Best Medieval Castle Design

Medieval castles typically conformed to specific styles and overall designs in their construction. These designs were heavily influenced by Norman military architecture during the early medieval period. Towards the later medieval period, the designs of medieval castles took inspiration from a number of sources.

Norman Conquest Norman Soldiers Medieval Times

European medieval castles, in particular, often borrowed elements of construction after their exposure to other cultures during campaigns like the Crusades.

The Crusades

Typically, the huge range of castles built in Europe during the medieval period can be classified into two periods early medieval castles were built in Romanesque tradition such as the Norman motte-and-bailey castles, and later medieval castles built with Gothic inspiration or with other innovations such as a concentric structure.

Motte and Bailey Castle Viewed From the Sky

Norman Motte & Bailey Castle

Normans were master builders and instrumental in the advancement of Medieval Castle Design

Romanesque Castle Designs

Romanesque architecture was inspired by the Roman tradition of architecture which persisted in Western Europe following the fall of the Roman Empire in the 5th century. Normans, who came to inhabit northern France in the 9th and 10th centuries, borrowed heavily from the Romanesque style of construction.

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The Normans eventually embellished it with their own ideas and devices to give birth to a uniquely Norman style of architecture. The Motte Bailey castles were the hallmark of this architecture.

Normans built castles in this style all around Normandy and then exported this style to southern Italy, Sicily and England as they conquered these regions.

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The motte-and-bailey design comprised of a keep situated on top of a steep mound of earth which was then linked to a bailey situated at ground level. Such castles were usually built of wood and were fairly popular until the 12th century.

Norman Stone Castles

Norman motte-and-bailey castles proved effective during Norman conquests but fragile in the face of an attack due to being vulnerable to fire. This led to the development of Norman castles built of stone which were far more durable and secure.

motte bailey wooden castles

Gothic Castle Designs

Stone castles proved very formidable and effective in military terms but their interiors were mostly cold and often damp. To counter them, the medieval castle designs evolved further during the mid-medieval period.

In this period, an emphasis was put on constructing castles with well-lit interiors, higher ceilings, plenty of windows, and overall a castle that was secure but also pleasant to live in.

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Gothic architecture pervaded much of Western Europe through the mid-medieval period. At about the same time, a revolution in castle building was taking place in England as well.

Concentric Castle Designs

Concentric castle designs departed from the conventional outlook of the castles. Concentric castles, in contrast to the Gothic castle designs, emphasised more on improving the security and fortifications of a castle.

The design was applied on a large scale by Plantagenet monarchs in England from the 12th to 15th centuries.

medieval concentric castle parts

Concentric Castle

Concentric castles employed multiple layers of walls and essentially shielded the main part of a castle behind multiple concentric walls and numerous towers.

Some of the excellent examples of such castle design were the castles built by English king Edward I in North Wales as he sought to secure his hold over the region.

Beaumaris Concentric Castle

Advancements in medieval siege weapons made the wooden castles of earlier medieval times redundant Later medieval designs used stone blocks instead of earth and wood to combat the new siege weapons, siege weapons improved further and gunpowder weapons such as cannons were invented which ended the purpose of castles as a defensive stronghold.

Best Castle Designs Fast Facts

        • Gothic castle design not only improved castles’ defences but made castles more comfortable to live in
        • Concentric Castle design was all about further improving castle defences and was not so much concerned about aesthetics
        • Motte and Bailey was an earlier relatively simple castle design that was used by Normans

Motte and Bailey Castle Viewed From the Sky

        • Motte and Bailey was a favoured medieval castle design, popular until the 12th century
        • Motte and Bailey Castles comprised of a motte and bailey hence the name “motte and bailey
        • Castles were built of earth and wood until around the 12th century when stone became popular

Medieval Motte Bailey Castle Design

        • Normans were inspired by the Romanesque medieval castle designs and borrowed many elements from it
        • The Moorish period and Reconquista led to a wider range of Castle designs derived from other cultures
        • Concentric Castles of an advanced design were built for defensive purposes and had walls within walls

Medieval Concentric Castle From Above