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During the Medieval Period why was it important for nobles to build castles?

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Essay 1 During the Medieval Period why was it important for nobles to build castles? Early castles In the early medieval period England wasn't governed as it is today. Power was spread over the land and into principalities with lords controlling the local area. Towards the end of the ninth century, strong lords began to build castles. Built to defend against attack, take control of the surrounding area, as a show of power and to provide an area of political stability in times of worry. However, these castles were relatively small and there were few of them. It was not until around the Norman invasion that castles started appearing in any great number. Castles were a rare site in England up until just before the invasion at 1066 by William Duke of Normandy. This was when at Pevensy, a motte and bailey fort was being built in the walls of an old Roman fort, by castle-builders sent by William, readying for the landing invasion. The locals at Pevensey had seen nothing like this before and had no word in their own language to describe it, and used the builders' word for it, castellum (the Latin) or castle. The reason castles were sure a rare site for the British was that there simply hadn't been any there. The Normans had them, however. In the ninth century there was a general disintegration of power around France, Northern Italy and Germany, so powerful lords were building castles to assert their power over the land in their immediate vicinity. This collapse of order was due to constant raids from barbarians like Seb and the Vikings, who were extremely powerful at the time and had been raping and pillaging their way around much of Europe, especially Northern France. ...read more.


For a wall to stay up, you had to build about a metre and let it settle for a few months before you could build the next layer. Considering that the walls of an inner building like the donjon could be metres thick, you can see how it could take decades to completely erect a stone castle and for this reason, such a decision was not taken lightly. In a typical concentric castle (see source_ DK Castle) there would be around fifty blacksmiths, several hundred masons, and well over a thousand labourers. Cities who needed something professionally built in this period, would have to compete with barons who needed a new castle and had taken up all the skilled builders. Some castles still used the old motte and bailey design, with the keep built on a motte, with the rest of the castle buildings on a motte, sometimes multiple mottes, all with stone walls around the outside. As time went on, and castles were tested more from years of warfare, the designs of certain parts of castles changed subtly. For instance palisade walls would have wooden hoardings (see source_p.29 DK castle book) built into them, which were overhanging structure built off the ramparts above doors and weaknesses in the building, which allowed defenders to drop stones and missiles onto woule-be attackers. Wooden hoardings soon became stone machiolations (see source_ p.29 &35 DK castle), which jutted out from the battlements and were supported on stone corbels. Large windows on outer walls were quickly changed in favour of small, open slits with very wide angles cut into the walls on the inside, allowed defenders to easily shoot out, with a wider range of fire, but made it harder for an attacker to shoot arrows in. ...read more.


The End of the Castle Age By the thirteenth century you had to ask permission from the king to build a castle in Britain. This was because the power of kings had risen immensely and there was no longer as much use for barons and nobles, so their power over estates started to dwindle as countries became more united under the king. Their castles would be confiscated or destroyed by the ruler who constantly feared rebellion. Indeed a rebellion uprising using a castle as a base would be a massive strain on the king and would test his skills to quell such an uprising. It was for this reason that a ruler would try to keep the number of castles not in his control to a bare minimum. Some grand castles were turned into palaces and living quarters for nobles as the wealth of the country shifted to the ever increasing cities, shifting the kings focus more onto fortified towns or burghs (from which is derived the modern word, borough). This shift of power was only part of the cause however. Societies were becoming more stable and people demanded better living conditions, so castles started to lose their military importance. What also tested the power of castles was the introduction of gunpowder and the cannon to warfare. Walls that had previously been impervious to attack could now be razed to rubble in hours with cannons. To counter this, the base of castle walls were replaced with low, sloping walls(see source_ p28 Dk castle). Gunpowder didn't really have that much of an effect on castles at first, as it appeared early in the 14th century and castles were still being built 200 years later. But many castles fell into ruin, with their stone being stolen and used in building elsewhere. ...read more.

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