Castle

Castle

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For a list of all castles, see List of castles. For similar but unrelated structures in Japan, see Japanese castle
Japanese castle
' were fortresses composed primarily of wood and stone. They evolved from the wooden stockades of earlier centuries, and came into their best-known form in the 16th century...

.


A castle (from Latin
Latin
Latin is an Italic language originally spoken in Latium and Ancient Rome. It, along with most European languages, is a descendant of the ancient Proto-Indo-European language. Although it is considered a dead language, a number of scholars and members of the Christian clergy speak it fluently, and...

 castellum) is a type of fortified
Fortification
Fortifications are military constructions and buildings designed for defence in warfare and military bases. Humans have constructed defensive works for many thousands of years, in a variety of increasingly complex designs...

 structure built in Europe and the Middle East during the Middle Ages
Middle Ages
The Middle Ages is a periodization of European history from the 5th century to the 15th century. The Middle Ages follows the fall of the Western Roman Empire in 476 and precedes the Early Modern Era. It is the middle period of a three-period division of Western history: Classic, Medieval and Modern...

 by European nobility
Nobility
Nobility is a social class which possesses more acknowledged privileges or eminence than members of most other classes in a society, membership therein typically being hereditary. The privileges associated with nobility may constitute substantial advantages over or relative to non-nobles, or may be...

. Scholars debate the scope of the word castle, but usually consider it to be the private fortified residence of a lord or noble. This is distinct from a palace
Palace
A palace is a grand residence, especially a royal residence or the home of a head of state or some other high-ranking dignitary, such as a bishop or archbishop. The word itself is derived from the Latin name Palātium, for Palatine Hill, one of the seven hills in Rome. In many parts of Europe, the...

, which is not fortified, from a fortress, which was not always a residence for nobility, and from a fortified town, which was a public defence – though there are many similarities among these types of construction. Usage of the term has varied over time and has been applied to structures as diverse as hill fort
Hill fort
A hill fort is a type of earthworks used as a fortified refuge or defended settlement, located to exploit a rise in elevation for defensive advantage. They are typically European and of the Bronze and Iron Ages. Some were used in the post-Roman period...

s and country houses. Over the approximately 900 years that castles were built they took on a great many forms with many different features, although some, such as curtain wall
Curtain wall (fortification)
A curtain wall is a defensive wall between two bastions of a castle or fortress.In earlier designs of castle the curtain walls were often built to a considerable height and were fronted by a ditch or moat to make assault difficult....

s and arrowslits, were commonplace.

A European innovation, castles originated in the 9th and 10th centuries, after the fall of the Carolingian Empire
Carolingian Empire
Carolingian Empire is a historiographical term which has been used to refer to the realm of the Franks under the Carolingian dynasty in the Early Middle Ages. This dynasty is seen as the founders of France and Germany, and its beginning date is based on the crowning of Charlemagne, or Charles the...

 resulted in its territory being divided among individual lords and princes. These nobles built castles to control the area immediately surrounding them, and were both offensive and defensive structures; they provided a base from which raids could be launched as well as protection from enemies. Although their military origins are often emphasised in castle studies, the structures also served as centres of administration and symbols of power. Urban castles were used to control the local populace and important travel routes, and rural castles were often situated near features that were integral to life in the community, such as mills and fertile land.

Many castles were originally built from earth and timber, but had their defences replaced later by stone. Early castles often exploited natural defences, and lacked features such as towers and arrowslits and relied on a central keep
Keep
A keep is a type of fortified tower built within castles during the Middle Ages by European nobility. Scholars have debated the scope of the word keep, but usually consider it to refer to large towers in castles that were fortified residences, used as a refuge of last resort should the rest of the...

. In the late 12th and early 13th centuries, a scientific approach to castle defence emerged. This led to the proliferation of towers, with an emphasis on flanking fire
Enfilade and defilade
Enfilade and defilade are concepts in military tactics used to describe a military formation's exposure to enemy fire. A formation or position is "in enfilade" if weapons fire can be directed along its longest axis. A unit or position is "in defilade" if it uses natural or artificial obstacles to...

. Many new castles were polygonal or relied on concentric defence – several stages of defence within each other that could all function at the same time to maximise the castle's firepower. These changes in defence have been attributed to a mixture of castle technology from the Crusades
Crusades
The Crusades were a series of religious wars, blessed by the Pope and the Catholic Church with the main goal of restoring Christian access to the holy places in and near Jerusalem...

, such as concentric fortification
Concentric castle
A concentric castle is a castle with two or more concentric curtain walls, such that the outer wall is lower than the inner and can be defended from it. The word concentric does not imply that these castles were circular; in fact if taken too literally the term "concentric" is quite misleading...

, and inspiration from earlier defences such as Roman forts
Castra
The Latin word castra, with its singular castrum, was used by the ancient Romans to mean buildings or plots of land reserved to or constructed for use as a military defensive position. The word appears in both Oscan and Umbrian as well as in Latin. It may have descended from Indo-European to Italic...

. Not all the elements of castle architecture were military in nature, and devices such as moat
Moat
A moat is a deep, broad ditch, either dry or filled with water, that surrounds a castle, other building or town, historically to provide it with a preliminary line of defence. In some places moats evolved into more extensive water defences, including natural or artificial lakes, dams and sluices...

s evolved from their original purpose of defence into symbols of power. Some grand castles had long winding approaches intended to impress and dominate their landscape.

Although gunpowder
Gunpowder
Gunpowder, also known since in the late 19th century as black powder, was the first chemical explosive and the only one known until the mid 1800s. It is a mixture of sulfur, charcoal, and potassium nitrate - with the sulfur and charcoal acting as fuels, while the saltpeter works as an oxidizer...

 was introduced to Europe in the 14th century, it did not significantly affect castle building until the 15th century, when artillery became powerful enough to break through stone walls. While castles continued to be built well into the 16th century, new techniques to deal with improved cannon fire made them uncomfortable and undesirable places to live. As a result, true castles went into decline and were replaced by artillery forts with no role in civil administration, and country houses that were indefensible. From the 18th century onwards, there was a renewed interest in castles with the construction of mock castles, part of a romantic
Romanticism
Romanticism was an artistic, literary and intellectual movement that originated in the second half of the 18th century in Europe, and gained strength in reaction to the Industrial Revolution...

 revival of Gothic architecture
Gothic Revival architecture
The Gothic Revival is an architectural movement that began in the 1740s in England...

, but they had no military purpose.

Etymology


The word castle is derived from the Latin
Latin
Latin is an Italic language originally spoken in Latium and Ancient Rome. It, along with most European languages, is a descendant of the ancient Proto-Indo-European language. Although it is considered a dead language, a number of scholars and members of the Christian clergy speak it fluently, and...

 word castellum which is a diminutive
Diminutive
In language structure, a diminutive, or diminutive form , is a formation of a word used to convey a slight degree of the root meaning, smallness of the object or quality named, encapsulation, intimacy, or endearment...

 of the word castrum, meaning "fortified place". The Old English castel, French château
Château
A château is a manor house or residence of the lord of the manor or a country house of nobility or gentry, with or without fortifications, originally—and still most frequently—in French-speaking regions...

, Spanish castillo, Italian castello, and a number of other words in other languages also derive from castellum. The word castle was introduced into English shortly before the Norman Conquest
Norman conquest of England
The Norman conquest of England began on 28 September 1066 with the invasion of England by William, Duke of Normandy. William became known as William the Conqueror after his victory at the Battle of Hastings on 14 October 1066, defeating King Harold II of England...

 to denote this type of building, which was then new to England.

Defining characteristics


In its simplest terms, the definition of a castle accepted amongst academics is "a private fortified residence". This contrasts with earlier fortifications, such as Anglo Saxon
Anglo-Saxons
Anglo-Saxon is a term used by historians to designate the Germanic tribes who invaded and settled the south and east of Great Britain beginning in the early 5th century AD, and the period from their creation of the English nation to the Norman conquest. The Anglo-Saxon Era denotes the period of...

 burh
Burh
A Burh is an Old English name for a fortified town or other defended site, sometimes centred upon a hill fort though always intended as a place of permanent settlement, its origin was in military defence; "it represented only a stage, though a vitally important one, in the evolution of the...

s and walled cities
Defensive wall
A defensive wall is a fortification used to protect a city or settlement from potential aggressors. In ancient to modern times, they were used to enclose settlements...

 such as Constantinople
Constantinople
Constantinople was the capital of the Roman, Eastern Roman, Byzantine, Latin, and Ottoman Empires. Throughout most of the Middle Ages, Constantinople was Europe's largest and wealthiest city.-Names:...

 and Antioch
Antioch
Antioch on the Orontes was an ancient city on the eastern side of the Orontes River. It is near the modern city of Antakya, Turkey.Founded near the end of the 4th century BC by Seleucus I Nicator, one of Alexander the Great's generals, Antioch eventually rivaled Alexandria as the chief city of the...

 in the Middle East; castles were not communal defences but were built and owned by the local feudal
Feudalism
Feudalism was a set of legal and military customs in medieval Europe that flourished between the 9th and 15th centuries, which, broadly defined, was a system for ordering society around relationships derived from the holding of land in exchange for service or labour.Although derived from the...

 lords, either for themselves or for their monarch. Feudalism was the link between a lord and his vassal
Vassal
A vassal or feudatory is a person who has entered into a mutual obligation to a lord or monarch in the context of the feudal system in medieval Europe. The obligations often included military support and mutual protection, in exchange for certain privileges, usually including the grant of land held...

 where, in return for military service, the lord would grant the vassal land and expect loyalty. In the late 20th century, there was a trend to refine the definition of a castle by including the criterion of feudal ownership, thus tying castles to the medieval period, however, this does not necessarily reflect the terminology used in the medieval period. During the First Crusade
First Crusade
The First Crusade was a military expedition by Western Christianity to regain the Holy Lands taken in the Muslim conquest of the Levant, ultimately resulting in the recapture of Jerusalem...

 (1096–1099) the Frankish
Franks
The Franks were a confederation of Germanic tribes first attested in the third century AD as living north and east of the Lower Rhine River. From the third to fifth centuries some Franks raided Roman territory while other Franks joined the Roman troops in Gaul. Only the Salian Franks formed a...

 armies encountered walled settlements and forts that they indiscriminately referred to as castles, but which would not be considered as such under the modern definition.


Castles served a range of purposes, the most important of which were military, administrative, and domestic. As well as defensive structures, castles were also offensive tools which could be used as a base of operations
Headquarters
Headquarters denotes the location where most, if not all, of the important functions of an organization are coordinated. In the United States, the corporate headquarters represents the entity at the center or the top of a corporation taking full responsibility managing all business activities...

 in enemy territory. Castles were established by Norman invaders of England for both defensive purposes and to pacify the country's inhabitants. As William the Conqueror
William I of England
William I , also known as William the Conqueror , was the first Norman King of England from Christmas 1066 until his death. He was also Duke of Normandy from 3 July 1035 until his death, under the name William II...

 advanced through England he fortified key positions to secure the land he had taken. Between 1066 and 1087 he established 36 castles such as Warwick Castle
Warwick Castle
Warwick Castle is a medieval castle in Warwick, the county town of Warwickshire, England. It sits on a bend on the River Avon. The castle was built by William the Conqueror in 1068 within or adjacent to the Anglo-Saxon burh of Warwick. It was used as a fortification until the early 17th century,...

, which he used to guard against rebellion in the English Midlands
English Midlands
The Midlands, or the English Midlands, is the traditional name for the area comprising central England that broadly corresponds to the early medieval Kingdom of Mercia. It borders Southern England, Northern England, East Anglia and Wales. Its largest city is Birmingham, and it was an important...

. Towards the end of the Middle Ages, castles tended to lose their military significance due to the advent of powerful cannons and permanent artillery fortifications; as a result, castles became more important as residences and statements of power. A castle could act as a stronghold and prison but was also a place where a knight or lord could entertain his peers. Over time the aesthetics of the design became more important, as the castle's appearance and size began to reflect the prestige and power of its occupant. Comfortable homes were often fashioned within their fortified walls. Although castles still provided protection from low levels of violence in later periods, eventually they were succeeded by country houses as high status residences.

Use of the term


Castle is sometimes used as a catch-all term for all kinds of fortification
Fortification
Fortifications are military constructions and buildings designed for defence in warfare and military bases. Humans have constructed defensive works for many thousands of years, in a variety of increasingly complex designs...

s, and as a result has been misapplied in the technical sense. An example of this is Maiden Castle
Maiden Castle, Dorset
Maiden Castle is an Iron Age hill fort south west of Dorchester, in the English county of Dorset. Hill forts were fortified hill-top settlements constructed across Britain during the Iron Age...

 which, despite the name, is an Iron Age
Iron Age
The Iron Age is the archaeological period generally occurring after the Bronze Age, marked by the prevalent use of iron. The early period of the age is characterized by the widespread use of iron or steel. The adoption of such material coincided with other changes in society, including differing...

 hill fort
Hill fort
A hill fort is a type of earthworks used as a fortified refuge or defended settlement, located to exploit a rise in elevation for defensive advantage. They are typically European and of the Bronze and Iron Ages. Some were used in the post-Roman period...

, which had a very different origin and purpose. Although "castle" has not become, like chateau
Château
A château is a manor house or residence of the lord of the manor or a country house of nobility or gentry, with or without fortifications, originally—and still most frequently—in French-speaking regions...

 in French and schloss
Schloss
Schloss is a German word for a building similar to a château, palace or manor house; or what in the British Isles would be known as a stately home...

 in German, a generic term for an English country house
English country house
The English country house is a large house or mansion in the English countryside. Such houses were often owned by individuals who also owned a London house. This allowed to them to spend time in the country and in the city—hence, for these people, the term distinguished between town and country...

, many of these use the word in their name while having few if any of the architectural characteristics, usually as their owners liked to maintain a link to the past and felt the castle was a masculine expression of their power. In scholarship the castle, as defined above, is generally accepted as a coherent concept, originating in Europe and later spreading to parts of the Middle East, where they were introduced by European Crusaders. This coherent group shared a common origin, dealt with a particular mode of warfare, and exchanged influences.

In other areas of the world, analogous structures shared features of fortification and other defining characteristics associated with the concept of a castle, though they originated in different periods and circumstances and experienced differing evolutions and influences. For example shiro in Japan, described as castles by historian Stephen Turnbull
Stephen Turnbull (historian)
Stephen Richard Turnbull is a historian specializing in eastern military history, especially the samurai of Japan. The books he wrote are mainly on Japanese and Mongolian subjects.He attended Cambridge University where he gained his first degree...

, underwent "a completely different developmental history, were built in a completely different way and were designed to withstand attacks of a completely different nature". While European castles built from the late 12th and early 13th century onwards were generally stone, shiro were predominantly of timber construction into the 16th century. By the time Japanese and European cultures met in the late 16th century, fortification in Europe had moved beyond castles and relied on innovations such as the Italian trace italienne and star fort
Star fort
A star fort, or trace italienne, is a fortification in the style that evolved during the age of gunpowder, when cannon came to dominate the battlefield, and was first seen in the mid-15th century in Italy....

s. Forts in India
Forts in India
Forts are important structures built by Emperor Aashraya. The capital of each raja or chieftain was a fort around which a township grew and developed; this pattern can be seen in many South Asian cities such as Delhi, Agra, Lahore, Pune, Calcutta and Mumbai. Two forts in India are UNESCO world...

 present a similar case; when they were encountered by the British in the 17th century castles in Europe had generally fallen out of use militarily. The fortifications the British encountered were dubbed forts, and the terminology is widely used today. Like shiro, the Indian forts, durga or durg in Sanskrit
Sanskrit
Sanskrit , is a historical Indo-Aryan language and the primary liturgical language of Hinduism, Jainism and Buddhism.Buddhism: besides Pali, see Buddhist Hybrid Sanskrit Today, it is listed as one of the 22 scheduled languages of India and is an official language of the state of Uttarakhand...

, shared features with castles in Europe such as acting as a domicile for a lord as well as being fortifications. They too had a different development from the structures known as castles that had their origins in Europe.

Motte


A motte was an earthen mound with a flat top. It was often artificial, although sometimes it incorporated a pre-existing feature of the landscape. The excavation of earth to make the mound left a ditch around the motte which acted as a further defence. Sometimes a nearby stream was diverted to flood the ditch, creating a moat. "Motte" and "moat" derive from the same Old French
Old French
Old French was the Romance dialect continuum spoken in territories that span roughly the northern half of modern France and parts of modern Belgium and Switzerland from the 9th century to the 14th century...

 word, indicating that the features were originally associated and depended on each other for their construction. Although the motte is commonly associated with the bailey to form a motte-and-bailey
Motte-and-bailey
A motte-and-bailey is a form of castle, with a wooden or stone keep situated on a raised earthwork called a motte, accompanied by an enclosed courtyard, or bailey, surrounded by a protective ditch and palisade...

 castle, this was not always the case and there are instances where a motte existed on its own. "Motte" refers to the mound alone, but it was often surmounted by a fortified structure, such as a keep, and the flat top would be surrounded by a palisade
Palisade
A palisade is a steel or wooden fence or wall of variable height, usually used as a defensive structure.- Typical construction :Typical construction consisted of small or mid sized tree trunks aligned vertically, with no spacing in between. The trunks were sharpened or pointed at the top, and were...

. It was common for the motte to be accessed via a flying bridge (a bridge over the ditch from the counterscarp
Counterscarp
A scarp and a counterscarp are the inner and outer sides of a ditch used in fortifications. In permanent fortifications the scarp and counterscarp may be encased in stone...

 of the ditch to the edge of the top of the mound), as shown in the Bayeux Tapestry
Bayeux Tapestry
The Bayeux Tapestry is an embroidered cloth—not an actual tapestry—nearly long, which depicts the events leading up to the Norman conquest of England concerning William, Duke of Normandy and Harold, Earl of Wessex, later King of England, and culminating in the Battle of Hastings...

's depiction of Château de Dinan
Château de Dinan
The Château de Dinan consists of a keep, in the town of Dinan, in the Côtes-d'Armor département of the Brittany region of France.The keep and the gate are part of the of medieval ramparts which still surround the old town....

. Sometimes a motte covered an older castle or hall, whose rooms became underground storage areas and prisons beneath a new keep.

Bailey and enceinte



A bailey, also called a ward, was a fortified enclosure. It was a common feature of castles, and most had at least one. The keep on top of the motte was the domicile of the lord in charge of the castle and a bastion of last defence, while the bailey was the home of the rest of the lord's household and gave them protection. The barracks for the garrison, stables, workshops, and storage facilities were often found in the bailey. Water was supplied by a well
Water well
A water well is an excavation or structure created in the ground by digging, driving, boring or drilling to access groundwater in underground aquifers. The well water is drawn by an electric submersible pump, a trash pump, a vertical turbine pump, a handpump or a mechanical pump...

 or cistern
Cistern
A cistern is a waterproof receptacle for holding liquids, usually water. Cisterns are often built to catch and store rainwater. Cisterns are distinguished from wells by their waterproof linings...

. Over time the focus of high status accommodation shifted from the keep to the bailey; this resulted in the creation of another bailey that separated the high status buildings – such as the lord's chambers and the chapel – from the everyday structures such as the workshops and barracks. From the late 12th century there was a trend for knights to move out of the small houses they had previously occupied within the bailey to live in fortified houses in the countryside. Although often associated with the motte-and-bailey type of castle, baileys could also be found as independent defensive structures. These simple fortifications were called ringwork
Ringwork
A ringwork is a form of fortified defensive structure, usually circular or oval in shape. Ringworks are essentially motte-and-bailey castles minus the motte...

s. The enceinte was the castle's main defensive enclosure, and the terms "bailey" and "enceinte" are linked. A castle could have several baileys but only one enceinte. Castles with no keep, which relied on their outer defences for protection, are sometimes called enceinte castles; these were the earliest form of castles, before the keep was introduced in the 10th century.

Keep


A keep was a great tower and usually the most strongly defended point of a castle before the introduction of concentric defence. "Keep" was not a term used in the medieval period – the term was applied from the 16th century onwards – instead "donjon" was used to refer to great towers, or turris in Latin. In motte-and-bailey castles, the keep was on top of the motte. "Dungeon" is a corrupted form of "donjon" and means a dark, unwelcoming prison. Although often the strongest part of a castle and a last place of refuge if the outer defences fell, the keep was not left empty in case of attack but was used as a residence by the lord who owned the castle, or his guests or representatives. At first this was usual only in England, when after the Norman Conquest of 1066 the "conquerors lived for a long time in a constant state of alert"; elsewhere the lord's wife presided over a separate residence (domus, aula or mansio in Latin) close to the keep, and the donjon was a barracks and headquarters. Gradually, the two functions merged into the same building, and the highest residential storeys had large windows; as a result for many structures, it is difficult to find an appropriate term. The massive internal spaces seen in many surviving donjons can be misleading; they would have been divided into several rooms by light partitions, as in a modern office building. Even in some large castles the great hall was separated only by a partition from the lord's "chamber", his bedroom and to some extent his office.

Curtain wall



Curtain walls were defensive walls enclosing a bailey. They had to be high enough to make scaling the walls with ladders difficult and thick enough to withstand bombardment from siege engines which, from the 15th century onwards, included artillery
Artillery
Originally applied to any group of infantry primarily armed with projectile weapons, artillery has over time become limited in meaning to refer only to those engines of war that operate by projection of munitions far beyond the range of effect of personal weapons...

. A typical wall could be 3 m (10 ft) thick and 12 m (39.4 ft) tall, although sizes varied greatly between castles. To protect them from undermining, curtain walls were sometimes given a stone skirt around their bases. Walkways along the tops of the curtain walls allowed defenders to rain missiles on enemies below, and battlement
Battlement
A battlement in defensive architecture, such as that of city walls or castles, comprises a parapet , in which portions have been cut out at intervals to allow the discharge of arrows or other missiles. These cut-out portions form crenels...

s gave them further protection. Curtain walls were studded with towers to allow enfilading fire along the wall. Arrowslits in the walls did not become common in Europe until the 13th century, for fear that they might compromise the wall's strength.

Gatehouse



The entrance was often the weakest part in a circuit of defences. To overcome this, the gatehouse was developed, allowing those inside the castle to control the flow of traffic. In earth and timber castles, the gateway was usually the first feature to be rebuilt in stone. The front of the gateway was a blind spot and to overcome this, projecting towers were added on each side of the gate in a style similar to that developed by the Romans. The gatehouse contained a series of defences to make a direct assault more difficult than battering down a simple gate. Typically, there were one or more portcullis
Portcullis
A portcullis is a latticed grille made of wood, metal, fibreglass or a combination of the three. Portcullises fortified the entrances to many medieval castles, acting as a last line of defence during time of attack or siege...

es – a wooden grille reinforced with metal to block a passage – and arrowslits to allow defenders to harry the enemy. The passage through the gatehouse was lengthened to increase the amount of time an assailant had to spend under fire and unable to retaliate in a confined space. It is a popular myth that so-called murder-holes – openings in the ceiling of the gateway passage – were used to pour boiling oil or molten lead on attackers; the price of oil and lead and the distance of the gatehouse from fires meant that this was completely impractical. They were most likely used like machicolation
Machicolation
A machicolation is a floor opening between the supporting corbels of a battlement, through which stones, or other objects, could be dropped on attackers at the base of a defensive wall. The design was developed in the Middle Ages when the Norman crusaders returned. A machicolated battlement...

s, to drop objects on attackers, or to allow water to be poured on fires to extinguish them. Provision was made in the upper storey of the gatehouse for accommodation so the gate was never left undefended, although this arrangement later evolved to become more comfortable at the expense of defence.

During the 13th and 14th centuries the barbican
Barbican
A barbican, from medieval Latin barbecana, signifying the "outer fortification of a city or castle," with cognates in the Romance languages A barbican, from medieval Latin barbecana, signifying the "outer fortification of a city or castle," with cognates in the Romance languages A barbican, from...

 was developed. This consisted of a rampart, ditch and possibly a tower, in front of the gatehouse which could be used to further protect the entrance. The purpose of a barbican was not just to provide another line of defence but also to dictate the only approach to the gate.

Moat


A moat was a defensive ditch with steep sides, and could be either dry or filled with water. Its purpose was twofold; to stop devices such as siege tower
Siege tower
A siege tower is a specialized siege engine, constructed to protect assailants and ladders while approaching the defensive walls of a fortification. The tower was often rectangular with four wheels with its height roughly equal to that of the wall or sometimes higher to allow archers to stand on...

s from reaching the curtain wall and to prevent the walls from being undermined. Water moats were found in low-lying areas and were usually crossed by a drawbridge
Drawbridge
A drawbridge is a type of movable bridge typically associated with the entrance of a castle surrounded by a moat. The term is often used to describe all different types of movable bridges, like bascule bridges and lift bridges.-Castle drawbridges:...

, although these were often replaced by stone bridges. Fortified islands could be added to the moat, adding another layer of defence. Water defences, such as moats or natural lakes, had the benefit of dictating the enemy's approach to the castle. The site of the 13th-century Caerphilly Castle
Caerphilly Castle
Caerphilly Castle is a medieval castle that dominates the centre of the town of Caerphilly in south Wales. It is the largest castle in Wales and the second largest in Britain after Windsor Castle...

 in Wales covers over 30 acre (12.1 ha) and the water defences, created by flooding the valley to the south of the castle, are some of the largest in Western Europe.

Other features


Battlement
Battlement
A battlement in defensive architecture, such as that of city walls or castles, comprises a parapet , in which portions have been cut out at intervals to allow the discharge of arrows or other missiles. These cut-out portions form crenels...

s were most often found surmounting curtain walls and the tops of gatehouses, and comprised several elements: crenellations, hoardings
Hoarding (castles)
A hoarding was a temporary wooden construction that was placed on the exterior of the ramparts of a castle during a siege.The purpose of a hoarding was to allow the defenders to improve their field of fire along the length of a wall and, most particularly, directly downwards to the wall base.The...

, machicolations, and loopholes. Crenellation is the collective name for alternating crenels and merlon
Merlon
In architecture, a merlon forms the solid part of an embattled parapet, sometimes pierced by embrasures. The space between two merlons is usually called a crenel, although those later designed and used for cannons were called embrasures.-Etymology:...

s: gaps and solid blocks on top of a wall. Hoardings were wooden constructs that projected beyond the wall, allowing defenders to shoot at, or drop objects on attackers at the base of the wall without having to lean perilously over the crenellations, thereby exposing themselves to retaliatory fire. Machicolations were stone projections on top of a wall with openings that allowed objects to be dropped on an enemy at the base of the wall in a similar fashion to hoardings. Arrowslits, also commonly called loopholes, were narrow vertical openings in defensive walls which allowed arrows or crossbow bolts to be fired on attackers. The narrow slits were intended to protect the defender by providing a very small target, but the size of the opening could also impede the defender if it was too small. A smaller horizontal opening could be added to give an archer a better view for aiming. Sometimes a sally port
Sally port
The primary modern meaning for sally port is a secure, controlled entryway, as at a fortification or a prison. The entrance is usually protected in some way, such as with a fixed wall blocking the door which must be circumvented before entering, but which prevents direct enemy fire from a distance...

 was included; this could allow the garrison to leave the castle and engage besieging forces. It was usual for the latrines to empty down the external walls of a castle and into the surrounding ditch.

Antecedents



According to historian Charles Coulson the accumulation of wealth and resources, such as food, led to the need for defensive structures. The earliest fortifications originated in the Fertile Crescent
Fertile Crescent
The Fertile Crescent, nicknamed "The Cradle of Civilization" for the fact the first civilizations started there, is a crescent-shaped region containing the comparatively moist and fertile land of otherwise arid and semi-arid Western Asia. The term was first used by University of Chicago...

, the Indus Valley
Indus River
The Indus River is a major river which flows through Pakistan. It also has courses through China and India.Originating in the Tibetan plateau of western China in the vicinity of Lake Mansarovar in Tibet Autonomous Region, the river runs a course through the Ladakh district of Jammu and Kashmir and...

, Egypt, and China where settlements were protected by large walls. Northern Europe
Northern Europe
Northern Europe is the northern part or region of Europe. Northern Europe typically refers to the seven countries in the northern part of the European subcontinent which includes Denmark, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway, Finland and Sweden...

 was slower than the East to develop defensive structures and it was not until the Bronze Age
Bronze Age
The Bronze Age is a period characterized by the use of copper and its alloy bronze as the chief hard materials in the manufacture of some implements and weapons. Chronologically, it stands between the Stone Age and Iron Age...

 that hill fort
Hill fort
A hill fort is a type of earthworks used as a fortified refuge or defended settlement, located to exploit a rise in elevation for defensive advantage. They are typically European and of the Bronze and Iron Ages. Some were used in the post-Roman period...

s developed. They proliferated across Europe in the Iron Age
Iron Age
The Iron Age is the archaeological period generally occurring after the Bronze Age, marked by the prevalent use of iron. The early period of the age is characterized by the widespread use of iron or steel. The adoption of such material coincided with other changes in society, including differing...

. These structures differed from their eastern counterparts in that they used earthworks
Earthworks (archaeology)
In archaeology, earthwork is a general term to describe artificial changes in land level. Earthworks are often known colloquially as 'lumps and bumps'. Earthworks can themselves be archaeological features or they can show features beneath the surface...

 rather than stone as a building material. Oppida
Oppidum
Oppidum is a Latin word meaning the main settlement in any administrative area of ancient Rome. The word is derived from the earlier Latin ob-pedum, "enclosed space," possibly from the Proto-Indo-European *pedóm-, "occupied space" or "footprint."Julius Caesar described the larger Celtic Iron Age...

 developed in Europe from hill forts in the 2nd century BC; they were fortified settlements, such as the oppidum of Manching
Oppidum of Manching
The Oppidum of Manching was a large Celtic proto-urban or city-like settlement at modern-day Manching , Bavaria . The settlement was founded in the 3rd century BC and existed until c. 50-30 BC. It reached its largest extent during the late La Tène period , when it had a size of 380 hectares...

. The Romans
Ancient Rome
Ancient Rome was a thriving civilization that grew on the Italian Peninsula as early as the 8th century BC. Located along the Mediterranean Sea and centered on the city of Rome, it expanded to one of the largest empires in the ancient world....

 encountered fortified settlements such as hill forts and oppida when expanding their territory into northern Europe. The defences were often effective and only overcome by the extensive use of siege engine
Siege engine
A siege engine is a device that is designed to break or circumvent city walls and other fortifications in siege warfare. Some have been operated close to the fortifications, while others have been used to attack from a distance. From antiquity, siege engines were constructed largely of wood and...

s and other siege warfare
Siege
A siege is a military blockade of a city or fortress with the intent of conquering by attrition or assault. The term derives from sedere, Latin for "to sit". Generally speaking, siege warfare is a form of constant, low intensity conflict characterized by one party holding a strong, static...

 techniques, such as at the Battle of Alesia
Battle of Alesia
The Battle of Alesia or Siege of Alesia took place in September, 52 BC around the Gallic oppidum of Alesia, a major town centre and hill fort of the Mandubii tribe...

. The Romans' own fortifications (castra
Castra
The Latin word castra, with its singular castrum, was used by the ancient Romans to mean buildings or plots of land reserved to or constructed for use as a military defensive position. The word appears in both Oscan and Umbrian as well as in Latin. It may have descended from Indo-European to Italic...

) varied from simple temporary earthworks thrown up by armies on the move, to elaborate permanent stone constructions, notably the milecastle
Milecastle
A milecastle was a small fort , a rectangular fortification built during the period of the Roman Empire. They were placed at intervals of approximately one Roman mile along several major frontiers, for example Hadrian's Wall in Great Britain , hence the name.Along Hadrian's Wall, milecastles were...

s of Hadrian's Wall
Hadrian's Wall
Hadrian's Wall was a defensive fortification in Roman Britain. Begun in AD 122, during the rule of emperor Hadrian, it was the first of two fortifications built across Great Britain, the second being the Antonine Wall, lesser known of the two because its physical remains are less evident today.The...

. Roman forts were generally rectangular with rounded corners – a "playing-card shape".

Origins and early castles


The 9th and 10th centuries saw the emergence of a social and military elite in the Carolingian Empire
Carolingian Empire
Carolingian Empire is a historiographical term which has been used to refer to the realm of the Franks under the Carolingian dynasty in the Early Middle Ages. This dynasty is seen as the founders of France and Germany, and its beginning date is based on the crowning of Charlemagne, or Charles the...

 that was based upon mounted warfare
Horses in warfare
The first use of horses in warfare occurred over 5,000 years ago. The earliest evidence of horses ridden in warfare dates from Eurasia between 4000 and 3000 BC. A Sumerian illustration of warfare from 2500 BC depicts some type of equine pulling wagons...

. In return for military service knight
Knight
A knight was a member of a class of lower nobility in the High Middle Ages.By the Late Middle Ages, the rank had become associated with the ideals of chivalry, a code of conduct for the perfect courtly Christian warrior....

s were granted land by the lords for whom they fought. The link between knight and lord was the basis of feudalism
Feudalism
Feudalism was a set of legal and military customs in medieval Europe that flourished between the 9th and 15th centuries, which, broadly defined, was a system for ordering society around relationships derived from the holding of land in exchange for service or labour.Although derived from the...

, and could go higher up the social scale with loyalties between lords, dukes, princes, and kings. When the Carolingian Empire collapsed in the 9th and 10th centuries, so did effective centralised administration, and it fell to the landed elite to take control. This led to the privatisation of government, and local lords assumed responsibility for the economy and justice. It was in this context that castles originated. Although castles were private buildings, lordship was a public office and the holder had a responsibility to protect his peasants.

Allen Brown asserts that the breakdown of society associated with the decline of the Carolingian Empire and the subsequent absence of a working state made feudal ties more important. The rise of castles is not solely attributed to defence of the new feudal lords' lands, but as a reaction to attacks by Magyars, Muslims, and Vikings. It is likely that the castle evolved from the practice of fortifying a lordly home. The greatest threat to a lord's home or hall was fire as it was usually a wooden structure. To protect against this, and keep other threats at bay, there were several courses of action available: create encircling earthworks to keep an enemy at a distance; build the hall in stone; or raise it up on an artificial mound, known as a motte, to present an obstacle to attackers. While the concept of ditches, ramparts, and stone walls as defensive measures is ancient, raising a motte is a medieval innovation. A bank and ditch enclosure was a simple form of defence, and when found without an associated motte is called a ringwork; when the site was in use for a prolonged period, it was sometimes replaced by a more complex structure or enhanced by the addition of a stone curtain wall. Building the hall in stone did not necessarily make it immune to fire as it still had windows and a wooden door. This led to the elevation of windows to the first floor – to make it harder to throw objects in – and to change the entrance from ground floor to first floor. These features are seen in many surviving castle keeps, which were the more sophisticated version of halls. Castles were not just defensive sites but also enhanced a lord's control over his lands. They allowed the garrison to control the surrounding area, and formed a centre of administration, providing the lord with a place to hold court.

Building a castle sometimes required the permission of the king or other high authority. In 864 the King of West Francia, Charles the Bald
Charles the Bald
Charles the Bald , Holy Roman Emperor and King of West Francia , was the youngest son of the Emperor Louis the Pious by his second wife Judith.-Struggle against his brothers:He was born on 13 June 823 in Frankfurt, when his elder...

, prohibited the construction of castella without his permission and ordered them all to be destroyed. This is perhaps the earliest reference to castles being built without permission, breaking the feudal agreement between lord and vassal
Vassal
A vassal or feudatory is a person who has entered into a mutual obligation to a lord or monarch in the context of the feudal system in medieval Europe. The obligations often included military support and mutual protection, in exchange for certain privileges, usually including the grant of land held...

. However, military historian Allen Brown points out that the wording may be misleading as at the time terms such as castellum and castrum were used to describe any fortification. In some countries the monarch had little control over lords, or required the construction of new castles to aid in securing the land so was unconcerned about granting permission – as was the case in England in the aftermath of the Norman Conquest and the Holy Land during the Crusades
Crusades
The Crusades were a series of religious wars, blessed by the Pope and the Catholic Church with the main goal of restoring Christian access to the holy places in and near Jerusalem...

. Switzerland is an extreme case of there being no state control over who built castles, and as a result there were 4,000 in the country. There are very few castles dated with certainty from the mid-9th century. Converted into a donjon around 950, Châteaux Doué-la-Fontaine
Doué-la-Fontaine
Doué-la-Fontaine is a commune in the Maine-et-Loire department in western France.It is located in the heart of Anjou, a few kilometres from the great châteaux of the Loire Valley.-Sights:...

 in France is the oldest standing castle in Europe.

From 1000 onwards, references to castles in texts such as charters increased greatly. Historians have interpreted this as evidence of a sudden increase in the number of castles in Europe around this time; this has been supported by archaeological
Archaeology
Archaeology, or archeology , is the study of human society, primarily through the recovery and analysis of the material culture and environmental data that they have left behind, which includes artifacts, architecture, biofacts and cultural landscapes...

 investigation which has dated the construction of castle sites through the examination of ceramics. The increase in Italy began in the 950s, with numbers of castles increasing by a factor of three to five every 50 years, whereas in other parts of Europe such as France and Spain the growth was slower. In 950 Provence
Provence
Provence ; Provençal: Provença in classical norm or Prouvènço in Mistralian norm) is a region of south eastern France on the Mediterranean adjacent to Italy. It is part of the administrative région of Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur...

 was home to 12 castles, by 1000 this figure had risen to 30, and by 1030 it was over 100. Although the increase was slower in Spain, the 1020s saw a particular growth in the number of castles in the region, particularly in contested border areas between Christian and Muslim. Despite the common period in which castles rose to prominence in Europe, their form and design varied from region to region. In the early 11th century, the motte and keep – an artificial mound surmounted by a palisade and tower – was the most common form of castle in Europe, everywhere except Scandinavia. While Britain, France, and Italy shared a tradition of timber construction that was continued in castle architecture, Spain more commonly used stone or mud-brick as the main building material. The Muslim invasion of the Iberian Peninsula
Iberian Peninsula
The Iberian Peninsula , sometimes called Iberia, is located in the extreme southwest of Europe and includes the modern-day sovereign states of Spain, Portugal and Andorra, as well as the British Overseas Territory of Gibraltar...

 in the 8th century introduced a style of building developed in North Africa reliant on tapial, pebbles in cement, where timber was in short supply. Although stone construction would later become common elsewhere, from the 11th century onwards it was the primary building material for Christian castles in Spain, while at the same time timber was still the dominant building material in north-west Europe.
Historians have interpreted the widespread presence of castles across Europe in the 11th and 12th centuries as evidence that warfare was common, and usually between local lords. Castles were introduced into England shortly before the Norman Conquest in 1066. Before the 12th century, castles were as uncommon in Denmark as they had been in England before the Norman Conquest. The introduction of castles to Denmark was a reaction to attacks from Wendish
Wends
Wends is a historic name for West Slavs living near Germanic settlement areas. It does not refer to a homogeneous people, but to various peoples, tribes or groups depending on where and when it is used...

 pirates, and they were usually intended as coastal defences. The motte and bailey remained the dominant form of castle in England, Wales, and Ireland well into the 12th century. At the same time, castle architecture in mainland Europe became more sophisticated. The donjon was at the centre of this change in castle architecture in the 12th century. Central towers proliferated, and typically had a square plan, with walls 3 to 4 m (9.8 to 13.1 ft) thick. Their decoration emulated Romanesque architecture
Romanesque architecture
Romanesque architecture is an architectural style of Medieval Europe characterised by semi-circular arches. There is no consensus for the beginning date of the Romanesque architecture, with proposals ranging from the 6th to the 10th century. It developed in the 12th century into the Gothic style,...

, and sometimes incorporated double windows similar to those found in church bell towers. Donjons, which were the residence of the lord of the castle, evolved to become more spacious. The design emphasis of donjons changed to reflect a shift from functional to decorative requirements, imposing a symbol of lordly power upon the landscape. This sometimes led to compromising defence for the sake of display.

Innovation and scientific design


Until the 12th century, stone-built and earth and timber castles were contemporary, but by the late 12th century the number of castles being built went into decline. This has been partly attributed to the higher cost of stone-built fortifications, and the obsolescence of timber and earthwork sites, which meant it was preferable to build in more durable stone. Although superseded by their stone successors, timber and earthwork castles were by no means useless. This is evidenced by the continual maintenance of timber castles over long periods, sometimes several centuries; Owain Glyndŵr
Owain Glyndwr
Owain Glyndŵr , or Owain Glyn Dŵr, anglicised by William Shakespeare as Owen Glendower , was a Welsh ruler and the last native Welshman to hold the title Prince of Wales...

's 11th-century timber castle at Sycharth
Sycharth
Sycharth is a small hamlet in the community of Llangedwyn in Powys in eastern Wales near Llansilin, 7 miles west of Oswestry.- Location :Sycharth sits in the valley of the River Cynllaith, a tributary of the Afon Tanat...

 was still in use by the start of the 15th century, its structure having been maintained for four centuries.

At the same time there was a change in castle architecture. Until n the late 12th century castles generally had few towers; a gateway with few defensive features such as arrowslits or a portcullis; a great keep or donjon, usually square and without arrowslits; and the shape would have been dictated by the lay of the land (the result was often irregular or curvilinear structures). The design of castles was not uniform, but these were features that could be found in a typical castle in the mid-12th century. By the end of the 12th century or the early 13th century, a newly constructed castle could be expected to be polygonal in shape, with towers at the corners to provide enfilading fire for the walls. The towers would have protruded from the walls and featured arrowslits on each level to allow archers to target anyone nearing or at the curtain wall. These later castles did not always have a keep, but this may have been because the more complex design of the castle as a whole drove up costs and the keep was sacrificed to save money. The larger towers provided space for habitation to make up for the loss of the donjon. Where keeps did exist, they were no longer square but polygonal or cylindrical. Gateways were more strongly defended, with the entrance to the castle usually between two half-round towers which were connected by a passage above the gateway – although there was great variety in the styles of gateway and entrances – and one or more portcullis. A peculiar feature of Muslim castles in the Iberian Peninsula was the use of detached towers, called Albarrana towers, around the perimeter as can be seen at the Alcazaba of Badajoz
Alcazaba of Badajoz
The Alcazaba of Badajoz is an ancient Moorish citadel in Badajoz, Extremadura, western Spain. The alcazaba as it now appears was built by the Almohads in the 12th century, although it probably existed from the 9th century, when Badajoz was founded...

. Probably developed in the 12th century, the towers provided flanking fire. They were connected to the castle by removable wooden bridges, so if the towers were captured the rest of the castle was not accessible.


When seeking to explain this change in the complexity and style of castles, antiquarian
Antiquarian
An antiquarian or antiquary is an aficionado or student of antiquities or things of the past. More specifically, the term is used for those who study history with particular attention to ancient objects of art or science, archaeological and historic sites, or historic archives and manuscripts...

s found their answer in the Crusades. It seemed that the Crusaders had learned much about fortification from their conflicts with the Saracens and exposure to Byzantine architecture
Byzantine architecture
Byzantine architecture is the architecture of the Byzantine Empire. The empire gradually emerged as a distinct artistic and cultural entity from what is today referred to as the Roman Empire after AD 330, when the Roman Emperor Constantine moved the capital of the Roman Empire east from Rome to...

. There were legends such as that of Lalys – an architect from Palestine
Palestine
Palestine is a conventional name, among others, used to describe the geographic region between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River, and various adjoining lands....

 who reputedly went to Wales after the Crusades and greatly enhanced the castles in the south of the country – and it was assumed that great architects such as James of Saint George originated in the East. In the mid-20th century this view was cast into doubt. Legends were discredited, and in the case of James of Saint George it was proven that he came from Saint-Georges-d'Espéranche
Saint-Georges-d'Espéranche
Saint-Georges-d'Espéranche is a commune in the Isère department in south-eastern France.-References:*...

, in France. If the innovations in fortification had derived from the East, it would have been expected for their influence to be seen from 1100 onwards, immediately after the Christians were victorious in the First Crusade
First Crusade
The First Crusade was a military expedition by Western Christianity to regain the Holy Lands taken in the Muslim conquest of the Levant, ultimately resulting in the recapture of Jerusalem...

 (1096–1099), rather than nearly 100 years later. Remains of Roman structures in Western Europe were still standing in many places, some of which had flanking round-towers and entrances between two flanking towers. The castle builders of Western Europe were aware of and influenced by Roman design; late Roman coastal forts on the English "Saxon Shore
Saxon Shore
Saxon Shore could refer to one of the following:* Saxon Shore, a military command of the Late Roman Empire, encompassing southern Britain and the coasts of northern France...

" were reused and in Spain the wall around the city of Ávila imitated Roman architecture when it was built in 1091. Historian Smail in Crusading warfare argued that the case for the influence of Eastern fortification on the West has been overstated, and that Crusaders of the 12th century in fact learned very little about scientific design from Byzantine and Saracen defences. A well-sited castle that made use of natural defences and had strong ditches and walls had no need for a scientific design. An example of this approach is Kerak
Kerak
Kerak Castle is a large crusader castle located in Kerak in Jordan. It is one of the largest crusader castles in the Levant.Construction of the castle began in the 1140s, under Pagan, the butler of Fulk of Jerusalem. The Crusaders called it Crac des Moabites or "Karak in Moab", as it is frequently...

. Although there were no scientific elements to its design, it was almost impregnable, and in 1187 Saladin
Saladin
Ṣalāḥ ad-Dīn Yūsuf ibn Ayyūb , better known in the Western world as Saladin, was an Arabized Kurdish Muslim, who became the first Sultan of Egypt and Syria, and founded the Ayyubid dynasty. He led Muslim and Arab opposition to the Franks and other European Crusaders in the Levant...

 chose to lay siege to the castle and starve out its garrison rather than risk an assault.

After the First Crusade, Crusaders who did not return to their homes in Europe helped found the Crusader states
Crusader states
The Crusader states were a number of mostly 12th- and 13th-century feudal states created by Western European crusaders in Asia Minor, Greece and the Holy Land , and during the Northern Crusades in the eastern Baltic area...

 of the principality of Antioch
Principality of Antioch
The Principality of Antioch, including parts of modern-day Turkey and Syria, was one of the crusader states created during the First Crusade.-Foundation:...

, the County of Edessa
County of Edessa
The County of Edessa was one of the Crusader states in the 12th century, based around Edessa, a city with an ancient history and an early tradition of Christianity....

, the Kingdom of Jerusalem
Kingdom of Jerusalem
The Kingdom of Jerusalem was a Catholic kingdom established in the Levant in 1099 after the First Crusade. The kingdom lasted nearly two hundred years, from 1099 until 1291 when the last remaining possession, Acre, was destroyed by the Mamluks, but its history is divided into two distinct periods....

, and the County of Tripoli
County of Tripoli
The County of Tripoli was the last Crusader state founded in the Levant, located in what today are parts of western Syria and northern Lebanon, where exists the modern city of Tripoli. The Crusader state was captured and created by Christian forces in 1109, originally held by Bertrand of Toulouse...

. The castles they founded to secure their acquisitions were designed mostly by Syrian master-masons. Their design was very similar to that of a Roman fort or Byzantine tetrapyrgia which were square in plan and had square towers at each corner that did not project much beyond the curtain wall. The keep of these Crusader castles would have had a square plan and generally be undecorated. While castles were used to hold a site and control movement of armies, in the Holy Land some key strategic positions were left unfortified. Castle architecture in the East became more complex around the late 12th and early 13th centuries after the stalemate of the Third Crusade
Third Crusade
The Third Crusade , also known as the Kings' Crusade, was an attempt by European leaders to reconquer the Holy Land from Saladin...

 (1189–1192). Both Christians and Muslims created fortifications, and the character of each was different. Saphadin, the 13th-century ruler of the Saracens, created structures with large rectangular towers that influenced Muslim architecture and were copied again and again, however they had little influence on Crusader castles.


In the early 13th century, Crusader castles were mostly built by Military Orders including the Knights Hospitaller
Knights Hospitaller
The Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of Saint John of Jerusalem of Rhodes and of Malta , also known as the Sovereign Military Order of Malta , Order of Malta or Knights of Malta, is a Roman Catholic lay religious order, traditionally of military, chivalrous, noble nature. It is the world's...

, Knights Templar
Knights Templar
The Poor Fellow-Soldiers of Christ and of the Temple of Solomon , commonly known as the Knights Templar, the Order of the Temple or simply as Templars, were among the most famous of the Western Christian military orders...

, and Teutonic Knights. The orders were responsible for the foundation of sites such as Krak des Chevaliers
Krak des Chevaliers
Krak des Chevaliers , also Crac des Chevaliers, is a Crusader castle in Syria and one of the most important preserved medieval castles in the world. The site was first inhabited in the 11th century by a settlement of Kurds; as a result it was known as Hisn al Akrad, meaning the "Castle of the...

, Margat
Margat
Margat, also known as Marqab from the Arabic Qalaat al-Marqab is a castle near Baniyas, Syria, which was a Crusader fortress and one of the major strongholds of the Knights Hospitaller...

, and Belvoir
Belvoir Fortress (Israel)
Belvoir Fortress is a Crusader fortress in northern Israel, on a hill south of the Sea of Galilee. Gilbert of Assailly, Grand Master of the Knights Hospitaller, began construction of the castle in 1168. The restored fortress is located in Belvoir National Park...

. Design varied not just between orders, but between individual castles, though it was common for those founded in this period to have concentric defences. The concept, which originated in castles such as Krak des Chevaliers, was to remove the reliance on a central strongpoint and to emphasise the defence of the curtain walls. There would be multiple rings of defensive walls, one inside the other, with the inner ring rising above the outer so that its field of fire was not completely obscured. If assailants made it past the first line of defence they would be caught in the killing ground between the inner and outer walls and have to assault the second wall. Concentric castles were widely copied across Europe, for instance when Edward I of England
Edward I of England
Edward I , also known as Edward Longshanks and the Hammer of the Scots, was King of England from 1272 to 1307. The first son of Henry III, Edward was involved early in the political intrigues of his father's reign, which included an outright rebellion by the English barons...

 – who had himself been on Crusade – built castles in Wales in the late 13th century, four of the eight he founded had a concentric design. Not all the features of the Crusader castles from the 13th century were emulated in Europe. For instance, it was common in Crusader castles to have the main gate in the side of a tower and for there to be two turns in the passageway, lengthening the time it took for someone to reach the outer enclosure. It is rare for this bent entrance
Bent entrance
A bent entrance is a defensive feature in mediaeval fortification. In a castle with a bent entrance, the gate passage is narrow and turns sharply. Its purpose is to slow down attackers attempting to rush the gate and impede the use of battering rams against doors...

 to be found in Europe.


One of the effects of the Livonian Crusade
Livonian Crusade
The Livonian Crusade refers to the German and Danish conquest and colonization of medieval Livonia, the territory constituting modern Latvia and Estonia, during the Northern Crusades...

 in the Baltic was the introduction of stone and brick fortifications. Although there were hundreds of wooden castles in Prussia
Prussia
Prussia was a German kingdom and historic state originating out of the Duchy of Prussia and the Margraviate of Brandenburg. For centuries, the House of Hohenzollern ruled Prussia, successfully expanding its size by way of an unusually well-organized and effective army. Prussia shaped the history...

 and Livonia
Livonia
Livonia is a historic region along the eastern shores of the Baltic Sea. It was once the land of the Finnic Livonians inhabiting the principal ancient Livonian County Metsepole with its center at Turaida...

, the use of bricks and mortar was unknown in the region before the Crusaders. Until the 13th century and start of the 14th centuries, their design was heterogeneous, however this period saw the emergence of a standard plan in the region: a square plan, with four wings around a central courtyard. It was common for castles in the East to have arrowslits in the curtain wall at multiple levels; contemporary builders in Europe were wary of this as they believed it weakened the wall. Arrowslits did not compromise the wall's strength, but it was not until Edward I's programme of castle building that they were widely adopted in Europe. The Crusades also led to the introduction of machicolations into Western architecture. Until the 13th century, the tops of towers had been surrounded by wooden galleries, allowing defenders to drop objects on assailants below. Although machicolations performed the same purpose as the wooden galleries, they were probably an Eastern invention rather than an evolution of the wooden form. Machicolations were used in the East long before the arrival of the Crusaders, and perhaps as early as the first half of the 8th century in Syria. The greatest period of castle building in Spain was in the 11th to 13th centuries, and they were most commonly found in the disputed borders between Christian and Muslim lands. Conflict and interaction between the two groups led to an exchange of architectural ideas, and Spanish Christians adopted the use of detached towers. The Spanish Reconquista
Reconquista
The Reconquista was a period of almost 800 years in the Middle Ages during which several Christian kingdoms succeeded in retaking the Muslim-controlled areas of the Iberian Peninsula broadly known as Al-Andalus...

, driving the Muslims out of the Iberian Peninsula, was complete in 1492.

Although France has been described as "the heartland of medieval architecture", the English were at the forefront of castle architecture in the 12th century. French historian François Gebelin wrote: "The great revival in military architecture was led, as one would naturally expect, by the powerful kings and princes of the time; by the sons of William the Conqueror and their descendants, the Plantagenets, when they became dukes of Normandy
Normandy
Normandy is a geographical region corresponding to the former Duchy of Normandy. It is in France.The continental territory covers 30,627 km² and forms the preponderant part of Normandy and roughly 5% of the territory of France. It is divided for administrative purposes into two régions:...

. These were the men who built all the most typical twelfth-century fortified castles remaining to-day". Despite this, by the beginning of the 15th century, the rate of castle construction in England and Wales went into decline. The new castles were generally of a lighter build than earlier structures and presented few innovations, although strong sites were still created such as that of Raglan
Raglan Castle
Raglan Castle is a late medieval castle located just north of the village of Raglan in the county of Monmouthshire in south east Wales. The modern castle dates from between the 15th and early 17th-centuries, when the successive ruling families of the Herberts and the Somersets created a luxurious,...

 in Wales. At the same time, French castle architecture came to the fore and led the way in the field of medieval fortifications. Across Europe – particularly the Baltic, Germany, and Scotland – castles were built well into the 16th century.

Advent of gunpowder



Artillery powered by gunpowder was introduced to Europe in the 1320s and spread quickly. Handguns, which were initially unpredictable and inaccurate weapons, were not recorded until the 1380s. Castles were adapted to allow small artillery pieces – averaging between 19.6 and 22 kg (43.2 and 48.5 lb) – to fire from towers. These guns were too heavy for a man to carry and fire, but if he supported the butt end and rested the muzzle on the edge of the gun port he could fire the weapon. The gun ports developed in this period show a unique feature, that of a horizontal timber across the opening. A hook on the end of the gun could be latched over the timber so the gunner did not have to take the full recoil of the weapon. This adaptation is found across Europe, and although the timber rarely survives, there is an intact example at Castle Doornenburg
Doornenburg Castle
Castle Doornenburg is a Dutch castle from the 13th century.The castle is located in the eastern part of Gelderland, near the village of Doornenburg. It contains a front-castle and a main castle, which are connected through a small wooden bridge...

 in the Netherlands. Gunports were keyhole shaped, with a circular hole at the bottom for the weapon and a narrow slit on top to allow the gunner to aim. This form is very common in castles adapted for guns, found in Egypt, Italy, Scotland, and Spain, and elsewhere in between. Other types of port, though less common, were horizontal slits – allowing only lateral movement – and large square openings, which allowed greater movement. The use of guns for defence gave rise to artillery castles, such as that of Château de Ham
Château de Ham
The Château de Ham is a castle in the commune of Ham in the Somme département in Picardy, France.- History :...

 in France. Defences against guns were not developed until a later stage. Ham is an example of the trend for new castles to dispense with earlier features such as machicolations, tall towers, and crenellations.

Bigger guns were developed, and in the 15th century became an alternative to siege engines such as the trebuchet
Trebuchet
A trebuchet is a siege engine that was employed in the Middle Ages. It is sometimes called a "counterweight trebuchet" or "counterpoise trebuchet" in order to distinguish it from an earlier weapon that has come to be called the "traction trebuchet", the original version with pulling men instead of...

. The benefits of large guns over trebuchets – the most effective siege engine of the Middle Ages before the advent of gunpowder – were those of a greater range and power. In an effort to make them more effective, guns were made ever bigger, although this hampered their ability to reach remote castles. By the 1450s guns were the preferred siege weapon, and their effectiveness was demonstrated by Mehmed II
Mehmed II
Mehmed II , was Sultan of the Ottoman Empire for a short time from 1444 to September 1446, and later from...

 at the Fall of Constantinople
Fall of Constantinople
The Fall of Constantinople was the capture of the capital of the Byzantine Empire, which occurred after a siege by the Ottoman Empire, under the command of Ottoman Sultan Mehmed II, against the defending army commanded by Byzantine Emperor Constantine XI...

. The response towards more effective cannons was to build thicker walls and to prefer round towers, as the curving sides were more likely to deflect a shot than a flat surface. While this sufficed for new castles, pre-existing structures had to find a way to cope with being battered by cannon. An earthen bank could be piled behind a castle's curtain wall to absorb some of the shock of impact. Often, castles constructed before the age of gunpowder were incapable of using guns as their wall-walks were too narrow. A solution to this was to pull down the top of a tower and to fill the lower part with the rubble to provide a surface for the guns to fire from. Lowering the defences in this way had the effect of making them easier to scale with ladders. A more popular alternative defence, which avoided damaging the castle, was to establish bulwarks beyond the castle's defences. These could be built from earth or stone and were used to mount weapons.

Around 1500, the innovation of the angled bastion
Bastion
A bastion, or a bulwark, is a structure projecting outward from the main enclosure of a fortification, situated in both corners of a straight wall , facilitating active defence against assaulting troops...

 was developed in Italy. With developments such as these, Italy pioneered permanent artillery fortifications, which took over from the defensive role of castles. From this evolved star fort
Star fort
A star fort, or trace italienne, is a fortification in the style that evolved during the age of gunpowder, when cannon came to dominate the battlefield, and was first seen in the mid-15th century in Italy....

s, also known as trace italienne. The elite responsible for castle construction had to choose between the new type that could withstand cannon-fire and the earlier, more elaborate style. The first was ugly and uncomfortable and the latter was less secure, although it did offer greater aesthetic appeal and value as a status symbol. The second choice proved to be more popular as it became apparent that there was little point in trying to make the site genuinely defensible in the face of cannon. For a variety of reasons, not least of which is that many castles have no recorded history, there is no firm number of castles built in the medieval period. However, it has been estimated that between 75,000 and 100,000 were built in western Europe; of these around 1,700 were in England and Wales and around 14,000 in German-speaking areas.
Some true castles were built in the Americas
Americas
The Americas, or America , are lands in the Western hemisphere, also known as the New World. In English, the plural form the Americas is often used to refer to the landmasses of North America and South America with their associated islands and regions, while the singular form America is primarily...

 by the Spanish
Spanish Main
In the days of the Spanish New World Empire, the mainland of the American continent enclosing the Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico was referred to as the Spanish Main. It included present-day Florida, the east shore of the Gulf of Mexico in Texas, Mexico, Central America and the north coast of...

 and French colonies
New France
New France was the area colonized by France in North America during a period beginning with the exploration of the Saint Lawrence River by Jacques Cartier in 1534 and ending with the cession of New France to Spain and Great Britain in 1763...

. The first stage of Spanish fort construction has been termed the "castle period", which lasted from 1492 until the end of the 16th century. Starting with Fortaleza Ozama
Fortaleza Ozama
The Fortaleza Ozama is a sixteenth-century castle built by the Spanish at the entrance to Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic and overlooking the Ozama River. Named after this river, the castle, also referred to as "La Fortaleza" or "The Fortress", is the oldest formal military construction still...

, "these castles were essentially European medieval castles transposed to America". Among other defensive structures (including forts and citadels), castles were also built in New France
New France
New France was the area colonized by France in North America during a period beginning with the exploration of the Saint Lawrence River by Jacques Cartier in 1534 and ending with the cession of New France to Spain and Great Britain in 1763...

 towards the end of the 17th century. In Montreal the artillery was not as developed as on the battle-fields of Europe, some of the region's outlying forts were built like the fortified manor houses
Manor house
A manor house is a country house that historically formed the administrative centre of a manor, the lowest unit of territorial organisation in the feudal system in Europe. The term is applied to country houses that belonged to the gentry and other grand stately homes...

 of France. Fort Longueuil, built from 1695–1698 by a baronial family
Baron de Longueuil
The title Baron de Longueuil is the only currently-extant French colonial title that is recognized by Queen Elizabeth II as Queen of Canada. The title was granted originally by King Louis XIV of France to a Norman military officer, Charles le Moyne de Longueuil, and its continuing recognition since...

, has been described as "the most medieval-looking fort built in Canada". The manor house and stables were within a fortified bailey, with a tall round turret in each corner. The "most substantial castle-like fort" near Montréal was Fort Senneville
Fort Senneville
Fort Senneville is one of the outlying forts of Montreal, Quebec, Canada, built by the Canadiens of New France near the Sainte-Anne rapids in 1671. The property was part of a fief ceded to Dugué de Boisbriant in 1672 by the Sulpicians. A large stone windmill, which doubled as a watch tower, was...

, built in 1692 with square towers connected by thick stone walls, as well as a fortified windmill. Stone forts such as these served as defensive residences, as well as imposing structures to prevent Iroquois
Iroquois
The Iroquois , also known as the Haudenosaunee or the "People of the Longhouse", are an association of several tribes of indigenous people of North America...

 incursions.

Although castle construction faded towards the 16th century, castles did not necessarily all fall out of use. Some retained a role in local administration and became law courts, while others are still handed down in aristocratic families as hereditary seats. A particularly famous example of this is Windsor Castle in England which was founded in the 11th century and is home to the monarch of the United Kingdom. In other cases they still had a role in defence. Tower house
Tower house
A tower house is a particular type of stone structure, built for defensive purposes as well as habitation.-History:Tower houses began to appear in the Middle Ages, especially in mountain or limited access areas, in order to command and defend strategic points with reduced forces...

s, which are closely related to castles and include pele towers, were defended towers that were permanent residences built in the 14th to 17th centuries. Especially common in Ireland and Scotland, they could be up to five storeys high and succeeded common enclosure castles and were built by a greater social range of people. While unlikely to provide as much protection as a more complex castle, they offered security against raiders and other small threats.

Later use and revival castles



According to archaeologists Oliver Creighton and Robert Higham, "the great country houses of the seventeenth to twentieth centuries were, in a social sense, the castles of their day". Though there was a trend for the elite to move from castles into country houses in the 17th century, castles were not completely useless. In later conflicts, such as the English Civil War
English Civil War
The English Civil War was a series of armed conflicts and political machinations between Parliamentarians and Royalists...

 (1641–1651), many castles were refortified, although subsequently slighted
Slighting
A slighting is the deliberate destruction, partial or complete, of a fortification without opposition. During the English Civil War this was to render it unusable as a fort.-Middle Ages:...

 to prevent them from being used again.

Revival or mock castles became popular as a manifestation of a Romantic
Romanticism
Romanticism was an artistic, literary and intellectual movement that originated in the second half of the 18th century in Europe, and gained strength in reaction to the Industrial Revolution...

 interest in the Middle Ages and chivalry
Chivalry
Chivalry is a term related to the medieval institution of knighthood which has an aristocratic military origin of individual training and service to others. Chivalry was also the term used to refer to a group of mounted men-at-arms as well as to martial valour...

, and as part of the broader Gothic Revival
Gothic Revival architecture
The Gothic Revival is an architectural movement that began in the 1740s in England...

 in architecture. Examples of these castles include Chapultepec in Mexico, Neuschwanstein in Germany, and Edwin Lutyens
Edwin Lutyens
Sir Edwin Landseer Lutyens, OM, KCIE, PRA, FRIBA was a British architect who is known for imaginatively adapting traditional architectural styles to the requirements of his era...

' Castle Drogo
Castle Drogo
Castle Drogo is a country house near Drewsteignton, Devon, England. It was built in the 1910s and 1920s for Julius Drewe to designs by architect Edwin Lutyens, and is a Grade I listed building...

 (1911–1930) – the last flicker of this movement in the British Isles. While churches and cathedrals in a Gothic style could faithfully imitate medieval examples, new country houses built in a "castle style" differed internally to their medieval predecessors. This was because to be faithful to medieval design would have left the houses cold and dark by contemporary standards.

Artificial ruins
Artificial ruins
Artificial ruins or imitation ruins are edifice fragments built to resemble real remnants of historic buildings.Artificial ruins became fashionable in German interpretations of baroque and english gardens, like the Ruinenberg. The ruins are mostly of gothic or ancient style.- External links :* 360...

, built to resemble remnants of historic edifices, were also a hallmark of the period. They were usually built as centre pieces in aristocratic planned landscapes. Follies
Folly
In architecture, a folly is a building constructed primarily for decoration, but either suggesting by its appearance some other purpose, or merely so extravagant that it transcends the normal range of garden ornaments or other class of building to which it belongs...

 were similar, although they differed from artificial ruins in that they were not part of a planned landscape, but rather seemed to have no reason for being built. Both drew on elements of castle architecture such as castellation and towers, but served no military purpose and were solely for display.

Construction




Once the site of a castle had been selected – whether a strategic position or one intended to dominate the landscape as a mark of power – the building material had to be selected. An earth and timber castle was cheaper and easier to erect than one built from stone. The costs involved in construction are not well-recorded, and most surviving records relate to royal castles. A castle with earthen ramparts, a motte, and timber defences and buildings could have been constructed by an unskilled workforce. The source of man-power was probably from the local lordship, and the tenants would already have the necessary skills of felling trees, digging, and working timber necessary for an earth and timber castle. Possibly coerced into working for their lord, the construction of an earth and timber castle would not have been a drain on a client's funds. In terms of time, it has been estimated that an average sized motte – 5 m (16.4 ft) high and 15 m (49.2 ft) wide at the summit – would have taken 50 people about 40 working days. An exceptionally expensive motte and bailey was that of Clones
Clones
Clones is a small town in western County Monaghan, in the 'border area' of the Republic of Ireland. The area is part of the Border Region, earmarked for economic development by the Irish Government due to its currently below-average economic situation...

 in Ireland, built in 1211 for £20. The high cost, relative to other castles of its type, was because labourers had to be imported.

The cost of building a castle varied according to factors such as their complexity and transport costs for material. It is certain that stone castles cost a great deal more than those built from earth and timber. Even a very small tower, such as Peveril Castle
Peveril Castle
Peveril Castle is a medieval building overlooking the village of Castleton in the English county of Derbyshire. Its site provides views across the Hope Valley and Cave Dale. The castle is named after its founder, William Peveril, who held lands in Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire on behalf of the king...

, would have cost around £200. In the middle were castles such as Orford
Orford Castle
Orford Castle is a castle in the village of Orford, Suffolk, England, located 12 miles northeast of Ipswich, with views over the Orford Ness. It was built between 1165 and 1173 by Henry II of England to consolidate royal power in the region. The well-preserved keep, described by historian R...

, which was built in the late 12th century for £1,400, and at the upper end were those such as Dover
Dover Castle
Dover Castle is a medieval castle in the town of the same name in the English county of Kent. It was founded in the 12th century and has been described as the "Key to England" due to its defensive significance throughout history...

, which cost about £7,000 between 1181 and 1191. Spending on the scale of the vast castles such as Château Gaillard (an estimated £15,000 to £20,000 between 1196 and 1198) was easily supported by The Crown
The Crown
The Crown is a corporation sole that in the Commonwealth realms and any provincial or state sub-divisions thereof represents the legal embodiment of governance, whether executive, legislative, or judicial...

, but for lords of smaller areas, castle building was a very serious and costly undertaking. It was usual for a stone castle to take the best part of a decade to finish. The cost of a large castle built over this time (anywhere from £1,000 to £10,000) would take the income from several manors
Manorialism
Manorialism, an essential element of feudal society, was the organizing principle of rural economy that originated in the villa system of the Late Roman Empire, was widely practiced in medieval western and parts of central Europe, and was slowly replaced by the advent of a money-based market...

, severely impacting a lord's finances. Costs in the late 13th century were of a similar order, with castles such as Beaumaris
Beaumaris Castle
Beaumaris Castle, located in the town of the same name on the Isle of Anglesey in Wales, was built as part of King Edward I's campaign to conquer the north of Wales. It was designed by James of St. George and was begun in 1295, but never completed...

 and Rhuddlan
Rhuddlan Castle
Rhuddlan Castle is a castle located in Rhuddlan, Denbighshire, Wales. It was erected by Edward I in 1277 following the First Welsh War.-Construction:Rhuddlan was planned as a concentric castle...

 costing £14,500 and £9,000 respectively. Edward I's
Edward I of England
Edward I , also known as Edward Longshanks and the Hammer of the Scots, was King of England from 1272 to 1307. The first son of Henry III, Edward was involved early in the political intrigues of his father's reign, which included an outright rebellion by the English barons...

 campaign of castle-building in Wales cost £80,000 between 1277 and 1304, and £95,000 between 1277 and 1329. Renowned designer Master James of Saint George, responsible for the construction of Beaumaris, explained the cost:

When it was built in 992 in France the stone tower at Langeais was 16 metres (52.5 ft) high, 17.5 m wide, and 10 m long with walls averaging 1.5 m. The walls contain 1200 cubic metres (42,377.6 cu ft) of stone and have a total surface (both inside and out) of 1600 square metres (1,913.6 sq yd). The tower is estimated to have used 83,000 average working days to complete, most of which was unskilled labour.

Not only were stone castles expensive to build in the first place, but their maintenance was a constant drain. They contained a lot of timber, which was often unseasoned and as a result needed careful upkeep. For example, it is documented that in the late 12th century repairs at castles such as Exeter and Gloucester
Gloucester Castle
Gloucester Castle was a castle in the cathedral city of Gloucester in the county of Gloucestershire.- Early Norman Motte & Bailey Castle :It began as a motte castle during the reign of William the Conqueror when 16 houses were demolished to make way for it. It was enlarged by William Rufus who...

 cost between £20 and £50 annually.

Medieval machines
Medieval technology
Medieval technology refers to the technology used in medieval Europe under Christian rule. After the Renaissance of the 12th century, medieval Europe saw a radical change in the rate of new inventions, innovations in the ways of managing traditional means of production, and economic growth...

 and inventions, such as the treadwheel crane
Treadwheel crane
A treadwheel crane is a wooden, human powered, hoisting and lowering device. It was primarily used during Roman times and the Middle Ages in the building of castles and cathedrals. The often heavy charge is lifted as the individual inside the treadwheel crane walks...

, became indispensable during construction, and techniques of building wooden scaffolding
Scaffolding
Scaffolding is a temporary structure used to support people and material in the construction or repair of buildings and other large structures. It is usually a modular system of metal pipes or tubes, although it can be from other materials...

 were improved upon from Antiquity
Classical antiquity
Classical antiquity is a broad term for a long period of cultural history centered on the Mediterranean Sea, comprising the interlocking civilizations of ancient Greece and ancient Rome, collectively known as the Greco-Roman world...

. Finding stone for shell keep
Shell keep
A shell keep is a style of medieval fortification, best described as a stone structure circling the top of a motte.In English castle morphology, shell keeps are perceived as the successors to motte-and-bailey castles, with the wooden fence around the top of the motte replaced by a stone wall...

s and castle walls
Castle Walls
"Castle Walls" is a song by American rapper T.I., from his seventh studio album No Mercy. The song features Pop/R&B singer Christina Aguilera, and was produced by Alex da Kid....

 was the first concern of medieval builders, and a prominent concern was to have quarries close at hand. There are examples of some castles where stone was quarried on site, such as Chinon, Château de Coucy
Château de Coucy
The Château de Coucy is a French castle in the commune of Coucy-le-Château-Auffrique, in the département of Aisne, built in the 13th century and renovated by Viollet-le-Duc in the 19th...

 and Château Gaillard.

Brick-built structures were not necessarily weaker than their stone-built counterparts. In England, brick production proliferated along the south-east coast due to an influx of Flemish weavers and a reduction in the amount of available stone, leading to a demand for an alternative building material. Brick castles are less common than stone or earth and timber constructions, and often it was chosen for its aesthetic appeal or because it was in fashion, encouraged by the brick architecture of the Low Countries
Low Countries
The Low Countries are the historical lands around the low-lying delta of the Rhine, Scheldt, and Meuse rivers, including the modern countries of Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg and parts of northern France and western Germany....

. For example, when Tattershall Castle
Tattershall Castle, Lincolnshire
Tattershall Castle is a castle in Tattershall, Lincolnshire, England, north east of Sleaford, and in the care of the National Trust.-History:...

 was built between 1430 and 1450, there was plenty of stone available nearby, but the owner, Lord Cromwell, chose to use brick. About 700,000 bricks were used to build the castle, which has been described as "the finest piece of medieval brick-work in England". Many countries had both timber and stone castles, however Denmark had few quarries, and as a result, most of its castles are earth and timber affairs, or later on built from brick. Also, most Spanish castles were built from stone, whereas castles in Eastern Europe were usually of timber construction.

Social centre




Due to the lord's presence in a castle, it was a centre of administration from where he controlled his lands. He relied on the support of those below him, as without the support of his more powerful tenants a lord could expect his power to be undermined. Successful lords regularly held court with those immediately below them on the social scale, but absentees could expect to find their influence weakened. Larger lordships could be vast, and it would be impractical for a lord to visit all his properties regularly so deputies were appointed. This especially applied to royalty, who sometimes owned land in different countries. To allow the lord to concentrate on his duties regarding administration, he had a household of servants to take care of chores such as providing food. The household was run by a chamberlain, while a treasurer took care of the estate's written records. Royal households took essentially the same form as baronial households, although on a much larger scale and the positions were more prestigious. An important role of the household servants was the preparation of food; the castle kitchens would have been a busy place when the castle was occupied, called on to provide large meals. Without the presence of a lord's household, usually because he was staying elsewhere, a castle would have been a quiet place with few residents, focused on maintaining the castle.

As social centres castles were important places for display. Builders took the opportunity to draw on symbolism, through the use of motifs, to evoke a sense of chivalry that was aspired to in the Middle Ages amongst the elite. Later structures of the Romantic Revival would draw on elements of castle architecture such as battlements for the same purpose. Castles have been compared with cathedrals as objects of architectural pride, and some castles incorporated gardens as ornamental features. The right to crenellate, when granted by a monarch – though it was not always necessary – was important not just as it allowed a lord to defend his property but because crenellations and other accoutrements associated with castles were prestigious through their use by the elite. Licences to crenellate were also proof of a relationship with or favour from the monarch, who was the one responsible for granting permission.

Courtly love
Courtly love
Courtly love was a medieval European conception of nobly and chivalrously expressing love and admiration. Generally, courtly love was secret and between members of the nobility. It was also generally not practiced between husband and wife....

 was the eroticisation of love between the nobility. Emphasis was placed on restraint between lovers. Though sometimes expressed through chivalric events
Chivalry
Chivalry is a term related to the medieval institution of knighthood which has an aristocratic military origin of individual training and service to others. Chivalry was also the term used to refer to a group of mounted men-at-arms as well as to martial valour...

 such as tournaments
Tournament (medieval)
A tournament, or tourney is the name popularly given to chivalrous competitions or mock fights of the Middle Ages and Renaissance . It is one of various types of hastiludes....

, where knights would fight wearing a token from their lady, it could also be private and conducted in secret. The legend of Tristan and Iseult
Tristan and Iseult
The legend of Tristan and Iseult is an influential romance and tragedy, retold in numerous sources with as many variations. The tragic story is of the adulterous love between the Cornish knight Tristan and the Irish princess Iseult...

 is one example of stories of courtly love told in the Middle Ages. It was an ideal of love between two people not married to each other, although the man might be married to someone else. It was not uncommon or ignoble for a lord to be adulterous – Henry I of England
Henry I of England
Henry I was the fourth son of William I of England. He succeeded his elder brother William II as King of England in 1100 and defeated his eldest brother, Robert Curthose, to become Duke of Normandy in 1106...

 had over 20 bastards
Legitimacy (law)
At common law, legitimacy is the status of a child who is born to parents who are legally married to one another; and of a child who is born shortly after the parents' divorce. In canon and in civil law, the offspring of putative marriages have been considered legitimate children...

 for instance – but for a lady to be promiscuous was seen as dishonourable.

The purpose of marriage between the medieval elites was to secure land. Girls were married in their teens, but boys did not marry until they came of age. There is a popular conception that women played a peripheral role in the medieval castle household, and that it was dominated by the lord himself. This derives from the image of the castle as a martial institution, but most castles in England, France, Ireland, and Scotland were never involved in conflicts or sieges, so the domestic life is a neglected facet. The lady was given a "marriage portion" of her husband's estates – usually about a third – which was hers for life, and her husband would inherit on her death. It was her duty to administer them directly, as the lord administered his own land. Despite generally being excluded from military service, a woman could be in charge of a castle, either on behalf of her husband or if she was widowed. Because of their influence within the medieval household, women influenced construction and design, sometimes through direct patronage; historian Charles Coulson emphasises the role of women in applying "a refined aristocratic taste" to castles due to their long term residence.

Castle landscapes



As castles were not simply military buildings but centres of administration and symbols of power, they had a significant impact on the landscape around them. Rural castles were often associated with mills and field systems due to their role in managing the lord's estate, which gave them greater influence over resources. Others were adjacent to or in royal forests or deer parks and were important in their upkeep. Fish ponds were a luxury of the lordly elite, and many were found next to castles. Not only were they practical in that they ensured a water supply and fresh fish, but they were a status symbol as they were expensive to build and maintain.

Although sometimes the construction of a castle led to the destruction of a village, such as at Eaton Socon
Eaton Socon
Eaton Socon is a district of St Neots in Cambridgeshire, England. It was originally a village in Bedfordshire, along with the neighbouring village of Eaton Ford, but officially became part of the town in 1965...

 in England, it was more common for the villages nearby to have grown as a result of the presence of a castle. Sometimes planned towns
Castle town
A castle town is a settlement built adjacent to or surrounding a castle. Castle towns are common in Medieval Europe. Good example include small towns like Alnwick and Arundel, which are still dominated by their castles...

 or villages were created around a castle. The benefits of castle building on settlements was not confined to Europe. When the 13th-century Safad Castle
Safed
Safed , is a city in the Northern District of Israel. Located at an elevation of , Safed is the highest city in the Galilee and of Israel. Due to its high elevation, Safed experiences warm summers and cold, often snowy, winters...

 was founded in Galilee
Galilee
Galilee , is a large region in northern Israel which overlaps with much of the administrative North District of the country. Traditionally divided into Upper Galilee , Lower Galilee , and Western Galilee , extending from Dan to the north, at the base of Mount Hermon, along Mount Lebanon to the...

 in the Holy Land, the 260 villages benefitted from the inhabitants' newfound ability to move freely. When built, a castle could result in the restructuring of the local landscape, with roads moved for the convenience of the lord. Settlements could also grow naturally around a castle, rather than being planned, due to the benefits of proximity to an economic centre in a rural landscape and the safety given by the defences. Not all such settlements survived, as once the castle lost its importance – perhaps succeeded by a manor house
Manor house
A manor house is a country house that historically formed the administrative centre of a manor, the lowest unit of territorial organisation in the feudal system in Europe. The term is applied to country houses that belonged to the gentry and other grand stately homes...

 as the centre of administration – the benefits of living next to a castle vanished and the settlement depopulated.

During and shortly after the Norman Conquest of England, castles were inserted into important pre-existing towns to control and subdue the populace. They were usually located near any existing town defences, such as Roman walls, although this sometimes resulted in the demolition of structures occupying the desired site. In Lincoln
Lincoln, Lincolnshire
Lincoln is a cathedral city and county town of Lincolnshire, England.The non-metropolitan district of Lincoln has a population of 85,595; the 2001 census gave the entire area of Lincoln a population of 120,779....

, 166 houses were destroyed to clear space for the castle, and in York agricultural land was flooded to create a moat for the castle. As the military importance of urban castles waned from their early origins, they became more important as centres of administration, and their financial and judicial roles. When the Normans invaded Ireland, Scotland, and Wales in the 11th and 12th centuries, settlement in those countries was predominantly non-urban, and the foundation of towns was often linked with the creation of a castle.

The location of castles in relation to high status features, such as fish ponds, was a statement of power and control of resources. Also often found near a castle, sometimes within its defences, was the parish church
Parish church
A parish church , in Christianity, is the church which acts as the religious centre of a parish, the basic administrative unit of episcopal churches....

. This signified a close relationship between feudal lords and the Church, one of the most important institutions of medieval society. Even elements of castle architecture that have usually been interpreted as military could be used for display. The water features of Kenilworth Castle
Kenilworth Castle
Kenilworth Castle is located in the town of the same name in Warwickshire, England. Constructed from Norman through to Tudor times, the castle has been described by architectural historian Anthony Emery as "the finest surviving example of a semi-royal palace of the later middle ages, significant...

 in England – comprising a moat and several satellite ponds – forced anyone approaching the castle entrance to take a very indirect route, walking around the defences before the final approach towards the gateway. Another example is that of the 14th-century Bodiam Castle
Bodiam Castle
Bodiam Castle is a 14th-century moated castle near Robertsbridge in East Sussex, England. It was built in 1385 by Sir Edward Dalyngrigge, a former knight of Edward III, with the permission of Richard II, ostensibly to defend the area against French invasion during the Hundred Years' War...

, also in England; although it appears to be a state of the art, advanced castle it is in a site of little strategic importance, and the moat was shallow and more likely intended to make the site appear impressive than as a defence against mining. The approach was long and took the viewer around the castle, ensuring they got a good look before entering. Moreover, the gunports were impractical and unlikely to have been effective.

Warfare




As a static structure, castles could often be avoided. Their immediate area of influence was about 400 metres (1,312.3 ft) and their weapons had a short range even early in the age of artillery. However, leaving an enemy behind would allow them to interfere with communications and to make raids in the landscape. Garrisons were expensive and as a result often small unless the castle was important. Cost also meant that in peace time garrisons were smaller, and small castles were manned by perhaps a couple of watchmen and gate-guards. Even in war, garrisons were not necessarily large as too many people in a defending force would strain supplies and impair the castle's ability to withstand a long siege. In 1403, a force of 37 archers successfully defended Caernarfon Castle
Caernarfon Castle
Caernarfon Castle is a medieval building in Gwynedd, north-west Wales. There was a motte-and-bailey castle in the town of Caernarfon from the late 11th century until 1283 when King Edward I of England began replacing it with the current stone structure...

 against two assaults by Owain Glyndŵr's allies during a long siege, demonstrating that a small force could be effective. Early on, manning a castle was a feudal duty of vassals to their magnates, and magnates to their kings, however this was later replaced with paid forces. A garrison was usually commanded by a constable whose peace-time role would have been looking after the castle in the owner's absence. Under him would have been knights who by benefit of their military training would have acted as a type of officer class. Below them were archers and bowmen, whose role was to prevent the enemy reaching the walls as can be seen by the positioning of arrowslits.

If it was necessary to seize control of a castle an army could either launch an assault or lay siege. It was more efficient to starve the garrison out than to assault it, particularly for the most heavily defended sites. Without relief from an external source, the defenders would eventually submit. Sieges could last weeks, months, and in rare cases years if the supplies of food and water were plentiful. A long siege could slow down the army, allowing help to come or for the enemy to prepare a larger force for later. Such an approach was not confined to castles, but was also applied to the fortified towns of the day. On occasion, siege castles would be built to defend the besiegers from a sudden sally and would have been abandoned after the siege ended one way or another.


If forced to assault a castle, there were many options available to the attackers. For wooden structures, such as early motte-and-baileys, fire was a real threat and attempts would be made to set them alight as can be seen in the Bayeux Tapestry. Projectile weapons had been used since antiquity and the mangonel
Mangonel
A mangonel was a type of catapult or siege engine used in the medieval period to throw projectiles at a castle's walls. The exact meaning of the term is debatable, and several possibilities have been suggested. Mangonel may also be indirectly referring to the 'mangon' a French hard stone found in...

 and petraria – from Roman and Eastern origins respectively – were the main two that were used into the Middle Ages. The trebuchet
Trebuchet
A trebuchet is a siege engine that was employed in the Middle Ages. It is sometimes called a "counterweight trebuchet" or "counterpoise trebuchet" in order to distinguish it from an earlier weapon that has come to be called the "traction trebuchet", the original version with pulling men instead of...

, which probably evolved from the petraria in the 13th century, was the most effective siege weapon before the development of cannons. These weapons were vulnerable to fire from the castle as they had a short range and were large machines. Conversely, weapons such as trebuchets could be fired from within the castle due to the high trajectory of its projectile, and would be protected from direct fire by the curtain walls. Ballista
Ballista
The ballista , plural ballistae, was an ancient missile weapon which launched a large projectile at a distant target....

s or springald
Springald
A Springald is a late 12th century or early 13th century mechanical artillery device for throwing large bolts and less commonly stones or Greek fire, based around the design of a contemporary crossbow and a Greek ballista, but with inward swinging arms....

s were siege engines that worked on the same principles as crossbows. With their origins in Ancient Greece, tension was used to project a bolt or javelin. Missiles fired from these engines had a lower trajectory than trebuchets or mangonels and were more accurate. They were more commonly used against the garrison rather than the buildings of a castle. Eventually cannons developed to the point where they were more powerful and had a greater range than the trebuchet, and became the main weapon in siege warfare.

Walls could be undermined by the creation of a sap
Sapping
Mining, landmining or undermining is a siege method which has been used since antiquity against a walled city, fortress, castle or other strongly held and fortified military position.-Antiquity:...

; a mine would be dug to conceal the attackers' approach to the wall, with wooden supports to prevent the tunnel from collapsing. When the target had been reached, the supports would be burned, caving in the tunnel and bringing down the structure above. The best defence against this form of attack was to build a castle on a rock outcrop or to surround it with a wide, deep moat. A counter-mine could be dug towards the mine of the besiegers; assuming the two converged, this would result in underground hand-to-hand combat in the pitch black. Mining was an effective method of breaching walls and may have had a negative effect on the morale of the defending garrison. At the siege of Margat
Margat
Margat, also known as Marqab from the Arabic Qalaat al-Marqab is a castle near Baniyas, Syria, which was a Crusader fortress and one of the major strongholds of the Knights Hospitaller...

 in 1285, Sultan Al Mansur Qalawun created a mine extending underneath the castle's keep. When the Knights Hospitaller were informed of the mine, they surrendered the castle. Battering ram
Battering ram
A battering ram is a siege engine originating in ancient times and designed to break open the masonry walls of fortifications or splinter their wooden gates...

s were also used, usually in the form of a tree trunk given an iron cap. They were used to batter down the castle gates, although they were sometimes used against walls with less effect. Those manning rams and entering mines required protection from a castle's defenders; small movable wooden structures called "penthouses" would cover the entrance or the ram. They were often covered in raw hides to offer some protection against fire.

As an alternative to the time-consuming task of creating a breach in the walls, an escalade
Escalade
Escalade is the act of scaling defensive walls or ramparts with the aid of ladders, and was a prominent feature of siege warfare in medieval times...

 could be attempted to capture the walls with fighting along the walkways on the curtain walls. In this instance, attackers would be vulnerable to arrowfire. A safer option for those assaulting a castle was to use a siege tower
Siege tower
A siege tower is a specialized siege engine, constructed to protect assailants and ladders while approaching the defensive walls of a fortification. The tower was often rectangular with four wheels with its height roughly equal to that of the wall or sometimes higher to allow archers to stand on...

, usually called a belfry. Once ditches around a castle were partially filled in, these wooden movable towers could be pushed against the curtain wall. As well as providing a degree of protection for those within, a belfry could overlook the interior of a castle and offer an advantageous position from which to unleash missiles. As a result, bowmen were often secreted in siege towers.

See also

  • Alcázar
    Alcázar
    An alcázar , alcácer or alcàsser is a type of castle in Spain and Portugal. The term derives from the Arabic word القصر meaning "fort, castle or palace"; and the Arabic word is derived from the Latin word, 'castrum', meaning an army camp or fort...

  • Forts in India
    Forts in India
    Forts are important structures built by Emperor Aashraya. The capital of each raja or chieftain was a fort around which a township grew and developed; this pattern can be seen in many South Asian cities such as Delhi, Agra, Lahore, Pune, Calcutta and Mumbai. Two forts in India are UNESCO world...

  • Hill castle
    Hill castle
    A hill castle is a castle built on a natural feature that stands above the surrounding terrain. It is a term derived from the German Höhenburg used in categorising castle sites by their topographical location...

  • Hillside castle
    Hillside castle
    A hillside castle is a castle built on the side of a hill above much of the surrounding terrain but below the summit itself. It is thus a type of hill castle and emerged in Europe in the second half of the 11th century....

  • Japanese castle
    Japanese castle
    ' were fortresses composed primarily of wood and stone. They evolved from the wooden stockades of earlier centuries, and came into their best-known form in the 16th century...

  • Lowland castle
    Lowland castle
    The term lowland castle or plains castle describes a type of castle based that is situated on a lowland, plain or valley floor, as opposed to one built on higher ground such as a hill spur...

  • Ridge castle
    Ridge castle
    A ridge castle is a term derived from the German word Kammburg for a medieval fortification built on a ridge or the crest of mountain or hill chain.Ridge castles were not a common type of fortification...

  • Spur castle
    Spur castle
    A spur castle is a type of medieval fortification that uses its location as a defensive feature. The name refers to the location on a spur projecting from a hill...


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