Ever wondered how kings of the middle ages protect their castle from being attacked by the enemies?
It’s easy to imagine a medieval castle under siege – it’s a scene that’s been used in tens of thousands of films and TV programmes. The Middle Ages encompass one of the most violent periods in English History is epitomized 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.
A castle was built to withstand attack from the enemy. Castle builders added many defensive features to make their castles difficult to attack. Many castles were built on high ground with clear views of the surrounding land.
Here are some of the brilliant defense mechanisms of the castles of middle ages.
One of the most important features in a castle was its walls. Whether made of wood, stone or brick, they provided a barrier to enemy attackers. They typically included wall walks, which were used by the defenders to resist attempts to scale the walls or to shoot missiles at the besiegers.
Many castles were surrounded by man-made ditches which were then filled with water and turned into moats. The moat served a number of useful purposes. Firstly, it meant that attackers couldn’t get too close to the outer castle walls. This prevented them from being able to use battering-rams and made it harder to be accurate when flinging missiles.
Because of the moat (along with chokepoints such as drawbridges and portcullises), defenders can be pretty certain of which parts of the castle will get the most attention from attackers. That’s where the Barbican comes in. It can take many forms, but its basic function is to tower over chokepoints and make the people stuck there regret their decisions. From high above the gate or bridge, defenders inside the Barbican could rain down arrows and worse.
- Curtain walls
Tall thick curtain walls surrounded the castle buildings like a strong shield. There were few doors in the wall thus limiting access to the castle.
Machicolations were overhanging holes, or platforms, built into castles. People defending a castle could hurl items – like rocks, arrows or even animal dung – through these holes at an attacker below. A special type of machicolation was called a ‘murder hole’.
Think “castle” and battlements are probably one of the first things that come to mind. These teeth-like structures running along the tops of walls and towers are the most iconic architectural feature of medieval fortresses, thanks to films and stories, which have them patrolled by sentries and archers.
- The Gatehouse
It was an incredibly strong, fortified entrance building that made it really unattractive to attack this part of the castle. The gatehouse was filled with obstacles – multiple metal portcullis gateways; arrow-slits to fire at intruders; many different gates, doors, and drawbridges; and even the infamous ‘murder holes’ – holes in the ceiling which boiling water could be poured through!