During the medieval times, wars and invasions were common and thus special attention was paid on the construction of castle parts which were reserved for defence. Some of the important castle parts designed specifically for defence purposes included moat, castle keep, machicolations, arrow loops, and others. Amongst these parts a medieval castle barbican was of particular significance and served as a fortified outpost of the castle.
Definition of a Medieval Castle Barbican
A medieval castle barbican was among those castle parts which served as the first line of defence. It was construed in the form of a tower or a gateway over the gate or bridge of the castle. The connection between a barbican and the castle walls was maintained by a walled road which was called “the neck”. This narrow passage was also called the “death trap” because it trapped the invading enemy and made them an easy target.
The Medieval Castle Barbican of Leeds Medieval Castle
Medieval Castle Barbican Location
The most common location of a medieval castle barbican was adjacent to the main gates of the castle. It served as an exterior walled passage which was deliberately kept narrow to trap the invading enemy. The distance between a medieval castle barbican and the castle gate was not more than a few meters.
Who Was in Charge of The Medieval Castle Barbican
Only a small number of men were used to defend the medieval castle barbican because of limited space. The knights and soldiers inside the castle were responsible for the defence of the castle and thus they also overlooked the defence at the barbican. A single knight could be in charge with several soldiers obeying his orders.
Purpose of a Medieval Castles Barbican
A castle barbican was among those castle parts which served multiple purposes. The most obvious one was the confinement of the invading enemy in the narrow passage and making them an easy target. Barbicans often had “murder holes” which were holes in the ceiling and could be used to throw heavy missiles or boiling liquids on the invading enemy. On either side of the narrow medieval castle barbican, there were also arrow-slits used to shoot arrows at the enemy. Due to the multiple defence purposes that a medieval castle barbican served, coupled with its lethal nature, it was also called a “Death Trap”.
Lewes Medieval Castle Medieval Barbican
How did a Medieval Castle Barbican Work
A medieval castle barbican could also work in certain other ways for defence. For instance, it was not unusual to suspend a heavy grilled door from the barbican. This grilled door was called a Portcullis and could be lowered on the enemy when attacked. It had spikes on it was dropped on the enemy, it would injure multiple people and block the passageway. Thus a medieval castle barbican worked in several ways and could serve multiple useful defence purposes for the medieval castle.
Medieval Castle Barbican Summary
A medieval castle barbican had central importance in the parts of a medieval castle which were used for defence purposes. Since it consisted of a narrow passage, the invading army passing through it was an easy target for arrow, stones, and other missiles in addition to boiling liquids. Further, a medieval castle barbican could also be used to suddenly lower the lethal grilled door called “Portcullis” to injure the enemy soldiers. Due to its multiple and effective defence purposes, a medieval castle barbican was also called a Death Trap.