Victory or Defeat Lies in the Castle Floor Plans
This article discusses the evolution and benefits provided by castle floor plans and castle architecture.
Castles have long evoked romantic images in the eyes of their beholders. But that has not always been the case.
There is no romance in the sight of a well-planned castle to the one who plans to attack its walls. True military machines, these castles had to offer its defenders every advantage in a battle. Trial and failure proved the best teaching tool for the planning of castle floor plans.
Well thought out medieval castle floor plans started as far from the castle front doors as the city itself. Once an attacker breached the city walls and fought its way through the residents and shopkeepers of the town who defend it, the real challenge still awaited.
If the landscape did not allow for a moat of water, castle floor plans incorporated a dry moat outside its doors. Although dry, the moat would still need to be traversed to reach the drawbridge.
The drawbridge was a diamond in the mine of castle floor plans. This bridge was weighted on the end nearest the gate and when the supports were removed from its base the natural result was the weighted end dropped down and the lighter end rose straight into the air leaving nothing for the attacking force to use as a bridge over the moat.
If the enemy reached the gate they would find the doors closed with an iron gate (or portcullis) dropped behind it for added strength. The relationship of the outer and inner gates changed in time. Learning from past mistakes, designers of castle floor plans began to offset the outer from the inner gates. Enemies breaching the outer gate would have to maneuver through an area built to give its defenders every advantage.
One design was the arrow loop. An arrow loop is a slit in a stone wall that is too narrow for a man to climb through, but allowed an archer to stand hidden from view and shoot his arrows at the enemy. Arrow loops were sometimes cut at an angle to both the left and right to afford the archer to shoot in two directions and still not have to expose himself to the enemy.
Through the inner gate, if an enemy made it this far, there would be a short hallway to span before reaching the inner court of the castle.
Once an enemy forged its way this far, defenders would drop behind their enemy a second portcullis. Castle floor plans provided this second portcullis with the sole purpose to trap invaders between the doors just breached and the doors at the end of the hall.
Once trapped the enemy is fired upon through arrow loops cut into both sides of the walls. But these arrow loops are not the only surprise incorporated into this castle floor plan.
While archers are firing on their enemy through arrow loops, others are positioned above ready to pour boiling water or oil through holes above the enemy troops. The cut outs these defenders used were appropriately referred to as murder holes.
Many other items were incorporated in castle floor plans to give the advantage to the castle defenders. The first of these are the towers and the direction of their spiral staircases provided the defender with plenty of opportunity to swing his sword while the attacker had no room for swordplay.
Secondly, battlement crowned walls provided a wall of protection to the defenders as they maneuvered atop to view and direct the battle. Merlots in the battlement gave access to battlefield views to direct attacks in any angle while providing additional defense against attack.
Not to be forgotten were the needs of the defenders while in battle. Every floor had its own storehouses for food and supplies for all who resided on that level during battle. Child sized doorways were sometimes built into the castle walls to allow for little bodies to slip into secret passageways where they were to remain safe and well supplied through battle. The sizes of these passageways assured no enemies could follow.
Finally, castle floor plans allowed for the comfort of the lords and ladies who lived there.
Though many comforts were afforded the residents of the castle’s interior, the castle floor plans incorporated the military function of the castle itself aside the day-to-day life of those who depended on its shelter.
The inner court offered apartments for nobility, and the kitchen and great hall for communal feasting and celebrations, along with the more important features of guarded storehouses, a protected water supply, and barracks for the defending soldiers.
The purpose of the castle was never forgotten in the design of the castle floor plans or the construction of these, the greatest military weapons of their time.
Click here for Braal castle floor plans at Caithness.org
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