A castle is a large strong building, built in the past by a ruler or important person to protect the people from being attack. The purpose was to serve as both a home and a fortress.
In other words, castles were predominately developed as a defensive structures rather than grand homes for kings and queens. The first castles began to appear in the early 10th century. Feudal lords built castles as strongholds and a way to protect the surrounding villages. As the centuries passed, castles became the center for local governments, with both towns and cities growing up around them. By the 16th century, castles had lost their strategic importance as new weaponry began to negate their impenetrable status.
This article examines top 10 biggest castle facts that you should know, if you don’t already know. These facts are useful and should be further researched for the keen historians who love learning about warfare history.
1. Oldest Occupied Castle
Windsor Castle is the Oldest Occupied European Castle.
At approximately 900 years old, Windsor is occupied by Queen Elizabeth II. Originally, it was a wooden motte-and-bailey-type castle built by William I. It was then renovated with stones and was given a few additions by way of outer walls and a round tower that was constructed by Henry II. This is very similar to how the newly elected U.S. President added their own unique feature to the White House whenever they move in. Obama decided to add a basketball court when he first moved in.
On November 20, 1992, Windsor Castle was ravaged by a fire. The castle suffered severe damage, which destroyed many historic parts of the castle. It took £36.5 million to repair the castle.
2. A castle was once built on top of a volcano
Edinburgh Castle was built on top of a 700 million year old, now extinct, volcano called Castle Rock. Castle Rock is located in the city of Edinburgh. Castle Rock has been inhabited by the people since the Bronze Age and the castle has stood there since at least the 12th century.
Through the years, the castle has been used as a royal residence, as a prison, and an army garrison. It is one of the most important castle in Scotland and has been at the center of numerous wars, having been attacked and besieged several times. Now it stands as a national monument, museum and a tourist attraction.
St Margaret’s Chapel is the oldest building on the site and also the oldest building in all of Scotland. It was constructed in the early 12th century in memory of Queen Margaret. It is believed that Queen Margaret died of a broken heart after receiving news of her husband’s, King Malcolm III’s death.
3. Food & Feasts
Hunting was a popular pastime for lords as well as those of lower status during the Middle Ages’ Feudal Era. Castles kept hunting falcons and dogs for this purpose. At time when there was plenty of meat, the lord might held a feast in the great hall with a large variety of meats and other food.
The towers is one of two key features of any castle. Also called the keep, towers were hollowed out structures that’s purpose was living quarters. Caernarfon Castle in Wales had one of the largest towers in Europe, measuring 68 feet in diameter. The earliest castle keeps were rectangular or polygonal in shape. The shape changed to rounded walls in order to get rid of defensive blind spots. France was the first to construct rounded towers.
5. Materials Used
Castles were initially constructed of wood, stone and mortar. Workers created a flat-topped hill that was edged with a wooden fence – known as the bailey. Within the fence was the castle itself and various outbuildings. With time, the wooden bailey was scrapped and replaced with a stone structure called the curtain wall, and the outbuildings were combined into the main castle structure. Most of the stones that were used came from local quarries.
Location was always the key. Castles were often built on hilltops or surrounded by water to make them easier to defend. I always thought that the king was a coward and used the water to escape. But that proved not to be the case.
7. Largest Castle
The largest castle in the world, at about 570 meters length and an average of about 130 meters wide, is Prague Castle, which is located in Prague, Czech Republic.
The castle was predominately where the Kings of Bohemia, Holy Roman Emperors and presidents of Czechoslovakia and the Czech Republic have had their offices. The Czech Crown Jewels are still kept there. This is a must see for those who visit Prague, a stunning city in Central Europe.
8. Defending Castles
The Middle Ages were a violent time where almost every war fought was fought for land and power. Successfully defending a castle during the Medieval times of the Middle Ages depended on whether the castle and its inhabitants could withstand a siege. The siege engines when attacking a castle in Medival Times were mostly Trebuchets, Ballistas, and Catapults to name a few.
There were absolutely no toilets in castles. This is perhaps one of the most dreadful features of the castle, as if the castles were not uncomfortable enough. There was little constructions called garderobes. If you are wondering what those are – they are holes through which users would aim their waste products through. This would ultimate go through shoots which wound up in the surrounding moats. Adding to the wretchedness, these “bathrooms” were often cold and breezy, hardly conducive to living arrangements. Yikes!
Stairs were always built to turn clockwise. This was a very purposeful design element that served a good purpose; the idea was incoming siegers would ascend the stairs, but be given a huge disadvantage in the way of their sword arm, as most of the people at that time were right-handed. On the other hand, castle occupants descending the stairs would have a big advantage as the castle’s staircase was designed with their sword-arms in mind.