Croatian Middle ages – Crossbowmen


Because Husar magazine was first published in Croatia, some of the topics that were published in those first Croatian issues of Husar were never re-written for the German versions of Husar. One of those topics were the Croatian crossbowmen in the second half of the 15th century. During the John Hunyadi’s reign in Croatia, a lot of soldiers and civilians were mobilized in order to fight against the Ottoman Empire. Free Dalmatian cities and inland cities in Croatia encouraged their citizens to learn how to use crossbows because they were easier to use than bow and arrow.

In the illustration above there are two crossbowmen from the second half of the 15th century. In accordance with the customs, they are carrying a small shield pinned on their chests with a sign of the house of Hunyadi, which means that they were mercenaries hired by Hunyadi. In the first picture (1), the crossbowman is also carrying a larger shield on his back that protected him while he was winding his crossbow. The second picture (2) is an example of how a crossbow could be winded using only one hand. In the third picture (3), there is a representation of a crossbow that had to be widened with both hands by using a sheave. Those kind of crossbows were impractical and they were mostly used while defending a fortress. Crossbow in picture four (4) has a ratchet that could be winded with only one hand (similarly to a crane) and it was mostly used by the infantry or cavalry. Crossbow in picture five (5) has a winding device called a “goat’s leg”. It would be attached to the belt so that it would always be accessible to the crossbowman. An average crossbowman with a “goat’s leg” could shoot two arrows in a minute.

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