Guardians of History: The Essential Components of Medieval Castles Revealed

When it comes to a medieval castle, there are several key components that contribute to its structure, defense, and functionality.

Here are some of the most important parts of a medieval castle:

Keep or Donjon

The keep is the central stronghold and main residential tower of the castle. It served as the lord’s residence and the last line of defense during a siege.

dover-castle-keep-Church Chapel - Important Castle Parts

Curtain Wall

The curtain wall is the fortified perimeter wall that encloses the castle. It provides protection and serves as a defensive barrier against attacks.

Medieval Castles Parts - Walls


The gatehouse is the main entrance to the castle and is fortified with heavy doors, portcullises, and defensive features such as murder holes and arrow slits.

Medieval Castles Parts - Gatehouse


A moat is a water-filled trench surrounding the castle, acting as a defensive barrier. It made it difficult for attackers to approach the castle walls and provided an additional layer of protection.

Medieval Castles Parts - Moat


The drawbridge is a movable bridge that spans the moat, allowing or denying access to the castle. It could be raised or lowered, providing control over who enters or exits the castle.

Drawbridge - Important Castle Parts


The barbican is an outer defensive structure located near the main entrance. It often consisted of a fortified gatehouse or tower, serving as an additional layer of defense.

barbican-Medieval Castles Parts

Great Hall

The great hall is a large central hall within the castle where the lord would entertain guests, hold feasts, and conduct important gatherings. It was the social and ceremonial heart of the castle.

Great Hall - Important Castle Parts


Many medieval castles had a chapel where the lord and residents could attend religious services. It served as a place of worship and offered spiritual solace within the castle walls.

Church Chapel - Medieval Castles Parts


Towers were strategically placed along the curtain wall and within the castle complex. They provided vantage points for surveillance, housing for residents, and defensive positions for archers and soldiers.

Rihemberk Medieval Castle tower - Important Castle Parts
Rihemberk Castle Tower Medieval Castle Towers

Bailey or Courtyard

The bailey or courtyard is an open space within the castle walls where various activities took place, such as training, markets, and other daily routines. It could also serve as a gathering point for troops during times of conflict.

Motte and Bailey Castle Viewed From the Sky Important Castle Parts

These are just some of the important components of a medieval castle, each playing a crucial role in the castle’s defense, functionality, and daily life of its residents.

Where Can You see the Best Examples of each of these Castle Parts?

1. Keep or Donjon: Tower of London, England

Keep or Donjon: Tower of London, England

Official website

2. Curtain Wall: Conwy Castle, Wales

Curtain Wall: Conwy Castle, Wales

Official website

3. Gatehouse: Carcassonne, France

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Official website

4. Moat: Bodiam Castle, England

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Official website

5. Drawbridge: Château de Langeais, France

Drawbridge: Château de Langeais, France

Official website

6. Barbican: Krak des Chevaliers, Syria

Barbican: Krak des Chevaliers, Syria

7. Great Hall Warwick Castle, England

Great Hall Warwick Castle, England

Official website

8. Chapel: Château de Chillon, Switzerland

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Official website

9. Towers: Hohensalzburg Fortress, Austria

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Official website

10. Bailey or Courtyard: Castel del Monte, Italy

Bailey or Courtyard: Castel del Monte, Italy

Official website

Please note that access and visiting hours for each castle may vary. It is advisable to check the official websites for the most up-to-date information before planning a visit.