Castle Battlements

Battlement Definition

The word Battlement is the collective term used to describe several parts of a defensive castle wall that are needed to make up the “battlement”, these parts consist of the parapet “a low defensive wall”, that is usually built at shoulder or head height; Crenels which are the gaps in the wall and Crenellation which is the act of making the Crenels; Finally Merlons are added to the tops of walls to complete the wall, add strength and to improve the appearance. The battlements are usually placed on top of the outer main castles walls at the entrance but can be added to any part of a castles main walls, included all walls.

Battlement Paraphet

This is the main part of the Battlement the low stone wall that Crenels and Merlons are added to complete the battlement.

Castle Battlement Entrance

Castle Parapet and Crenels and entrance to castle battlement

Battlement Crenels

Crenels were simply the gaps which were usually a square or rectangular shape in the Battlement parapet (wall), The Crenels were usually spaced atregular intervals either when building the Parapet (wall) or added later, this act of adding Crenels to a previously unbroken wall was called Crenellation. Crenels are also called Carnels, Embrasures and Wheelers. Crenels usually had a defensive purpose but were also added for decorative purposes in medieval times.

Battlement Merlons

Melons were added to the top of the wall to complete the structure, they probably added strength to the battlement wall but were generally added to give the wall a better completed look to it (see images)

The Castle Battlement

A Castle Battlement can be described as being an additional defensive stone wall that was built at the top of of a castle’s main wall. The Castle Battlement served several purposes, to defend the castles military and at the same time gaps in the wall allowed archers and to fire arrows and other military defending the castle could drop objects on the enemy below. The Battlement Parapet (wall) was built around chest, shoulder or head height to help protect the defenders of the castles from enemy fire, the cut outs in the castle Parapet were called Crenels and were usually square or rectangular and allowed archers to fire their arrows at the enemy, they could then re-load safely behind the higher part of the parapet wall.

  • Battlement walls were made of stone and were thinner than the castles main wall
  • Battlements protected the Castles military and archers from enemy fire when they reloaded
  • The gaps (Crenels) in battlement walls (parapets) provided a lower section where archers could fire arrows at the enemy
  • Archers and military defending a castle could hide behind the battlement wall
  • Rocks and other projectiles could be thrown from the gaps (Crenels) in the Battlement wall
  • Adding gaps to a solid battlement wall (Parapet) was called Crenellation and the the gaps Crenels

Medieval Castle Battlements Description

Castle battlements were defensive walls that were built on the top of a castles main outer walls for defensive reasons and allowed castles military to defend the castle against castle sieges and attacks. A battlement also describes a defensive city wall made from stone that often surrounded a medieval town.

  • A battlement was a defensive wall that surrounded a medieval castle or for example a medieval town
  • The gaps in battlement walls were usually evenly spaced and called Crenels
  • Parapets (walls) were usually at chest height or head height so that they protected the bodies of the castles archers and military
  • Crenels (gaps) in castle battlement walls were usually square or rectangular in shape
Castle Battlement Crenels

The Castle Battlement parapet (small wall) and Gaps (Crenels)

History of Castle Battlements

The history of Castle battlements can be traced back to earlier Castle ramparts that were built in ancient times during the Bronze and Iron Age and were used extensively by the Romans in protection of their forts. Later stone castle defensive walls that progressed from these earlier basic Ramparts walls made of stone and earth were called battlements, they consisted of a small wall (Parapet) gaps (Crenels) and wall topping stones (Merlons).

Decline of medieval Castle battlements

The decline of medieval Castle battlements and the decline of castles themselves can be attributed to the advancement of medieval armoury, in particular Cannons. These new medieval weapons and the start of the age of enlightenment which was called the “Renaissance period” led to the decline of medieval castles and medieval Castle battlements were no longer required.

Summary of Castle battlements

Castle battlements were an essential part of medieval castles defences without them it would have been very difficult to defend a medieval Castle. What were described as Castle battlements in later medieval periods and castle ramparts in earlier medieval times were both defensive small defensive walls or mounds of earth that helped in the defence of a medieval castle.

This information on Castle battlements is provided for education purposes and Covered:

  • Castle battlement Definition
  • Medieval Castle Battlements and Ramparts
  • Castle Battlements walls -Parapets (small walls)
  • Castle Battlement Gaps – Crenels
  • Castle Battlement Merlons – Decorative Castle wall tops
  • The History of Castle Battlements and Parapets
  • The Purpose of Castle Battlements and Parapets
  • What led to the Decline of Castle Battlements
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