The Secrets of Medieval Castles: Stairs are built in a clockwise fashion for a VERY good reason

 
Photo credit: Simon Ledingham
 
 
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Medieval Castles were more than just large fortresses with massive stone walls. They were ingeniously designed fortifications that used many brilliant and creative ways to protect their inhabitants from attacking enemies.

Guest Blogger Will Kalif from the website  All Things Medieval takes us through The Secrets of Medieval Castles

A lot of thought, ingenuity, and planning went into the design of Medieval Castles.

Everything from the outer walls to the shapes and location of stairwells were very carefully planned to provide maximum protection to the inhabitants. Here are some of the unique and lesser-known secrets of medieval castle designs.

The Moat – A moat, which is a body of water that surrounds a castle, is often thought of as a water obstacle that had to be crossed; but this wasn’t the primary function of a moat.

One of the biggest concerns of the inhabitants of a medieval castle or fortress was the fear that an invading army would dig tunnels under the fortification.

This tunneling could either provide access to the castle or cause a collapse of the castle walls. A moat prevented this because any tunnel under the moat would collapse and fill with water.

It was a very effective deterrent against tunneling. Often times the moat wasn’t even on the outside of the castle. It was on the inside between the outer wall and the inner wall.

Concentric Circles of Defense – This was an extremely effective method of defense for the inhabitants of a Medieval Castle. It was a series of obstacles that started on the outside of the castle and worked their way in.

It was usually a progression like a cleared field, an outer wall, a moat, an inner wall, a keep and then a strong hold tower. An attacking army would have to overcome each of these obstacles one at a time. And this took a lot of time and effort to do.

The Main Gate as a Death Trap – The main gate of a castle was often the most dangerous place in the castle because it was also a deadly trap.

It often opened into a small courtyard that had another main gate at the far end. The forward main gate often had an iron portcullis that was held in the open position and if the main gate was broken through and attackers made it into the small courtyard the portcullis was brought down and the attackers were trapped in the small courtyard.

The walls of the courtyard had small holes called death holes where the defenders could fire arrows and other projectiles at the trapped attackers.

You can see more of Will’s work here All Things Medieval 

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