Learn about the Parts of a Medieval Castle such as the Castle Keep Stronghold that Housed the Mighty Lord, his family, and all the Important Castle Workers
Discover all the Important Defensive parts of a Castle such as Battlements, Gatehouses, and Moats! Learn about a Castles Deadly Dungeons, Murder Holes, Arrow Slits, Machicolations, Portcullis, and Much More!
A Castle Gatehouse was a part of a castle that developed over time, the Castle Gatehouse was devised as an additional structure to defend a castles entrance which was the weakest point. Read more about the Castle Gatehouse >>
Medieval Castle Keeps could be used for several purpose, however the Medieval castle Keep was usually the area in which the Lord of the Castle Lived and also housed the Great Hall for Banquets. Read more about the Castle Keep >>
Medieval Castle moats were a simple but very effective defensive part of a medieval castle, they were often filled with water, but could also be dry moats that were filled with various items that would injure the enemy. Read more about the Castle Moat >>
Medieval murder holes were built into the design of a castles defences. Murder holes were placed around a castles curtain walls and were essential defences around a castles entrance. Read more about the Castle Murder Holes >>
Castle Portcullis were highly effective additional defences for a castles entrances, a Castle Portcullis was usually made from a strong type of wood and could also be plated in iron for additional strength. Read more about the Castle Portcullis >>
Medieval Castle Towers helped castle staff look for enemies and other people approaching the medieval castle. Medieval Castle Towers were permanently manned by guards. Read more about the Castle Towers >>
Medieval Castle Walls were the main parts of the castle's defence, some castles called concentric castle had two castle walls and interior and exterior castle wall for additional defensive protection. Read more about the Castle Walls >>
Medieval watchtowers were built as part of the castles structure, watchtowers gave an early warning of approaching enemy soldiers and were usually manned all year round. Read more about the Castle Watchtowers >>
Medieval Castle Parts –*Keep
One of the most important parts of the medieval castle was the Castle Keep. Historically the keep was the castle, other parts such as the curtain walls and towers were added to protect the castle keep and this is what we now picture as the castle. There is no doubt therefore that the castle keep is the main and most important part of the castle.
The keep was a stronghold that usually housed the king, lord and his family, all the important people and services were usually found within the castle keep.
Moats were of supreme importance in the defence of a medieval castle. A medieval castle moat was basically a deep and wide ditch that surrounded the castle and served as reliable protection against enemy assaults. A castle moat provided by a natural source was commonly much wider and deeper than a man-made moat.
Man-made castle moats were commonly around 12 feet wide and 30 feet deep but could have been wider and deeper.
Man-Made Castle Moat
Castle moats were usually filled with water which was one of the reasons why most castles were built near a water source such as a river or a stream. Often castles were built on an Island or the edge of a lake or stream.
Castle ramparts were commonly composed of a bank of earth and stone called ‘earthwork’ which served as a defensive structure upon which a castles walls were built.
Carcassonne Castle France Ramparts
A small wall called a parapet was commonly built on top of a castles walls, this was then crenelated giving it a toothed appearance and creating a battlement area where soldiers could defend the castle from.
The Castle Battlement parapet (small wall) and Gaps (Crenels) Solid Stone Merlons
Medieval castle walls were central to a castle’s defence, the width and type varied from castle to castle. It was common to build medieval castle walls of widths ranging from 8 feet to 20 feet. Castle walls were joined by large towers that served a defensive purpose.
At the top of the medieval castle walls were crenellated battlements from which to defend the castle from besieging armies. There were also machicolations often added to a castles walls that created easier and more effective ways to throw stones and boiling liquids on besieging armies.
In the defence of a medieval castle, towers played a central role. The main difference between a medieval castle tower and a medieval castle turret was that the turret was constructed on the wall at the top, whilst the castle towers were built from the ground up and part of the main structure.
Towers were mainly built of stone and included battlements and arrow loops for defence.
Both medieval castle turrets and towers also served the purpose of a lookout watching for the invading armies. A constant watch was maintained on the towers and turrets to keep an eye on any approaching armies or anyone else. It was common to build at least one turret at the highest wall which served as the primary lookout point.
The drawbridge was an important medieval castle part which was a movable bridge at the entrance of a castle above the moat. Since the medieval castles were defended by the moats, it was common to quickly raise the drawbridge in the event of an attack.
A Drawbridge could be raised by a system of ropes, pulleys and or chains. Sometimes simple manpower was used to raise them.
A medieval castle barbican was a kind of fortified outpost that acted as the outer defence point for the castle often ahead of the castle main gatehouse.
Medieval castle barbicans began to be constructed after the Norman Conquest of England in 1066 and continued to be very important until the 15th century, after which they gradually lost their importance due to considerable improvements in castle siege tactics.
The medieval castle battlements were of central importance in the defence of a castle.
Battlements were commonly built around castle walls and on top of important towers. The tooth effect of battlements were specially designed so that soldiers could fire bolts, arrows and throw stones or pour burning hot liquids at besieging armies.
The Castle Battlement Parapet (Small Wall) and Gaps (Crenels) Solid Sections Merlons
Medieval Castles entrances were often protected by gatehouses, holes were built into the floors of higher level chambers above the gatehouses. Enemy soldiers were often tricked and trapped within the gatehouses spaces and corridors. These holes were called murder holes as the enemy below stood little chance of survival as boiling liquids and stones were poured and dropped on them from the defending soldiers above.
Medieval Cities and Towns often had gatehouses protecting them with murder holes incorporated in this way.
Murder Holes at top of arch in the gateway to a medieval town or city
Building round towers instead of square towers became popular during the high and late medieval periods. The obvious advantage of a round tower over the square tower was that it provided a clear line of sight for the archers, thus making the defence of the castle easier.
Another feature of primary importance was that, unlike the square-shaped towers, round towers were relatively immune to tunneling under the tower due to the absence of any corners required for tunneling.
Windsor Castle Round Towers
Medieval Castle Parts *Arrow Slits *Loops
Arrowslits or Loops were an inevitable part of medieval castle battlements and thus its defence. A medieval castle arrow-loop was a narrow opening in the medieval castle walls and towers and was used to launch arrows at the invading enemy.
An embrasure is built into this castle-slit, this helped crossbowmen angle their crossbows for more deadly shots from their bows.
Arrow-loops were found in various forms although the most popular form was that of a cross.
Read More about Medieval Castle Parts – Arrow Loops
Medieval Castle Parts *Machicolations
Another important feature of a medieval castle parts list is called a machicolation. Medieval castle machicolations were projecting platforms at the top of castle walls and usually protruded from the walls.
Castle Machicolations can be seen at the top of this castle wall, there are machicolations around the tower as well
The openings that jutted out from the castles walls could be used to drop stones, boiling oil or water, excrement, and various other materials on the enemy. The machicolation could either run along the entire length of the wall or could be positioned around a tower or smaller part of the wall in a vulnerable area.
No medieval castle parts list is incomplete without the medieval castle gatehouse. The medieval castle gatehouse was built at the entrance of a castle and acted as a minor fortification. It enclosed the gateway for the castle and usually also consisted of chambers for important guests.
These were some of the most important medieval castle parts that played a central role in the defence of the castle. Since wars and invasions were very common during the medieval period, special attention was paid to constructing multifaceted medieval castle parts for effective defence.