Castles Essay, Research Paper
In Europe, when traveling around, one will see large stone structures which are strongly fortified, known as castles. The Castle was a medieval European stronghold which started to develop around the 9th century in England and the 10th century in France. Castles were a great defense mechanism and the home to the ruler of the territory it occupied.
Castles started off rudimentary. It was usually a structure just built on a hill surrounded by a ditch called a moat. The outer wall of the castle was its most prominent defense. The outer wall, or the enceinte, was hard to reach because of the many moats that would surround the castle. To cross these moats, bridges which could be retracted or raised up were devised. This invention was called the drawbridge. Once across the bridge the main entrance was guarded by a barbican. This was a tower that stood in front of the entrance. Three lines of defense protected the entranceway from there; a portcullis, doors, and machicolations. A portcullis was an oak gate reinforced with iron and fit into stone grooves. The doors were also made of oak. The machicolations were openings in either the roof of the passageway of in the walls. Through these openings projectiles and burning oil could be dropped onto the besieging enemies. The keep, or donjon, was the focal point of the castle, to which, in time of siege, the whole garrison retired when the outer works had fallen; it was therefore the strongest and most carefully fortified part of the defenses.(Brittanica 2001)
The castle was redesigned after the Third Crusade in 1192 AD. The castles were now to be built on the top of a natural hill instead of a man-made mound as previous. One side of the castle would be on a cliff so that the defense could be concentrated to one side of the castle. There were now more advanced lines of defense built into the castle. The inside bailey was now larger including living quarters, halls and chapels. The keep was now not the area of residence. The keep was still the last line of defense and it was now more strongly designed.
Development in the use of firearms was so rapid during the 15th and 16th centuries as to require a radical change in military architecture. French troops marched through Italy in 1494 and, with their guns, reduced castle after castle with astonishing rapidity.(Brittanica 2001) New Forts were now being built all around Europe to defend this type of attack. While trying to defend the guns, these forts would now have guns attached to them.
Castles played a large role in feudalism. The lord of the feudal land that the serfs or peasants worked on lived in the castles. The manor house was the residence of these lords also. The manor houses were fortified though not as fortified as a castle.