Norman Castles

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CONCORDIA UNIVERSITY

Norman Castles
Write-Up #2
Ryan O’Donovan (6153089) 2/25/2013

Submitted to Professor Sarmad Al-Mashta in partial fulfillment of Concordia University’s BLDG 482Impact of Technology on Society and Architecture.

Castles of the Middle Ages serve to illustrate the social and economic changes of the time [1]. In particular, the Norman castles of the Romanesque era can be viewed as a tool that was used to impose social and economic reform on the Anglo-Saxon society in Medieval England after the battle of Hastings in 1066 and throughout the Norman Conquest. These structures were used as a military device to win battles and as a political tool to dominate the English by instilling feelings of fear, awe, power and wealth [2] and by way of the Feudal system. Background The Normans get their name from “Norsemen” as they are descendants of the Vikings. After settling in Normandy of Northern France and embracing Christianity they sought to further expand their influence and empire in England [2]. Harold Godwin had laid claim to the English throne following the death of his predecessor Edward the Confessor [3]. However, Harold had previously been imprisoned in Normandy and swore a solemn oath of loyalty to William the Conqueror, the Duke of Normandy, who had demanded and received his release and provided him with protection [4]. This oath of loyalty from Harold to William was an agreement that indicated Harold’s support of William, who was King Edward’s cousin, as successor. After Harold grabbed the crown William saw him as an oath breaker and due to the strong influence of the Christian faith and to the importance of gaining approval from the church, the Normans aimed to have their invasion of England deemed “holy” and this was granted when the Pope sanctified their invasion [2]. On September 28th, 1066 in Pevensey Bay on the Sussex coast, England was invaded by the Normans and their leader, William the Conqueror. Then, on October 14th, 1066 the Normans were the victors of the Battle of Hastings. After this initial battle the Normans moved to further capture and dominate the entire British island. In need of safety and rest after gruelling and gruesome battles the Normans built a fort or castle on the areas they had just captured. These preliminary structures, known as the motte and bailey, were made of wood and could be built very quickly and cheaply. [5] Armor and horsepower won the Battle of Hastings but what turned the Norman victories into conquests was the speed and skill with which they erected castles, enabling them to consolidate their territorial gains and demoralize the conquered English in that area. The speed with which they erected castles was possible since William brought over the materials for a prefabricated fort: that is, wooden sections already cut and drilled, together with the fittings. The Normans were exceptionally organized and they were militarists of great intelligence. They did not invent armoured cavalry; nor did they invent fortified bases; and they did not invent feudalism, but they were the first to combine these three things in order to rule and dominate the country of England. [6] Figures based on the Domesday Book, which held information from a country-wide survey commissioned by William, estimate the total population of England in 1086 to be 2.25 million [7]. However, the Norman military and its supporters in the country were estimated at only 25 000 [5]. Therefore the Norman Conquest was only possible due: (1) to the construction of castles, which were fortified posts from which a small body of armoured cavalry could range over an occupied area and to which they retired if attacked by superior force and; (2) to the implementation of feudalism, which was the holding of land from a superior lord in exchange for knight-service [6]. The Normans were able to

maintain their power over such a wide population by using feudalism which, in England, was based on a pyramid of...
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