Castle, Evolution, Purpose and Design!

Medieval castles were typically constructed to serve as military fortifications for notable nobles and the royal personnel in Europe.

A castle often doubled as the private residence of the owner as well.

Such dual role often dictated the overall design and construction of a castle.

The exterior of a medieval castle was typically set up with numerous defenses such as curtain walls, watch towers, moats and gatehouses.

The key part of the interior comprised of the local lord’s residence and was fairly large in size.

From early to mid-medieval period, castles were usually enormous, often comprising of a military garrison, private quarters, stables and living quarters of the workers and employees.

Image of the Windsor Castle Norman Gate house

Medieval Castle Evolution

In the early medieval period, Normans specialized in the art of castle-building. Normans were descendants of Vikings and undertook extensive campaigns of conquest from 9th to 12th centuries.

During this period, they came to dominate England, Normandy, southern Italy as well as Sicily and some other regions.

Normans cemented their hold in regions such as England by building wooden motte-and-bailey castles

Motte and Bailey Castles were a fairly basic type of castles but proved vital in helping Normans permanently establishing their control.

In time, these castles evolved into more durable stone castles with keeps.

In time, Gothic architecture led to the construction of more lavish castles with well-lighted interiors and high ceilings.

The use of materials also evolved from wood to stone to eventually a combination of different materials.

Medieval Castle Purpose

The primary purpose of the medieval castle was to serve as a military fortification for the local lord or the reigning king.

This vital purpose dictated the evolution of castles until the late medieval period.

It led to a race of increasingly sophisticated and complex castle defenses over the course of medieval ages.

By late medieval period, English kings were constructing immense concentric castles with exceptionally formidable defenses which were virtually impenetrable.

However, towards the end of the medieval period, the invention of gunpowder rendered most castle defenses inadequate.

This led to the evolution of the castle along more residential, rather than military, lines.

medieval concentric castle parts

medieval concentric castle parts listed

Medieval Castle Design

A medieval castle was typically a fairly huge structure which including many portions.

The castle would comprise of the residential quarters for the lord, his family and his guests.

This was the main household section where staff such as the steward, chamberlain and the master of the wardrobe were employed.

Another important part of the castle was the vast kitchen where a number of servants were employed under a head cook.

The Great Hall of the castle was the place where meals were served and feasts were held.

The stables housed the horses used by the household while a portion was often dedicated to hunting equipment and the falcons used in hunting.

On the exterior, a boundary wall was one of the most vital defense against an attack from the outside.

The wall was often augmented by building towers all along it which were manned by military personnel.

A moat was also frequently used outside the castle walls to act as an additional barrier for any potential attackers.

Harlech Castle Concentric Castles

Image of Harlech Castle which was built in Concentric Style