Famous Medieval Castles

History of Famous Castles

During medieval times a wide variety of impressive and not so impressive wooden and stone castles of varying sizes were constructed all over Europe. Although castle building was prevalent during early medieval times, most of the medieval castles that were constructed that became famous were built by the Normans in England.

William The Conqueror Norman Castles

William the Conqueror

This trend particularly started after the Norman conquest of England in 1066 and became more intense during and after the Crusades. Famous medieval castles that were built during this medieval period can be found in most of the countries of Europe and many are still standing to this day.

Tower of London Famous Castles

Tower of London

Famous Castles *Early Medieval Period

The trend of building grand castles hardly existed in early medieval times. Therefore, there aren’t many famous medieval castles during this era. The trend of building castles emerged during the ending years of the early medieval period, mainly in the 9th century AD, upon the disintegration of the Carolingian Empire, when power was largely in the hands of the local lords without any central authority.

Several important Vassals meet with the king

A famous medieval castle from this era is the moat and bailey castle ‘Château de Doué-la-Fontaine’ in France which is also considered the oldest standing castle in Europe.

File:W0436-DoueLaFontaine MoteCarolingienne 63340.JPG

Famous Castles *Norman Period

With the Norman Conquest of England, early medieval times came to an end and a new era began. After the Norman conquest, a string of castles with new techniques were built all over England to consolidate the Normans’ rule in the country.

Norman Conquest Norman Castles

Amongst the initial famous medieval castles from the Norman period were

Alnwick Castle built-in 1096

Alnwick Castle *Built 1096

Appleby Castle *Built 1100

Appleby Castle *Built 1100

Arundel Castle *Built 1068

Arundel Castle *Built 1068

Berkeley Castle *Built 1091

Berkeley Castle *Built 1091

File:Devizes Castle, St Johns Street, Devizes (geograph 2386448).jpg

Devizes Castle *Built 1080

Famous Castle Designs

During early medieval times, castle designs imitated the designs of the Romans. The main focus of medieval castle design was given to building fortifications and there were no elaborate designs. With the Norman Conquest emerged the Motte and Bailey castles which transformed the art of castle building.

This also gave rise to new designs for famous medieval castles. Essential elements of these famous medieval castles included corner towers, castle keeps, curtain walls, gatehouses, castle moats, and other important castle parts that helped to advance medieval castle design as the medieval period progressed.

Castle Keep

Castle Keep

Famous Castle Designers

Names of various famous medieval castle designers and architects were recorded in medieval times and we have some good information regarding the Famous Castle designers of the medieval period.

Stone Mason

Stone Mason

Among the earliest known designers of famous medieval castles was Gundulf who also became the Bishop of Rochester after the Norman Conquest.

Gundulf (1024-1108) - Norman Romanesque Builder and Architect

Following the Conquest of England, Gundulf was made the Bishop of Rochester and remained active in helping William erect a number of key buildings all over England.

Gundulf was employed by William the Conqueror for the construction of the famous White Tower in London in addition to working on Rochester Castle and Colchester Castle.

The White Tower of London

White Tower of London

Medieval Castle Keep Rochester Castle Castle Keep

Rochester Castle

Other famous medieval castle designers of medieval times include Robert de Belleme who was a member of the powerful House of Bellême and Henry Yevele (c. 1320 – 1400) who was described as being the most prolific master mason active during the late medieval period in England.

Most Famous Medieval Castle in England

After the Norman Conquest, England saw an upsurge in castle buildings throughout the country. These castles were built in and around major towns to serve as a strategic defence. One of the most famous medieval castles in England built during this medieval period is Bodiam Castle which was built by Sir Edward Dalyngrigge for Edward II.

Bodiam Castle Famous Medieval Castle in England

Bodiam Castle

Other famous medieval castles in England include

Dover Castle Famous Medieval Castle in England

Dover Castle

Warwick Castle Famous Medieval Castle in England

Warwick Castle

Leeds Castle Famous Medieval Castle in England

Leeds Castle

Summary of Famous Medieval Castles

The trend of building large and elaborate castles began with the Norman Conquest of England in 1066. Before that, there were hardly any castles of note in Europe.

Norman Flag

After the Norman period, many castles were constructed all over England that have become famous and the trend of building better-designed castles also gained prominence throughout Europe because of the invasions coming from the North and East.