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The Mighty Crossbow

Picture of the crossbow
The Crossbow

IN THE 12th CENTURY, the crossbow was considered by many to be a weapon of mass destruction. Not only was it was remarkably accurate and deadly at vast distances, but shockingly, the bolts it fired could penetrate a knight’s armour. Crossbows meant that no breast-plated nobleman, prince or king was safe on the battlefield. Any low-born peasant with just a bit of training could kill a lord or sovereign with simple squeeze of a trigger — a platoon of crossbowmen could wipe out a kingdom’s aristocracy with just a few volleys.

And that was something Medieval elites feared might shatter the natural order of society.

Not surprisingly, the highest European authority of the day, the Roman Catholic Church, called for an outright ban on the weapon. And the Vatican wasn’t messing around — violating its decree could lead to excommunication, or worse: damnation of the soul. Strong language, to be sure. In fact, for much of the Middle Ages, the crossbow was considered to be one of the most destabilizing weapons in existence, not unlike today’s nuclear, chemical and biological weapons.

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