The English Medieval castle, similar its counterparts in Europe, is a peerless marvel. Most buildings are constructed to fill a single, particular intent: a church, a house, a factory, a school, a bank, a hotel etc. A castle, relying upon the position of the man who occupied it, could be differently, a military base, a seat of government, a court and a stronghold for the neighboring area. It could be any or the entire above but it was primarily the private residence of its owner, his family and his dependents.
England had known arming before the appearance of the castle. The Iron Age peoples of Ancient Britain fortified hilltops with huge earthworks, such as Maiden Castle in Dorset, for consanguine armor. The Romans dotted the countryside with countless military campsites and constructed the poignant chain of fortresses, known as the Saxon Shore forts (for example, Portchester Castle), to guard Southeast England from Saxon raiders in the 2nd and 3rd centuries AD.
The Normans afterwards constructed castles within the walls of two of these Roman Saxon Shore forts, at Pevensey in Sussex and Portchester in Hampshire. The Anglo-Saxons and the Danes barricaded their towns in back of earthen banks and timber palisades to create barricaded towns, burghs, from which is derived the recent word "borough." However, all these structures were for, basically, common purposes. What demarcates the castle from these and other, subsequent fortifications is its capacity as a private inhabitancy.
Castles were the yield of that period of Medieval history termed the Age of Feudalism. Feudalism is a much-misused word. It is stringently used for the military society which was created in Europe during the 9th and 10th centuries AD and which extended its most developed form in Normandy in the 11th century. Feudal society resembled a monolith. At its peak was the king who owned all the land in his kingdom. Instantaneously below the king was a group of major landholders that held their land straight from him, his tenants-in-chief. These were the great lords and tycoons of the kingdom. In return for their land, they pledged to fight for the king whenever and wherever he chose.
Following the fall of the Roman Empire, Germanic tribes started to build heavy stone fortifications. Near the first millennium, another force would extremely expanse the use of castles in Western Europe. William the Conqueror, from Normandy, France, invaded England in 1066 and swapped the medieval panorama perpetually. Medieval societies soon saw the construction of stone towers and walls in every country. Uncomplicated Norman donjons primed into more complicated fortifications with towering walls, defensive systems and could house occasionally thousands of people. The castle endured a primary military resource for much of the Middle Ages.
Military tactics focused on the taking of castles, and weapon technology gotten better over the centuries to take advantage of any weakness that could be found in castle architecture. It wasn't until the late 1600s, when gunpowder and artillery became more effective, that the castle became outmoded. Various fell into wreckage during the succeeding centuries, but there remains superior examples of medieval castle architecture that have been beautifully restored. Stone, mortar, wood-these were the simple constituents used to build some of the most heavily fortified structures ever created.
Primordial castles relied on the neighboring landscape to furnish much of the protection. They castles were made of wood and constructed on hills of "mottes". Encircled by a high, wooden palisade, motte and bailey castles were used expansively until the Norman invasion of 1066. These entrenchments proved too easy to burn, and stone was then put to use more commonly.
Castles were very seldom the all but comfortable place to live, with only the lord and his family given satisfactory heat and other amenities. Medieval castles were constructed for safety, not compassion. Windows were little more than clefts in the wall. Cold, stone floors and walls very seldom kept in heat, and water had to be brought by the bucketful all through the castle. Walls were constructed high to guard from advancing armies, and to provide needed observatory positions.
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The simple stone and mortar architecture made restorations justly easy to make. It was not unusual for stones to be used over and over with each consecutive castle constructed on the same location. Cannons and gunpowder made the castle ineffectual and these big structures evolved in the later Middle Ages and Renaissance to become manor homes and palaces. Taking a medieval castle was an exalted goal for many commanders in the Middle Ages and battles were often centered on these fortresses. Because medieval castles occupied such strategic points along trade routes, ports and rivers, they had the highest military value. Primary locations for castle building include high, rocky ground, mountain passes, isolated peninsulas, and Lake Islands.
"Dungeon" is an adulteration of donjon, the French term for tower. Opposite to accepted belief of the dank, dark cellar pit, most prisoners were held in the castle's highest tower, avenue to which was guarded by soldiers. Basement or pit dungeons did exist with famous prisoners continued in literature. For six years Francois Bonivard was chained to a pillar in Switzerland's Château Chillon, near Montreux. In the former 1800s, romantic poet Lord Byron spent a night in the dungeon and wrote The Prisoner of Chillon. His name can still be seen carved into the third pillar. The Château d'If near Marseille, France was the background where Alexandre Dumas père's fictional character liberated to become The Count of Monte Cristo. Medieval castles' stonewalls; narrow windows and finite access points led many to be transformed into penitentiaries. The Tower of London and Paris' Bastille resided many political prisoners over the years.
Medieval kitchens were located outside the Great Hall to fire safety. Spits roasting meat and large, iron cauldrons bubbling with soups and stews were all part of the kitchen's daily reflex. Lambs, cattle, pigs, and fowl were leashed or penned around, some castles kept a pond stocked with fish, and cooking herbs would be grown in nearby gardens. Castle kitchens could be large enough to roast up to three complete oxen at a time. Water would be provided by a well, but castles during the later Middle Ages started to pipe water right into the kitchen zone. Utensils would be washed in large stone sinks. Breakfast in the Middle Ages was generally a simple meal of bread and water. Dinner would be served between 10 a.m. and noon and feature various courses. Dinner, chiefly for celebratory feasts, would necessitate large quantities of food be prepared. At the marriage of Henry III's daughter, sixty cattle were slaughtered and prepared as the principal course for the meal.
Medieval carnivals, wedding celebrations, receiving visiting nobles, and holiday festivities would all be celebrated in the castle's great hall. Intricate tapestries and silks would line the walls and while Middle Age castles could be rather dark, the largest windows would be found here. Small wooden or stone benches were placed beneath these windows so guests could take pleasure from the view. Great Hall furnishings could be meager, but they were very systematic. Long wooden tables and benches would be covered with white linen during feasts, but could be taken asunder effortlessly for dancing and entertainment. Castle lords and their families would be seated at a table on a raised wooden or stone throne at the far end of the hall.
Stone floors in the castle's Great Hall were very seldom covered with carpets, although wealthy lords might cover them with tapestries. Fair and rushes were the regular coverings, however later in the Middle Ages herbs like majoram, camomile, basil, sweet fennel, mint, germander and lavender would be added to aid with the fragrance. These coverings were swept repeatedly, but fresh materials would be soon added to cover up the more unclean fragments on the floor. Candles and oil lamps would provide light for evening feasts and celebrations. It was not odd for guests to sleep in the hall after a night of merrymaking.
Not many images equal the wonder of a fairy-tale wedding in a medieval castle. A princess wearing her best blue garments, a noble knight in his shining armor, the lord and his lady leading from a table of honor, and the whole village attending to witness the delightful event. Medieval weddings in castles attended to these scenes, but they were much more composite. Matrimony in the Middle Ages meant sharing a lord's property or a noble name.
Love was not frequently an issue when it came to medieval marriages, however it did happen. Quite often the most significant aim of marriage among nobles was lasting success and the further acquisition of wealth. Arranged marriages within the noble class would be determined when the future couple was very young-often when the bride and groom were only 10 or 11 years old. Legion of these future partners in marriage would not meet for five to six years, on their wedding day. Matrimonial may have taken place elsewhere, such as a church or in a peaceful garden, however the wedding party would come back to the castle to feast and celebrate for hours and in some instances even days.
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