More About Medieval Castles
Medieval Castles are magnificent structures that were first created around the tenth century. These first castles were made of earth and wood.
Over the centuries castles were improved for maximum fortification both offensive and defensive and on of the most important improvements was the fortification of the outside walls which were built thicker and thicker. This is predominantly because of the development of artillery.. They eventually were designed as fortified places for royalty to live.
Of all the Medieval Castles in the world this one is the most famous. It is Neuschwanstein located in Bavaria Germany. Learn more about Neuschwanstein It is widely held that this is what the famous Disney castle is modeled after.
What is a Medieval Castle? The generally accepted definition of a castle is a structure that is fortified for defense against an enemy and generally serves as a military headquarters dominating the surrounding countryside.
What were the main purposes of a Castle? The basic function of a castle varied and their use changed over time. The three main uses of a castle are:
When were the first Castles Built? It is generally accepted that the first castles were built around the tenth century in the north of France. These early castles were built of earth and wood.
When we think of A "Medieval Castle" some very specific things come to mind. These are the machinations of warfare! How and why were castles built the way they were built? For defense and offense in time of war! Here is an overview of some of the more famous things about castles, their fortifications and how they were sieged.
Some of the Defensive Features of Medieval Castles
Concentric Walls A castle was often built with a stronghold in the very center. This was the last line of defense. Remember that peoples lives depended on their castles so they were very cautious and took extreme measures. Around this stronghold they built a wall then around this wall they built another wall and even sometimes a third wall around all of this. The purpose of this was that if the outer wall was breached by an invading enemy everyone could retreat to an inner set of walls and the siege could begin again. It was like having a castle within a castle. the invaders would have to commence the seiging all over again and again.
Moats - A Moat is a deep and wide water-filled trench that circled all the way around a castle. It served two main purposes. It made it very difficult for a seiging army to get their seige machines such as siege toward and battering rams up against the castle walls. This was the only way they were effective. A common tactic of a sieging army was to dig a hole under a castle wall rather than try to break it down. A moat around the castle made this very difficult.
Drawbridges - This is a large wooden bridge that crossed over the moat of a castle. It could be let down and used as a bridge in times of peace. But in times of trouble or siege it could be raised - effectively making it more difficult for the seiging army to invade the castle.
Portcullises - These are heavily fortified iron gates that were raised and lowered vertically. this was usually one of the last lines of defense in a castle and they were often used in pairs. A short tunnel would be at the entrance to the castle with a portcullis on each end of it. the portcullis on the inside would be closed and then when invaders entered the tunnel the portcullis on the outside would be closed. This would trap the invaders inside the tunnel where they could be easily handled by arrows, hot oil or other means.
Battlements - This picture show the battlements of this castle. They were crennelated shapes along the top of a castle that allowed people to shoot arrows or other projectiles down at their enemies. The picture shown at the left is of the battlements in a tower. It is called: Rural Ireland: Ivy Growing On Tower and it is available at Art.com Click on the image for more information.
Another view of battlements Can you see how easy it would be for people to stand up here and shoot arrows down on the enemy?
As Technology in weapons increased (particularly with the creation of artillery) castles became more and more fortified. But castles could be breached and overcome. This was called sieging.
Continue on to the next section: How Castles were sieged And learn how to make a siege engine so you can siege a castle yourself!
Want to see a castle floor Plan? See the major parts of a castle and the why and how of their design. Castle Floor Plans and explanations