Castles

A Home for a King but SO Much More!

castle1My state faire is the Tennessee Renaissance Fetsival.  At that faire you have the ability to take in something completely different – Castle Gwynn.  Castle Gwynn is a towered structure that is on the grounds of the TN Ren Fest, and a tour of the castle can be had while you are attending the faire.  This American castle was started in 1980 and is the dream home of Mike Freeman.  Here is the question of the day:  Why a castle, what is the fascination with them and where did the castle come from as a form of architecture?

The traditional castle became all the vogue during the Middle Ages in Europe and in the Middle East.  The castle is a combination of the fort and a palace.  The fort, obviously is a fortified location and the palace is a non-fortified residence.  The castle combined the need for protection royalty with the beauty of a palace.  The castle also has a little bit of the fortified city in its makeup, when you see estates that had living quarters for all of the people that worked in and around the castles inside the castle walls.  The term castle has become a catchall but if it was a fortified structure that contained a private residence then you probably have your self a castle.

Features that you might find in most castles:

  • castle bigMotte – The earthen mound that some castles sit on top of.  Normally this mound is artificial in nature.  The earth would be hauled in and compacted over time, usually it was part of a natural feature in the terrain but the feature would be enhanced to make the castle sit above the rest of the sorrounding land.  
  • Bailey – If the keep is the fortified home of a noble person then the bailey, inside the castle walls is the home ot the rest of the poeple that live and work in the castle.
  • Keep – This is the place that the noble person calls home.  The actual domicile of the lord, landed gentry or king that live sin the castle is the keep.
  • Curtain Wall – This is one of the most important features of the castle.  This outer wall provided most of the defense of the castle.  Castle walls varied in size but they had to be thick enough to survive an attack from siege engines and tall enough to keep invaders from scaling the outside walls.  Typically the walls would be fortified to keep people from tunneling under them and would have walkways along the top of the walls to allow defenders a place to attack invaders.
  • Gatehouse – This is the break in the Curtain Wall that allows entrane into and out of the castle ground.  To keep this entrance and exit from being the weak point in the defenses, the gatehouse was developed to make it easy to allow access and control the flow of traffic.
  • Moat – This is the easiest to spot.  Big trench cut around the castle that is filled with water.  This helped with the concept of tunneling and it helped keep people from trying to go over the wall as well.  Most moats did not come with a moat monster.
  • castle2Battlements – On top of the curtain wall, battlements are the locations that protected the defenders while they set about foiling those that wanted to gain access to the castle.  Whether they were firing missile weapons into the oncoming enemy or pouring boiling oil over the side of the castle wall, the battlements provided the soldiers defending the castle some much needed protection.

I think though it is the immensity and grandeur of the castle that makes us love them.  The size of the castle, the towering blocks of stone, the protection the afford and of course the mythology surrounding them add up to architecture that stands the test of time.  Concepts like Camelot keep our imaginations fixed on glorious castles rising from the mists.  When we think of castles and we get our imaginations turned up to 11, we keep our eyes fixed on walking through the halls of a keep, taking in the view from the battlements.