Medieval Castle Layout was Integral to the Castle's Success

The medieval castle layout employed by medieval castles was essential to the castle's position of prominence within the community. Not only was the castle layout

designed to best fit the needs of its residents, but layout of the medieval castle was also engineered to offer optimal fortification.

No two layouts of medieval castles were exactly alike, and each was constructed to meet its future residents’ exacting specifications. Moreover, each medieval castle layout was developed to provide the strongest defense in light if its geographic vulnerability. Although no two layouts of medieval castles were alike, every castle was furnished with the same essential elements.

A medieval castle's layout was engineered for optimal fortification and defense and as such each medieval castle was constructed with a moat, an outer curtain, and a drum tower. For an effective layout of a medieval castle, these three points were integral; without them, the castle would lie vulnerable for siege and attack. The outer curtain extended around the entire perimeter of the structure, culminating at the large, and often imposing outer gate, the fourth essential point of the medieval castle's layout and design. And it was this outer gate that offered the greatest challenge to medieval castle builders. The outer gate was the first line of defense for castle inhabitants and the entire medieval castle layout was engineered around the strongest possible primary fortification. Inside this outer gate and curtain lay the uniqueness of the medieval castle layout.

Research of the existing remains of medieval castles throughout Western Europe indicates that medieval castle layout designers employed artistic and architectural creativity to secure the inner workings of the medieval castle. Crossing the drawbridge over the moat and through the outer curtain’s outer gate only got you so far. The medieval castle was still protected by a second and slightly larger wall, the inner curtain. Similar to the outer curtain, the inner wall came to a pinnacle at the inner gate, often times described as a long passageway marked by iron gates and barriers.

The inner curtain boasted a core necessity of the medieval castle's layout, the tower. These towers served multiple functions ranging from lookout points to the all important high ground in defensive posturing. The final defense engineered in the medieval castle layout was the inner ward, or large expanse of land, open and unobstructed, which led directly to the main entrance of the medieval castle. Aside from these core necessities, each medieval castle layout differed. The placement of various battlements varied from region to region and often took factors such as geographic positioning into account, that is to say the medieval castle was constructed atop a hill, on a coast, in a valley, etc.

The interior of the medieval castle also differed from structure to structure and often times depended on the wealth of the individual inhabitants. As a generality although no two medieval castle layouts were exactly alike, most were furnished in the highest style of the age. The walls and the ceilings were either carved or painted; the floor was covered with the finest straw and scented with herbs. Dishes were of the finest quality silver or pewter and adorned long wooden tables in the great hall. But the chapel was the finest room the medieval castle's layout boasted. It was decorated with the finest goods medieval money could procure.

Despite these fine goods, life in the medieval castle was a mere shadow of the comforts enjoyed today. Medieval castle layouts were engineered to offer the strongest possible defense against almost certain attacks and sieges, which offers a clue as to the stress under which our medieval ancestors once lived.