The Brilliance of Machicolations

You might ask yourself what a machicolation is? Well, the answer is that it is a brilliant artchitectural feature that was very instrumental and very effective in the defense of castles - yet it is something that is not very well known. We have all heard of moats, drawbridges, castle walls etc. But for some reason we are not very familiar with machicolations! Maybe it is because it is a very peculiar name! "Moat" is easy to say and "Machicolation" not so easy!


The word is derived from the french "macher" which means to crush. And this gives us a hint as to what a machicolation is. It is an opening.


MachicolationsA Machicolation is an architectual feature that sticks out from the top of a castle wall or tower. In the floor of this structure there would be holes that defenders could drop things through. The defenders dropped these things on attackers. Any number of things could be dropped including boulders and hot oil. Arrows could also be fired through them.






machicolations in the tower and walllThis picture gives you a really good understanding of how machicolations were part of the architecture of the castle. They were in the castle walls and in the castle tower.

This also shows us something very important about their use. If you just had these opening holes along the castle wall you only have a very limited view from each hole - directly down along the wall. But with the holes that are along the outside top of the tower you have another perspective on the ground below. And you have another angle of attack. It was a significant improvement. The development of towers themselves were great improvements and in particular round towers because from windows or from the top of the tower you gained the ability to see along the walls of the castle. And with the addition of Machicolations you also gained much better ability to safely defend the castle walls and towers. (Picture by Cauvin Michel)


A machicolation

Here is a machicolation at Aydon Castle in the UK. I have more about this castle here: Aydon Castle













The History of CastlesThe History of Castles: Fortifications Around the World

The perfect tour guide to the world's most fascinating castles and strongholds.









Looking through a Machicolation

Here is a great picture looking down through a machicolation. Photo by Arnold Paul







































































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