Sunday, December 02, 2012


vij balistis de vicibus quarum j de baleigne cum j hasepe de novo apparatu

Compotus of Roger de Horncliffe, from 8 Feb. 1 Ed. III. to Mich, 4 Ed. III. in Ministers' Accounts, Bamburgh, V2 1-4 Ed. III. P.R.O.  (1328-29) 

une arbalète à tour, et un tour, et une arbalète de deux pieds et un haussepied.

An ordinance made for the manner in which men will be distributed in the defense of the Castle of Bioule, 1346

2 croichez de fer, 2 baudriez et 2 haucepiez pour tendre lesd. arbalestes.

Inventory of the Movables of the Castle of Vieux-Chateau, 16 August 1370

Item onze garrotz ferrez. Item vignt et quatre garrotz non ferrez; dous haucepiez garniz, dont les sièges sont ou haut du chastel.....Item, un haucepié garni, près la chambre Olivier Dinet.

Inventory of the Castle of l'Hermine, 23 January 1400
Item un haulcepié à tendre arbalestes et un tour à viz
Inventory of the Castle of Blois, 1421
From the above it appears that the haussepied was an engine for spanning large crossbows, mounted on a  frame, but distinguished from the tour, tour à viz, or vice, which seems to have been a screw and handle engine. I conclude from that that it was a frame-mounted windlass like those shown in the 1316 Carlisle charter and Walter de Milimete's 1326 MS.
Such a machine could easily span a two-foot crossbow that otherwise required a man to use the force of both legs while seated on the ground, with the crossbow on the frame at table height. I believe this was the source of the name.


Anonymous said...

Godefroy's dictionary of medieval French (Vol 4, p 439) defines "haussepied" as (among other
things) an "instrument pour tendre avec le pied les grosse arbaletes"; and "Revue savoisienne, Volumes 42-43" footnote on p. 81, says that an "arbalete a haussepied" is the same as an "arbalete a etrier", which would seem to clarify that it's the stirrup (etrier) on the front of a crossbow rather than a mechanical device.

Will McLean said...

Anonymous, I think you are misreading "Revue Savoisienne" which is in any case a secondary source. I would translate the relevant footnote: "numerous documents distinguish crossbows "a haussepied" (stirrup) of one foot, of two feet, "a tour"...." That is, the stirrup crossbow is another way to describe a one foot crossbow, not a haussepied.

Liebel has some expenses related to a haussepied at Avignon. It required the services of a carpenter, ironwork, and a substantial leather strap. So, some sort of of engine. By extension, I think the word sometimes means a big crossbow that requires such a device.

Anonymous said...

Was that "haussepied" at Avignon an entire crossbow or just an haussepied by itself? As you said, the term seems to have sometimes referred to the crossbow as a whole.
But Godefroy's ten-volume dictionary series says it could mean an item for spanning crossbows using the feet rather than the arms, which seems to imply either a stirrup or maybe a machine operated with the feet, but probably a stirrup. My suspicion is that this may be one of the many medieval French words that had numerous meanings which shifted over time, much like so many other military terms from the 14th and 15th centuries.

Will McLean said...

Godefroy defined it so, but none of Gofefroy's citations provide much support for his conclusion. He was making a plausible guess of what the word meant, writing centuries later, but I think he was wrong.

There are several surviving pictures of spanning machines for crossbows, but none fit Godefroy's definition.