, and before the beginning of the Renaissance period, which started around the 14th century. Europeans lived in a feudal society that had a new set of social, economic, and governmental factors. The constant invasions from other nations prompted the need for military methods. The Middle Ages saw the rise of the Catholic Church, which became the most powerful institution during this period. Kings, queens, and other leaders frequently sought the influential alliance of the church. Feudalism brought on hundreds of landholdings from various aristocrats, with its individual quarrels and politics, resulting in many bloody conflicts and sieges. The wars were dependent on specially trained horse-riding warriors called knights. Knights of the Middle Ages In the Middle Ages, the feudal societies called for soldiers to help enforce order and peace in fiefdoms. During this period, there were three types of soldiers: foot soldiers, ranged-type soldiers called archers, and knights. The first two types were common folk who were trained in the art of combat to act as support for the knights.


Knights were considered the backbone of warfare and order in the medieval era. Knighthood was often earned. Knights were usually high-born nobles who earned their privileged military status after training and being raised by a sovereign. Others may also be awarded the title after being acknowledged for fighting bravely on the battlefield. Knights served as vassals to a lord and bore the house’s banners. They were clad in armor, equipped with well-made weapons, and given horses. As elite soldiers, they were valuable in battles, wars, and crusades, but when they were not fighting, they helped enforce laws in the royal or local lord’s court.

Code of Chivalry

The Code of Chivalry was an idealized but informal moral system that was usually followed by knights. There was no actual code, but there was an unspoken set of rules that knights were expected to uphold. Others defined the code as qualifications of a knight. In line with this, knighthood was associated with virtues including bravery, honor, courtesy, valor, and generosity. Medieval Battle Equipment and Weapons Used While knights in combat with their swords and lances were one of the most well-known aspects of medieval warfare, there were many weapons that were used during battles and sieges in the Middle Ages. The weaponry employed was designed for efficient attacking and defending. The armaments evolved through the period through new discoveries. There were primarily three types of weapons during this period. One was the hand weapons carried by lords, knights, and nobles on horseback. The second type was used by archers and foot soldiers. The last type was the heavy-duty armament used to lay siege to a castle, city, or fort.

Melee & Ranged Weapons

Lords, knights, foot soldiers, and archers used a variation of melee and ranged weapons during battles.
Swords Swords – There were many types of swords as they were usually the most favored weapon of any knight in armor. Most swords had a double-edged blade to enable cutting or piercing on both sides.
Daggers and Knives Daggers and Knives – These were shorter and cheaper than the sword, but deadly, nonetheless. Daggers and knives both had a handle and a single blade. They could be used for hunting or as a weapon mainly in conjunction or as a secondary to the sword.
War Hammers War Hammers – The design of this weapon was similar to a normal hammer, but bigger in size. The length of the handle could be longer depending on the wielder. War hammers were deadly, and their powerful blows could penetrate even the hardiest armor. They could also be used to topple opponents mounted on horses or on the animal’s leg as well.
Crossbows Crossbows – Bows have been in existence since before the medieval period, and the crossbow was an advanced version of it at that time. Crossbows were used by footmen and the cavalry; they could pierce through armor and helmets at close range (350 – 400 yards).
Longbows Longbows – Another type of ranged weapon was the longbow, which was similar to the crossbow but had a longer range.

Castle Siege Weapons

The aristocracy and feudal lords constructed castles that were fortified for attacking and defense. Conquering a castle took a lot of firepower, which is why siege weapons were developed. Below are some examples.
Catapult Catapult – The catapult was a sophisticated mechanism that was built to throw stones and other projectiles from a distance. It could damage castle walls and obliterate armies. For defense, its range was perfect for throwing missiles to stop the advance of armies to the castle.
Siege Towers Siege Towers – Siege towers came on four wheels so they could easily get close to castle walls. The attacking soldiers used them for protection and to breach the castle walls.
Battering Rams Battering Rams – From its name, these were used to break fortified castle gates or to open walls so that offensive troops could come in. They came in different sizes and forms, depending on the use. They were usually mounted on wheels for mobility.
Bombards Bombards – Gunpowder weapons were common in Medieval European warfare. Bombards were large cannons that used gunpowder to shoot projectiles, such as large stones. These projectiles could take down castle walls.
Key Battles of Medieval Europe In the time of feudal conflicts, religious crusades, and political outmaneuvering, Europe was a constant bloody battlefield. Kingdoms sought to improve military strength by numbers, new technologies, and training skilled knights, all in the quest to win over the other. Some battles were more significant than others, as these violent encounters changed the course of nations and regions.

A. The Battle of Tours (October 732)

The Battle of Tours preceded the advancement of Abd al-Rahman’s Muslim army in France. After Bordeaux was conquered, Duke Eudes sought an alliance with a rival named Charles Martel. This was the farthest that the Umayyad Caliphate ever got in Europe, as it was eventually defeated when Rahman was killed thanks to Martel’s military strategy. The Caliphate never recovered. The victory put the Franks (French) on the map as a new dominant power.

B. The Battle of Hastings (October 1066)

After King Edward’s death in January 1066, he was replaced by Harold Godwineson who was proclaimed as King Harold II. William the Conqueror protested by claiming his right to the English throne in the Battle of Hastings. Historians said that the dispute was the result of Edward promising William to make him his heir when the latter was visiting his cousin. The aftermath of the battle brought on a new era of British history and made the English language what it is today.

C. The Battle of Bouvines (July 1214)

The Battle of Bouvines is considered to be one of the most influential moments of European history because it resulted in the Magna Carta, a document or charter of rights that was used as the basis for British and American laws. It was signed by the tyrannical King John of England on June 1215 under the pressure of a group of rebellious barons. The Magna Carta outlined that everyone was entitled to basic rights, a fair trial, and that the laws applied to all, including the king.

D. The Battle of Mohi (April 1241)

Also known as the Battle of the Sajo River, the Battle of Mohi was the biggest battle during the Mongol invasion of Europe. The invasion of the Mongols under Subutai demonstrated how innovative military warfare was, like the catapult that fired explosives and could lay waste to a kingdom. While Hungary lost, East-West relations blossomed, and there was a proliferation of travel, trade, and even communication. After establishing diplomatic relations, alternative world-view was documented as Europeans were seen to be open to other cultures despite their racist past in their colonial era and in other periods in history.

E. The Battle of Castillon (July 1453)

The decisive French victory over the English in the Battle of Castillon ended the wrongly named Hundred Years’ War. The series of fighting between the English and French before this last battle was a series of conflicts rather than one huge war. Due to this, the English influence was effectively halted in the mainland of France. The battle is also historically significant because of the extensive use of advanced artillery, which was no match for the Englishmen’s inferior weapons. Effects of Warfare on Society Society is composed of several types of classes, and the effects on these classes are different. In medieval Europe, the people directly involved in wars experienced it differently compared to serfs. Ideally, wars between kingdoms were supposed to only exclusively involve the warring parties. While serfs did not fight in them, they supported them by diligently paying the fees and taxes while working for their lords. The wars in the Middle Ages were relatively small compared to those after the period. Most of the major European battles were fought by small armies. The involvement of the Church brought medieval warfare to a whole new level under the heading Crusades. The Crusades were a series of holy wars to secure sites that were considered sacred by both religions and an attempt to stop the expansion of Muslim states or to reclaim converted territories and vice versa. The stories of savagery and bloodshed during those times still hold influence in the political and cultural views of the Middle East and Western European Nations. With the bad comes the good in the aftermath of the Crusades. Trade, learning, and transportation flourished in Europe, with some experts believing that this intellectual transformation pushed the period to the Age of Discovery and to the Renaissance period.


Cartwright, M. (2018, June 19). Medieval Knights: 12 of the Best. Ancient.

Gershon, L. (2019, January 23). Chivalry Was Established to Keep Thuggish, Medieval Knights in Check. History.

The Ten Most Important Weapons of the Middle Ages. (n.d.).
Medievalists. Phillips, J. (2015, May 5). The Crusades: A Complete History. History Today.

Medieval: Warfare (n.d). English-heritage.

Medieval Knights. (n.d). Ancientfortresses.

The Middle Ages. (n.d.). Westernreservepublicmedia.

Middle Ages Knights. (n.d.). Lordsandladies.

Scroll to Top