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Architecture of Castles in the Middle Ages

Middle Ages - Lords and Ladies

Architecture of Castles in the Middle Ages
The Middle Ages encompass one of the most violent periods in English History are are epitomised by the castles of the Middle Ages. The development, architecture and building of these great fortresses changed as time progressed, influenced by important historical events such as the crusades and the technology of siege warfare. This page provides interesting and important information about Architecture of Castles in the Middle Ages.

The early Architecture of Castles in the Middle Ages was called Romanesque and the later style of Architecture of Castles in the Middle Ages was known as Edwardian, Perpendicular or Gothic.

  • Middle Ages Castle Architecture - 1066 to 1200 - Romanesque or Norman architecture
  • Middle Ages Castle Architecture - 1200 to 1300 - Early English Gothic Style ( also called Lancet )
  • Middle Ages Castle Architecture - 1300 to 1400 - Decorated Gothic Style
  • Middle Ages Castle Architecture - 1400 to 1500 - Perpendicular Gothic Style

The Changes in the Architecture of Medieval Castles of the Middle Ages
The Changes in the Architecture of Medieval Castles of the Middle Ages were made in response to:

  • Social and cultural changes during the Middle Ages
  • The changing needs of the Middle Ages population
  • Advances in technology, in terms of the building tools
  • New building techniques, construction methods and ideas for new styles of Middle Ages Castle architecture
  • Symbolic reasons and designs in the style of architecture - illustrated in the building of Caernarvon Castle
  • Practical reasons for the new locations of castles - such as the conquest of Wales
  • The desire for more comfort in the castle Interiors

The History of Middle Ages Castle Architecture
The History of Middle Ages Castle Architecture starts with the Normans. Many English and European Medieval Knights had travelled to the Holy Land on Crusades during the Middle Ages. The knights had seen the magnificent fortresses of the Byzantine Empire and these massive castles influenced the Middle Ages castle building ideas, engineering and architecture. The History of Middle Ages Castle Architecture changed as follows through the time period between 1066 and 1500:

  • Timber Motte and Bailey castles
  • Stone Motte and Bailey castles
  • Square Castle Keeps or towers
  • Round Castle Keeps or towers
  • Shell Castle Keeps or towers
  • The architecture of Concentric Castles
  • The Gothic or Perpendicular style of architecture - The new Gothic Style of Medieval architecture and decoration emerged in France. It was initially called "The French Style"

Defining Features of Norman style of Middle Ages Castle Architecture
The defining features of the architecture of Norman castles were:

  • The Motte and Bailey concept of architecture made first of timber and then of stone
  • Square Castle Keeps or towers were later replaced with Round Castle Keeps or towers
  • These keeps were replaced with Shell Castle Keeps or towers
  • Hollow walls

The Edwardian style of Middle Ages Castle Architecture - Concentric Castles
The deign faults and problems of siege warfare were addressed by King Edward I of England and his master builder and architect who was called Master James of St George. The Norman castles were replaced with concentric castles. A Concentric Castle is "a Castle within a Castle". The Middle Ages architecture of the concentric castles was effectively lots of buildings, walls, towers and gatehouses in one massive Medieval castle complex built within in successive lines of defence. The objective of concentric castle architecture was a castle which could withstand a siege and vanquish any attackers. Defensive additions were made to the castles such as the barbican, crenellations, murder holes and arrow loops in various sizes.

The Gothic style of Middle Ages Castle Architecture
Appalled at the abandonment of classical Romanesque lines and proportions the later Architecture of the Middle Ages was derisively called "Gothic". The word Gothic alluded to the Barbaric Goths, or Visigoths, who, led by their leader Alaric sacked Rome in 410AD. The defining features of the architecture of Gothic castles were:

  • Stone was cut with greater precision
  • Flying buttresses were introduced. The introduction of flying buttresses in Medieval Castle Architecture distributed the weight of roofs and walls right down to the ground. Gothic Medieval architecture and design allowed architects to spread the weight to different points of the castle
  • Solid walls and pillars - allowing them to hold far greater weights resulting in much bigger castles
  • The use of the Gothic arch in Middle Ages Castle Architecture led to the construction of light and airy castles
  • Castles were higher
  • The pointed arch could support greater weight, allowing the walls of the Castle to be thinner with wider window openings
  • Castles interiors were lighter - Wider window openings and Gothic Rose Windows ( in Medieval Chapels, Churches and Cathedrals)
  • More Towers were featured in Middle Ages Castle Architecture
  • Decorative designs and sculptures included Gargoyles
  • Fan vaulting
  • Hammerbeam roofs
  • Towers featured in Medieval Castle Architecture were often surmounted with very slender towers
Middle Ages Castles
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