What is a Castle?

When we talk about castles we are talking about structures that span a thousand years and every continent on the earth. So, the definition of what a castle is can be a bit muddled and confusing. But I can sum it up for you quite easily.


A castle is a fortified residence. The "residence" part is important. Because a building can be fortified and used for military and defense purposes but that kind of building is called a fortress. The castle is where the lord, knight, king or some sort of wealthy and powerful person actually would live.

It is fortified to protect and keep safe the people that live and work inside it. Generally this is accomplished in several ways.

  • Materials: The castle is typically built out of strong materials like stone - this is a good defense.
  • Location: The castle is typically built in a location that makes it very easy to defend. A place like on top of a hill or near a river. These locations make it difficult for opponents to easily approach the castle without being seen.
  • Design: A castle is typically built in a way that makes entry very difficult. There are few windows, and very few doors leading to the outside. These doors are reinforced and very strong. There are often architectural designs that can confuse and deter attackers. I have an interesting article on these design elements here: Design Secrets of Medieval Castles
  • Self Sustenance: A castle is also designed for long term self sustenance. It will have many internal resources such as water wells, and storage for food. Also many supplies, tools and equipment.

Here is a good example of a castle. It is the Amber Fort in India. It fulfills all our requirements. Notice how it is on the top of a hill and it is made of stone. Being near a lake and river gives it added protection and also gives it an easy way for supplies to be brought into the castle. Also notice there are very few windows and doors.

The Amber Fort

Want to Learn more about this castle? I have visited it and written about it with more pictures.




Stephen Biesty's Cross-sections Castle

More than one million copies sold worldwide — now revised and updated!
An intimate guide to the inside of a castle and the lives of its residents, this Stephen Biesty classic details the workings of a medieval fortress.


Castles: A History of Fortified Structures: Ancient, Medieval & Modern

I own this book and love it. It's all about the history of fortresses and castles. It covers them throughout the centuries and all over the world. it has a whole of of blueprints and floor plans showing the layouts of many castles. And it shows you how various castles changed over the centuries. This is one of my favorite castle books. It takes a real look at the function of a fortress.



The Medieval Fortress: Castles, Forts, And Walled Cities Of The Middle Ages Medieval History Books)

The great walled castles of the medieval world continue to fascinate the modern world. Today, the remains of medieval forts and walls throughout Europe are popular tourist sites. Unlike many other books on castles, The Medieval Fortress is unique in its comprehensive treatment of these architectural wonders from a military perspective. The Medieval Fortress includes an analysis of the origins and evolution of castles and other walled defenses, a detailed description of their major components, and the reasons for their eventual decline. The authors, acclaimed fortification experts J.E. and H.W. Kaufmann, explain how the military strategies and weapons used in the Middle Ages led to many modifications of these structures. All of the representative types of castles and fortifications are discussed, from the British Isles, Ireland, France, Germany, Moorish Spain, Italy, as far east as Poland and Russia, as well as Muslim and Crusader castles in the Middle East. Over 200 photographs and 300 extraordinarily detailed technical drawings, plans, and sketches by Robert M. Jurga accompany and enrich the main text.


Fortress 11: Crusader Castles of the Teutonic Knights (Volume 1)

Throughout their stormy history the Teutonic Knights of Germany have always been the most controversial brotherhood ever to call themselves 'Knights of Christ'.They were the most warlike of the religious orders, and this is reflected in the architecture they left behind. In contrast to the Templars who are remembered for their churches, the Teutonic memorials are the magnificent brick-built castles they built as a result of their conquest of Prussia between 1230 and 1380. Many of these dramatic fortresses still exist today in what is now Poland and provide a unique example of an architectural style that closely reflects the nature of the Order.
















































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