of the
Villard de Honnecourt, born towards the end of the twelfth century in Europe, left a portfolio of drawings and brief notes that provide valuable insight into medieval architecture and military engineering. He may have participated in the construction of the cathedrals of Lausanne and Cologne. He drew a hydraulic saw and various other mechanical devices of his time.
Among Villard de Honnecourt's drawings is a valuable illustration of one of the powerful mechanical artillery weapons of the Middle Ages.
Though the superstructure is missing from Villard's drawing (at the left) of the rotating-beam trébuchet, Renaud Beffeyete, of ARMÉDIÉVAL, was able to interpret the code used by this sophisticated medieval tradesman (initié opératif).
Symbolism (such as the image below and to the right) found in Villard's portfolio suggests that the author/artist -- and very likely architect and engineer -- may have belonged to a brotherhood named 'Solomon's Children'.
Renaud determined from such images the geometrical explanations of the interaction of the forces which resulted in a balanced, overall operation of the very large rotating-beam throwing machines. A working scale model was made from study of the sketched platform, and from knowledge of the general nature of the superstructure and operation of the trébuchet found in other medieval sources.
It took another six months, with two carpenters and a blacksmith, to finally construct a fully operational trébuchet in 1987. When finished it repeatedly and successfully hurled projectiles weighing 56 kg over a distance of 212 meters. Many of the shots landed exactly in the same spot, confirming the power of this formidable medieval, non-gunpowder artillery weapon.

M. Beffeyte began making his first trebuchet in 1984. His fully reconstituted machine, in complete working order, was presented to the press in June 1987. His reconstructions not only are the most extensive of any current builder of these weapons, but they exhibit a variety of designs that most accurately reflect the weapons of medieval Europe. His work is previewed at the ARMÉDIÉVAL website.

More information on Villard may be found at the website of the Association Villard de Honnecourt for Interdisciplinary Study of Medieval Technology, Science and Art (AVISTA):

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Page established February 2000; last updated 12 May 2001.