Castle Machicolations

Machicolations Definition

The word “Machicolations” is French in it’s origins and comes from the old French word “Machecol” and was only given it’s English term “Machicolations” after the medieval period in the 18th Century. The French word Macheol means “to crush”.

Theses types of castle defences were mainly used in medieval France although they were used in England in castles such as Conwy Castle in Wales. The French also used Castle Machicolations over the Gateways mainly to protect the entrance area of the Castle.

  • How do we Define a Castle Machicolation
  • What are the Origins of Machicolations
  • What is the purpose of a Medieval Castle Machicolation
  • How were Castle Machicolations used in a castle siege situation
  • When were Machicolations introduced
Castle machicolations Medieval Castle Parts

Castle Machicolations can be seen at the top of this castle wall, there are machicolations around the tower as well

History of Castle Machiolations

Castle Machiolations were only added to medieval castles in the later medieval periods from around 1066 the time when the Normans had conquered England. Castle Machicolations were used on Norman and Plantagenet castles and made of stone and they jutted out from the medieval castle wall.

Castle Machicolations were openings in the floor between the corbels (Stone supports) of the castles battlement. The battlement was an small wall that was added for defensive purposes, medieval castles soldiers could drop huge boulders or literally anything heavy that would injure the attacking soldiers below. Castle Machiolations were added to various parts of a castle, usually in the areas that would be commonly attacked like the castle entrance.

Types of Machicolations

Machicolations jutted out from the main castle wall so that the hole or gap would be directly over attacking soldiers below, in a siege or similar attack objects would be dropped that would badly injure or instantly kill the unfortunate soldier below.

Machicolations were usually constructed from stone, this made them strong, there was another earlier type of Machicolation that was used in medieval times that was made of wood, this was called a “Hoarding” this was quicker and easier to add to the castle and was probably used when the castle needed additional defences quickly but it was inferior to stone Machicolations as they were stronger, could take more weight and could not be burned.

Famous Castles that have Castle Machicolations:

  • Castle Machicolations are built into the French Chateau de Farcheville that was built in 1291 close to Paris.
  • Conwy Castle had Castle Machicolations added around the 12th century, this welsh Castles Machicolations can still be viewed today.

Machicolations and Murder Holes

The holes in Machicolations were called murder holes as they literally murdered the person below when a large object was dropped from them, heavy stones were dropped and then all manner of objects were sent through the murder holes including boiling water, molten lead and anything else hot that would scold the enemy below. In a Siege situation especially if it was drawn out affair dead and diseased bodies of animals and human excrement could also be thrown through the Machicolations holes.

Castle Machicolations Murder Holes

Castle Machicolations allowed murder holes to be built along the curtain walls of castles

Machicolations Description

Machicolations and the murder holes they provided were perfect for the defence of vulnerable parts of a medieval castle, the early Machicolations were commonly made from wooden hoardings that protruded from the main castle walls, they became more permanent stone fixtures that were part of the castle design in later plantagenent and Norman periods.

Machicolations could be built into specific areas of the castle near vulnerable areas such as entrances, or be expanded out to cover most areas of the castles walls. Machicolations originated in France and were known as “Machecol” the murder holes also had the French name “Meutrieres”

Medieval Castle Parts – Machicolations

We hope you have enjoyed reading facts and information about Castle Machicolations, in this Article we have covered:

  • The Definition and meaning of the word “Machicolations”
  • The origins and French names for Machicolations and Murder Holes
  • How Machicolations were made and their puropose
  • The History of Castle Machicolations
  • Information, Facts and Definitions relating to Machicolations and Castle defences
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