The Medieval Castle

Topics: Castle, Fortification, Walls Pages: 5 (1691 words) Published: June 2, 2006
The Medieval Period lasted from the 10th century to the 17th century; this was the time of castles. The word castle is derived from the Latin word castellum which means fort. Castles still stand today as one of the most magnificent structures ever built. Not only are people fascinated with their grand splendor, but with their luminous presence of authority. Castles were not built for defense alone; they were symbols of social status, wealth, power, and intimidation. Kings and queens were not the only people to inhabit castles; noblemen could also construct their own castles.

Castles were the main form of protection for most people living during the Medieval Period. The main purpose of the castle was for the defense of the inhabitants as well as the surrounding villagers. Kings and lords began to build castles on larger scales as a sign of their wealth and power. A castle could ward off an attacker simply by its presence. Because of their enormous size castles would strike fear into an enemy and gave security to those inside.

The first castles were built by the Normans in the late 10th to early 11th centuries. Castles were then introduced to England by William the Conqueror. He began building castles in England to protect and hold the land he had conquered. These first castles were called motte and bailey. These early castles were made of wood and usually consisted of a tower with a wooden wall or bailey surrounding the land where farmers could house their livestock. These motte and bailey castles soon proved ineffective because the wood would rot quickly and could be easily burnt down. "Sometimes, motte and bailey castles evolved into very large and impressive stone fortresses." (Hull 1) This embarked the building of the stone castle.

The castle was designed to keep unwelcome visitors out. The thick walls and high towers were virtually impenetrable, but the most important aspect to building a castle was the location. Many castles were built on steep cliffs, tall hills, or beside a body of water. Tall hills and cliffs provided for extra protection because attackers had difficulty advancing their armies over steep terrain. Many castles were surrounded by a deep ditch called a moat. In many cases these ditches would be filled with water for added fortification. Not only were these moats filled with water for protection but many were stocked with fish to provide food for the population. Most all castles were located near a body of water to supply efficient drinking water.

Building a castle was extremely costly for not only the material, but for the cost of labor. Castles were built of stone which proved to be sturdy and hold against attack. Timber would be used for framing and flooring, while metals such as iron would be used for roofing. Stones had to be mined for construction to begin. Mortar was used to hold the stones together. Skilled laborers were necessary along with miners and carpenters. Castles could take years to build depending on the amount of workers and the weather. Building could not continue through the winter months because the cold temperatures would freeze and crack the mortar. Engineering a castle took a great deal of money, time, and labor. "As time passed, stronger castles were built."(Wikipedia 1)

The gate is the main entry way inside a castle. The gate consists of a gatehouse, a drawbridge and a portcullis. If a castle had a moat there would need to be a way of crossing this moat while also keeping out an enemy, so castle builders erected a drawbridge. The drawbridge was made of wood and could be lowered to let in friends and raised to keep out foes. In the event of an adversary crossing the drawbridge they would be stopped by a portcullis which is a wood or iron gate that could be dropped vertically into slots for added defense. Inside the gatehouse guards were housed and heavily equipped in case of attack. The curtain wall connected to the gatehouse...
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