The castles of the Middle Ages are some of the structures that captivate our attention since we were children. Fairy tales are full of them and we can’t stop thinking about enchanted castles, wars, ghosts and captive princesses when someone mentions those old times. However, castles are much more than part of the landscape of fantasy stories, like J. R. R. Tolkien or George R. R. Martin novels: They are great lessons of military architecture that can still teach us a lot. In this post, I will mention some of the most famous and well-built castles of medieval Europe.
After the Norman conquest of England, William the Conqueror established the first castle in Warwick in 1068 to keep the control of the central region as it moved northwards. The castle lies on a former settlement which was demolished in order to build it. This is a type of castle called “motte-and-bailey”: it consists of a mound and an outer wall which encloses a courtyard. William Henry Beaumont, assigned son of a powerful Norman family, commissioned to save the castle. In 1088, Henry de Beaumont was declared as the first Earl of Warwick, and by the year 1119 founded the Church of All Saints within the castle walls.
Carcassonne Castle, known as the “Palatium”, is a defensive fortress from the twelfth century. It was built by the Viscount of Trencavel in southern France, linked to the count of Toulouse, and lost its dominance in the course of the struggles against religious heretics. In 1997, it was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
During the time of French royal domain, between 1228 and 1239, the castle was completely redesigned to become a fortress within the city. Several structures were built in order to protect the city against invasions. The gateway to the castle, framed by two towers with machicolation, is only accessible by a stone fixed bridge followed by a liftgate which is driven by counterweights. The walls replaced the original stockade and surround the buildings completely.
Related article: 9 Of The Oldest Buildings In The World Still Standing Today by Kenny Slaught
Erected in 1228, Ashford Castle is the oldest of Ireland. After being the object of fierce battles, it changed its ownership several times. In 1852, this fortress passed into the hands of Sir Benjamin Lee Guinness and, later, to his son Lord Ardilaun, who ordered its remodeling and added the Victorian west wing. New roads were built later and thousands of trees were repopulated around the structure. Finally, in 1939, the hotelier Noel Huggard acquired the property and Ashford Castle was turned into a luxury hotel that hosts guests from all over the world.
Prague Castle is an architectural complex located in Prague, the capital of the Czech Republic. Despite it has survived several fires and invasions, it is one of the most remarkable, sumptuous and emblematic vestiges of great architectural, cultural and social history of the city. Built in the ninth century, it was the residence of the kings of Bohemia, the emperors of the Holy Roman Empire, the presidents of Czechoslovakia and the Czech Republic. It keeps the jewels of the crown of Bohemia. It has 570 meters long and 130 half-width and it is considered the world’s largest ancient castle.
Inside the complex houses, there is the Prague Cathedral, the convent of San Jorge (containing ancient art of Bohemia), the Basilica of St. George, the Royal Palace, galleries of Renaissance and Baroque painting, among many other things. It was remodeled by the architect Joze Plecnik between 1920 and 1934 at the request of the first Czechoslovak president Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk.
Alcázar of Segovia
The Alcázar de Segovia is one of the most important monuments of the city of Segovia (Castilla and Leon, Spain), which is perched on a hill at the confluence of the rivers Eresma and Clamores. It is one of the most distinctive castle-palaces from Spain and throughout Europe under the form of a ship’s prow. The Alcázar was originally built as a fortress by the Berber King Ali ibn Yusuf in the twelfth century, but it has served as a royal palace, a state prison, a center of artillery and a military academy. It is currently used as a museum and has a display of military archives.
It is a national monument from Romania, built by the Teutonic Knights, a medieval religious order founded in Palestine during the Crusades after they were transferred from Palestine to the Kingdom of Hungary. This castle is located on the border between Transylvania and Wallachia. Its architecture it is unique, but it is mostly famous for a literary myth: people claim that it has been the home of Vlad Dracul III, known as Vlad Tepes (“Vlad the Impaler”), Prince of Wallachia (now southern Romania), famous for his courage and relentless justice and cruelty that inspired the Irish writer Bram Stoker for writing his popular vampires novel. However, there is no physical evidence that Vlad lived there, because, according to most versions, the Impaler spent just two days in the dungeon.
Recommended: Medieval Architecture