A Mini Guide to Medieval Castles | Animated History


A medieval castle had two purposes: it was
both a fortification and the home of a lord. The first castles were just earthwork enclosures.
Later, earth mounds and timber towers were built, forming a type of castle called a motte
and bailey. However, the timber constructions were vulnerable to fire, so shell keeps were
built to protect the wooden structure within a stone wall – or shell. During the time when the motte and baileys
were being built, powerful noblemen were constructing the Norman great towers. There was no tactical
reason for building them so high. The great tower – in all its forms – became a symbol
of power and nobility. The curtain wall was the castle’s most important
defensive feature. At first it was just a wall with a crenelated parapet but, over time,
the defences developed. Wall towers were added. Fighting platforms
were built – first from timber, and later stone. At the same time, gateways evolved
from simple openings within towers, to twin-towered gateways – keeps in their own right. And
castles built with an outer wall around the curtain wall, were known as concentric castles. Inside, domestic life often centred around
the great hall, where the wealthy could entertain guests with lavish feasts. In the case of
fortified manor houses, battlements were more for show than defence. Medieval castles were considered so prestigious
that the style was revived by rich men who wanted to appear as powerful as the noblemen
of the middle ages.

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