Medieval Castles

Medieval castles in Europe. Types of castles, their purpose and construction. Castles and knights in medieval ages. Famous castles from medieval times. Castle plan.

The trend of building castles in medieval times started in the 10th century and continued till the middle of the 17th century. During this time period, the way of constructing castles changed dramatically along with the material used for constructing them. First there were Motte and the bailey castles and then they were transformed to the concentric castles that had thick walls made of stone. With time, new ideas came with the Europeans for building castles and many lessons were also learnt during that time.

Medieval castle plan

Plan of a castle

After the fall of the Carolingian empire, the territory was divided among the princes and the lords. Castles were built to take control of the areas surrounding the territories. There were different purposes of building the castles. Some were meant for offensive purposes as a base to launch raids while some were built for defensive purpose for providing protection from the enemies. Castles were centers of administration of power too. There were many urban castles that were used for controlling the locals and travelling routes.

The earliest medieval European castles were built in Normandy. These castles had large mound and a ditch. The ditch was often filled with water in order to make a moat. The mound had a tower having wooden palisade running.

In 1066, when the first William reached England, he ordered to build bailey and Motte castles across the country. When the Normans came to the land, they started constructing forts as they needed large places of refuge, storehouse and justice court.

When the crusaders came, new ideas for building castles were brought. Richard Lionheart started the construction of a very famous castle, the Chateau Gaillard. Long before the completion of the castle, Richard died and his brother was the one to look after its completion.

Even when in the 14th century, gunpowder was introduced; the significance of building castles did not end. However, in the 15th century, artillery became much more powerful that it could even break the stone walls. Even in the 16th century, castles were built but new techniques were adopted for their construction so that they could resist the fire of cannons. Many castles were rebuilt into opulent palaces and chateaux during renaissance times. Their defensive purpose was substituted by military forts in 17th and 18th century.

Types of castle.

Castle types by construction

1. Rebuilt Roman forts

Roman fort
These early medieval castles can be found in Britain, France, Italy and in Germany. Former Roman forts and military camp sites were rebuilt into medieval castles.

2. Motte and Bailey Castles
Medieval castles built by Normans, Slavs.

Motte and bailey Castle
The Motte was a large hill made of earth on which was built a wooden keep or lookout. The outer edge was then surrounded with a large wooden fence called a palisade.

3. Stone Keep Castles
This type of castle soon replaced the Motte and Bailey castles as it offered a better form of defence. A stone keep was the central feature, with thick walls and few windows. Entrance to the keep was by stone steps leading to the first floor. The kitchens were situated on the ground floor while living quarters were on the upper floors.

Stone Keep
4. Concentric Castles
The Concentric castle was developed in the 12th and 13th Centuries and offered the best protection against attack.

Concentric castle
The main feature of the concentric castle is its walls. An inner wall built of thick stone with turrets positioned at intervals is then surrounded by an equally thick but lower stone wall. The walls are built at different levels so that archers on the inner walls can fire over the archers on the outer walls.

Castles types by owner
1. Nobility castles
Living and administrative place of a local landlord.
2. Royal castles.
The main royal castle was usually located in the capital or somewhere around. The main royal castle was a heart of country and living place of a king.
Kings and emperors often built castles in regions of their country. These castles were designed to extend the royal power. Royal castles served for tax collecting, land protection, royal law enforcement in regions. Nobility was often jealous at these castles, they saw them as something limiting their power.
3. Church castles
Important church officers lived also in castles. Church built ofthen castles for bishops and archbishops. These castles served as a centers of church provinces.
4. City castles
These castles can be found in cities. The city castles served as a last place of defence during city siege.
5. Military castles
These castles were built during wars as place for etensive conquest. Attacking army was able to consolidate power here and to get an important bases for upcoming conquest and centers of rule over the conquered land later.

Krak The Chevaliers Castle

Krak The Chevaliers Military Crusader Castle in Holy Land

Crusader castles built in north eastern Europe (Konigsberg) or in Holy Land (Krak de Chevaliers) are the example of the military castles.

2 Responses to Medieval Castles

  1. Medieval castles are a fascinating stuff.
    Thanks for the great article and for the nice explaining pics.

    Hunter September 26, 2013 at 12:00 pm Reply
  2. Thanks for the great article.

    Lee Lee September 27, 2013 at 12:15 pm Reply

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