A catapult is a medieval device used to hurl objects into and over castle walls. Catapults were able to hurl 300 pound boulders as far as 1000 feet. The big rocks would eventually break through castle walls so the opposing army could enter the castle. But rocks weren’t the only things medieval armies hurled at castles. Sometimes they loaded their catapult with buckets of hot tar to set fires inside the castle. They also loaded the catapult with stinky garbage or diseased corpses to drive out the people who were in the castle.
THERE ARE THREE TYPES OF CATAPULTS
1. THE BALLISTA
The earliest known catapult was invented in ancient Greece by a man named Dionysius the Elder in 400 BCE. He designed the catapult to operate like a giant crossbow. Instead of using arrows as ammunition, his catapult shot sharpened logs.
2. THE MANGONEL
The mangonel is a standard catapult with a long wooden arm and a bucket for flinging objects. The mangonel could be as large as a truck, so it was built on wheels to make it easier to transport.
3. THE TREBUCHET
This catapult has a long wooden arm with a sling on one end and a counterweight on the other. They were still used during WWI to launch projectiles over trenches.
The catapult craft isn’t a scientifically working catapult. It will give students an idea of what the medieval catapults looked like. After they’ve made their catapults, your students can use them to play launching game. Set up an area where your students can launch their payload of pom-pons or crumpled paper balls into a cardboard box. You can even decorate the box to look like a castle.
To make this craft you’ll need a large popsicle stick, a water bottle lid, a small rubber band and a 5” dowel for each student. You’ll also need a hot glue gun to glue the bottle lid to the popsicle stick. The craft works best when printed on cardstock paper.
The printing press didn’t exist in the early Middle Ages, and yet, there are beautiful books from that time period. The books of the early Middle Ages were made entirely by hand. The pages were vellum or parchment made of specially treated animal skins. Each page was handwritten in Latin, mostly by religious people; monks or nuns. The pages were illustrated, decorated, and illuminated. Illumination made the pages look like they were glowing. To illuminate the artwork, the writer brushed on gold or silver leaf and bright mineral paints. Finally, the book pages were stitched together and bound in a leather cover. The books were stored in libraries of the European monasteries. Hand-copying books was very time consuming. Copying the bible took about 15 months. But copying books was necessary to preserve knowledge. Monks often traveled to other monasteries to copy the books from their libraries.
THE PIED PIPER OF HAMELIN
The Pied Piper of Hamelin is an ancient story, a legend, from the town of Hamelin, Germany. The main character is called the Pied Piper because he is a musician who plays a pipe. And the word pied means multicolored clothing. No one knows exactly when the story was created, but there are a lot of theories about its origin. Some people think it began as a story of hope. During the Middle Ages, many towns were hit by terrible plagues that spread because of large rat populations. It’s likely that a storyteller invented a tale of a magical man who had the ability to make the rats go away. But the other aspect of the story, the moral, gives the story a meaning that applies today: Keep your promises or something bad might happen.
HANDMADE BOOK CRAFT
The purpose of this craft is to give your students an idea of how time consuming and difficult it is to copy text onto blank unlined pages. You can decide how complicated you want the craft to be. Just doing the craft in the most basic way; the writing, layout, and stitching the pages together, will take at least an hour.
If you want to make the book look like it has a leather cover: 1. Crumble a 10X13” piece of tissue paper. Un-crumble it and spread it flat with your hands. 2. Spread watered down school glue (1 part water + 1 part glue) on the book cover page with a paint brush. 3. Lay the tissue paper over the glued book cover page. Spread it flat with your hands. 4. Sponge brown and black paint over the tissue paper. 5. Let it dry. Trim the excess tissue paper from the edges.
From excavations of Medieval sites and from picture evidence, we know that the children of the Middle Ages liked to play with toys, just like kids today. They played with tops, balls, hoops, and kites. Small animal or human shaped toys were carved out of wood. Kids walked on stilts. They played tug o’ war.
Girls had dolls and dishes. Boys had military toys and small toy knights made of metal.
The spinning top toys of the Middle Ages were carved out of wood. This spinning top craft can be made with one wooden toothpick and strips of paper. You just keep wrapping the strips around the toothpick to make a large cylinder. When you have wrapped the last strip, glue the loose end to keep the cylinder tight. Then you can spin your top. Click to get the pattern and instructions for Middle Ages Top Toy.
The late Middle Ages were the time of castles and kings. Romanesque refers to the art and architecture of this time period. It means “descended from Roman.” Romanesque architecture combines features of ancient Roman and Byzantine styles. These buildings have thick walls, rounded arches, and large towers.
It was during this time that fierce raiders, like the Vikings would sail to distant lands to raid and pillage. I grew up in the Midwest, so learning about the Vikings was a mandatory part of the curriculum. Every year in elementary school we heard stories about Erik the Red and his son Leif Erikson, the sleek and fast Viking longboats, and the colorful designs on their round shields. I don’t remember thinking about them as bad guys or thieves. I thought they were cool, like rock stars. Now I realize, it would be terrifying to see those “rock stars” come into town.
Another thing that really comes to mind from my elementary school days is a stack of National Geographic magazines that someone’s parents donated to our classroom. One of the magazines featured a story about Lady Godiva. The article included a painting of LG, naked on her horse, protesting unfair taxes. It was the most viewed of all the magazines in the stack. No one cared that she was bold and brave, they just wanted to see her exposed butt cheek and the little bit of her bare chest peeking through her long hair.
TOP 10 THINGS TO KNOW ABOUT THE ROMANESQUE PERIOD
#10 Vikings – In the Old Norse language, the word Viking means “pirate raid.” The Vikings were raiders, but they were also traders. They were excellent boat builders and sailors. Their sea voyages weren’t always about raiding, oftentimes, they sailed to explore new lands.
#9 Crusades – The crusades were a series of holy wars. European Christians tried to take back control of Jerusalem, the Holy Land, from the Muslims.
#8 Fief – A plot of land
#7 Peasants – This group of people included farmers, low level workers, and slaves. 90% of the population was in this group.
#6 Nobles – The nobles were the wealthy citizens: barons, lords, and ladies. They were landowners who served the king.
#5 Knights – The knights were the soldiers of the Middle Ages. Most knights were wealthy nobles. It cost a lot of money for weapons, armor, and a good horse. Each knight was identified by a coat of arms. The coat of arms pattern was painted on the knight’s belongings. All knights followed a Code of Chivalry.
#4 Armor & Weapons – There were many innovations to protect bodies from injuries. In the beginning, knights wore suits of chain mail to cover their bodies. The chain mail was made of chain links looped together to form a cloak that would cover the torso. It weighed about 30 pounds. Unfortunately, a sword could stab through the chain mail, so knights started covering their chests with sheets of metal. Eventually, they began wearing suits of metal. The plate armor was better protection, but it weighed over 60 pounds and made mobility difficult. The weapons of the knights included the lance, sword, mace, and longbow.
#3 Kings and Queens – They ruled the land and the people who lived on it.
#2 Castles were the homes of the kings and nobles. They were built at the center of the fief. A large water-filled ditch (moat) surrounded the castle. The wall around the castle was known as the curtain wall. Guards could stand on the curtain wall and shoot arrows at trespassers. The gatehouse was the large gated entrance on the front of the wall. The large tower was called the keep. It was the last line of defense.
#1 The Feudal System – This was the basic system of government in the Middle Ages. The king couldn’t oversee all the land he owned, so he divided it (and the peasants who lived on it) among wealthy barons who promised to serve the king. The barons divided their fiefs among the lords. The lords were knights with large armies. When called upon, they would serve and protect their king.