Castle labeled: A Fascinating Story You Can’t Miss

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Castles Nomenclature

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Terms and names that are used in this site and about castles in general

Castle features
Castles Glossary

 Castle features

  • The Towers

    These tall, round or square structures were built into the length or corners of the castle walls. They were usually higher than the walls and constructed in the same manner. A later innovation, the rounded towers projecting out from the wall or at a corner gave a better view to the defenders. The walls usually had arrow loops, and the tops could have hoardings or be crenellated or roofed.

  • The Gate

    The entrance was often the weakest part in a castle. To overcome this, the gatehouse was developed, allowing those inside the castle to control the flow of traffic. Gatehouses were inside the wall and connected with the bridge over the moat, but they were more than just doorways. The gates were usually long tunnels with arrow-looped towers at either side of the entrance. The outer opening of the gatehouse tunnel was covered by a grated wooden or iron gate called a portcullis. In the ceiling of the gatehouse tunnel, there were openings called murder holes through which defenders could drop objects and hot liquid. Finally, the gatehouse had a heavy wooden door at the inner opening, which soldiers could shut and lock with braces.
    The bridge’s retraction mechanism was usually located inside the gatehouse. Some drawbridges were raised and lowered with a winch, and some had a center fulcrum that allowed them to pivot perpendicularly to form a wall.
    Some bridges had an additional fortified structure in front or alongside them called a barbican. The barbican was built of stone and had towers with arrow loops and battlements.

  • The Bailey or Ward

    A bailey, also called a ward, was a fortified enclosure. It was a common feature of castles, and most had at least one. From a military standpoint, this courtyard was a wide-open space. So any invading soldiers who made it through the gate into the bailey would be exposed to arrow fire from the outer walls and towers and the inner walls and towers.
    The bailey also served as a marketplace for festivals and fairs, a practice field for drilling soldiers and training horses, and an area for tournaments. In the tournaments, knights fought with swords and shields on foot and jousted in arenas called lists (or list fields). In the later Middle Ages, baileys featured gardens and fountains.

  • The Keep or Donjon

    A keep was the big tower and usually the most strongly defended point of a castle before the introduction of concentric defence. «Keep» was not a term used in the medieval period – the term was applied from the 16th century onwards – instead «donjon» was used to refer to central towers.

  • The Curtain Walls

    Curtain walls were the external main defensive walls enclosing the bailey. The part of the fortification between the towers. They had to be high enough to make scaling the walls with ladders difficult and thick enough to withstand bombardment from siege engines which, from the 15th century onwards, included artillery.
    A typical wall could be 3 m thick and 12 m tall, although sizes varied greatly. To protect them from undermining, curtain walls were sometimes given a stone skirt around their bases. Walkways along the tops of the curtain walls allowed defenders to rain missiles on enemies below, and battlements gave them further protection.

  • The Moat

    A moat was a defensive ditch with steep sides, and could be either dry or filled with water. Its purpose was twofold; to stop devices such as siege towers from reaching the curtain wall and to prevent the walls from being undermined. Water moats were found in low-lying areas and were usually crossed by a drawbridge, although these were often replaced by stone bridges. Fortified islands could be added to the moat, adding another layer of defence. Water defences, such as moats or natural lakes, had the benefit of dictating the enemy’s approach to the castle.

  • The Battlement

    Battlements were most often found surmounting curtain walls and the tops of gatehouses, and comprised several elements: crenellations, hoardings, machicolations, and loopholes. Crenellation is the collective name for alternating crenels and merlons: gaps and solid blocks on top of a wall. Hoardings were wooden constructs that projected beyond the wall, allowing defenders to shoot at, or drop objects on attackers at the base of the wall without having to lean perilously over the crenellations, thereby exposing themselves. Machicolations were stone projections on top of a wall with openings that allowed objects to be dropped on an enemy at the base of the wall in a similar fashion to hoardings.
    Arrowslits, also commonly called loopholes, were narrow vertical openings in defensive walls which allowed arrows or crossbow bolts to be fired on attackers. The narrow slits were intended to protect the defender by providing a very small target, but the size of the opening could also impede the defender if it was too small. A smaller horizontal opening could be added to give an archer a better view for aiming.

  • Allure — Walkway along the top of a wall.
  • Arcade — Row of arches, free-standing and supported on piers or columns; a blind arcade is a «dummy».
  • Arrow Loop — A narrow vertical slit cut into a wall through which arrows could be fired from inside.
  • Ashlar — Squared blocks of smooth stone neatly trimmed to shape.
  • Bailey — The ward or courtyard inside the castle walls, includes exercise area, parade ground, emergency corral
  • Baluster — A small column.
  • Balustrade — A railing, as along a path or stairway.
  • Barbican — The gateway or outworks defending the drawbridge.
  • Barrel vault — Cylindrical roof.
  • Bartizan — An overhanging battlemented corner turret, corbelled out; sometimes as grandiose as an overhanging gallery; common in Scotland and France.
  • Bastion — A small tower at the end of a curtain wall or in the middle of the outside wall; solid masonry projection; structural rather than inhabitable.
  • Batter — A sloping part of a curtain wall. The sharp angle at the base of all walls and towers along their exterior surface; talus.
  • Battlement — Parapet with indentations or embrasures, with raised portions (merlons) between; crenelations; a narrow wall built along the outer edge of the wall walk for protection against attack.
  • Belvedere — A raised turret or pavillion.
  • Berm — Flat space between the base of the curtain wall and the inner edge of the moat; level area separating ditch from bank.
  • Blockhouse — Small square fortification, usually of timber bond overlapping arrangement of bricks in courses (flemish, dutch, french, etc.)
  • Bonnet — Freestanding fortification; priest’s cap.
  • Boss — Central stone of arch or vault; key stone.
  • Brattice — Timber tower or projecting wooden gallery; hoarding.
  • Breastwork — Heavy parapet slung between two gate towers; defense work over the portcullis.
  • Bressumer — Beam to support a projection.
  • Burg — German stronghold.
  • Buttery — Next to the kitchen, a room from where wine was dispensed.
  • Buttress — Wall projection for extra support; flying — narrow, arched bridge against the structure; pilaster — gradually recedes into the structure as it ascends.
  • Capital — Distinctly treated upper end of a column.
  • Casemates — Artillery emplacements in separate protected rooms, rather than in a battery.
  • Cesspit — The opening in a wall in which the waste from one or more garderobes was collected.
  • Chamfer — Surface made by smoothing off the angle between two stone faces.
  • Chancel — The space surrounding the altar of a church.
  • Chemise wall — Formed by a series of interlinked or overlapping semicircular bastions.
  • Chevron — Zig-zag moulding.
  • Clasping — Encasing the angle.
  • Clunch — Hard chalky material.
  • Cob — Unburned clay mixed with straw.
  • Column — Pillar (circular section).
  • Concentric — Having two sets of walls, one inside the other.
  • Coping — Covering stones.
  • Counterguard — A long, near-triangular freestanding fortification within the moat.
  • Counterscarp — Outer slope of ditch.
  • Course — Level layer of stones or bricks.
  • Creasing — Red mark on a wall, marking the pitch of a former roof.
  • Crenel — The low segment of the alternating high and low segments of a battlement.
  • Crenelation — Battlements at the top of a tower or wall.
  • Crocket — Curling leaf-shape.
  • Cross-and-orb — Modified cross slits to accommodate gunnery.
  • Crownwork — Freestanding bastioned fortification in front of main defenses.
  • Cupola — Hemispherical armored roof.
  • Curtain Wall — A connecting wall hung between two towers surrounding the bailey.
  • Cushion — Capital cut from a block by rounding off the lower corners.
  • Cusp — Curves meeting in a point.
  • Cyclopean — Drystone masonry, ancient, of huge blocks.
  • Daub — A mud of clay mixture applied over wattle to strengthen and seal it.
  • Dead-ground — Close to the wall, where the defenders can’t shoot.
  • Diaper work — Decoration of squares or lozenges.
  • Diaphragm — Wall running up to the roof-ridge.
  • Dog-legged — With right-angle bends.
  • Dogtooth — Diagonal indented pyramid.
  • Donjon — A great tower or keep.
  • Dormer — Window placed vertically in sloping roof.
  • Double-splayed — Embrasure whose smallest aperture is in the middle of the wall.
  • Drawbridge — A heavy timber platform built to span a moat between a gatehouse and surrounding land that could be raised when required to block an entrance.
  • Dressing — Carved stonework around openings.
  • Drum Tower — A large, circular, low, squat tower built into a wall.
  • Drystone — Unmortared masonry.
  • Dungeon — The jail, usually found in one of the towers.
  • Embattled — Battlemented; crenelated.
  • Embrasure — The low segment of the altering high and low segments of a battlement.
  • Enceinte — The enclosure or fortified area of a castle.
  • Fascine — Huge bundle of brushwood for revetting ramparts or filling in ditches.
  • Finial — A slender piece of stone used to decorate the tops of the merlons, spire, tower, balustrade, etc.
  • Fluting — Concave mouldings in parallel.
  • Footings — Bottom part of wall.
  • Forebuilding — An extension to the keep, guarding it’s entrance.
  • Fosse — Ditch.
  • Freestone — High quality sand- or lime-stone.
  • Gable — Wall covering end of roof ridge.
  • Gallery — Long passage or room.
  • Garderobe — A small latrine or toilet either built into the thickness of the wall or projected out from it; ; projects from the wall as a small, rectangular bartizan
  • Gate House — The complex of towers, bridges, and barriers built to protect each entrance through a castle or town wall.
  • Glacis — A bank sloping down from a castle which acts as a defence against invaders; broad, sloping naked rock or earth on which the attackers are completely exposed
  • Great chamber — Lord’s solar, or bed-sitting room.
  • Great Hall — The building in the inner ward that housed the main meeting and dining area for the castle’s residence; throne room
  • Groined — Roof with sharp edges at intersection of cross-vaults.
  • Half-shaft — Roll-moulding on either side of opening.
  • Herringbone — Brick or stone laid in alternate diagonal courses.
  • Hoarding — Upper wooden stories on a stone castle wall; the living area; sometimes, a temporary wooden balcony suspended from the tops of walls from which missiles could be dropped.
  • Hood — Arched covering; when used as umbrella, called hood-mould.
  • Hornwork — Freestanding quadrilateral fortification in front of the main wall.
  • Inner Curtain — The high wall the surrounds the inner ward.
  • Inner Ward — The open area in the center of a castle.
  • Jamb — Side posts of arch, door, or window.
  • Keep — A strong stone tower; main tower; donjon; stronghold.
  • Keystone — Central wedge in top of arch.
  • Lancet — Long, narrow window with pointed head.
  • Lantern — Small structure with open or windowed sides on top of a roof or dome to let light or air into the enclosed space below.
  • Light — Glazing; component part of window, divided by mullions and transoms.
  • Lintel — Horizontal stone or beam bridging an opening.
  • Loophole — Narrow, tall opening, wallslit for light, air, or shooting through.
  • Louvre — Opening in roof (sometimes topped with lantern) to allow smoke to escape from central hearth.
  • Machicolations — Projecting gallery on brackets, on outside of castle or towers, with holes in floor for dropping rocks, shooting, boiling oil etc.
  • Mantlet — Detached fortification preventing direct access to a gateway; low outer wall.
  • Merlon — The high segment of the alternating high and low segments of a battlement.
  • Meurtriere — An opening in the roof of a passage where soldiers could shoot into the room below. Also see «Murder Holes».
  • Moat — A deep trench usually filled with water that surrounded a castle.
  • Moline — Ends curling outward.
  • Mortar — A mixture of sand, water, and lime used to bind stones together; as opposed to drylaid masonry.
  • Motte — A mound of earth on which a tower was built; artificial conical earth mound (sometimes an old barrow) for the keep
  • Moulding — Masonry decoration; long, narrow, casts strong shadows.
  • Mullion — Vertical division of windows.
  • Murder Holes — A section between the main gate and a inner portcullis where arrows, rocks, and hot oil can be dropped from the roof though holes. Provides good cover for defenders and leaves the attacker open. Only used when outer gate has been breach.
  • Nailhead — Pyramid moulding.
  • Narthex — Enclosed passage between the main entrance and nave of a church; vestibule.
  • Nave — Principal hall of a church, extending from the narthex to the chancel.
  • Necking — Ornament at the top of a column, bottom of the capital.
  • Newel — Center post of spiral staircase.
  • Nookshaft — Shaft set in angle of jamb or pier.
  • Offset — Ledge marking the narrowing of a wall’s thickness.
  • Oilette — A round opening at the base of a loophole, usually for a cannon muzzle
  • Open joint — Wide space between faces of stones.
  • Oratory — Private in-house chapel; small cell attached to a larger chapel.
  • Order — One of a series of concentric mouldings.
  • Oriel — Projecting window in wall; originally a form of porch, usually of wood; side-turret.
  • Orillons — Arrowhead bastions.
  • Oubliette — A dungeon reached by a trap door; starvation hole
  • Outer Curtain — The wall the encloses the outer ward.
  • Outer Ward — The area around the outside of and adjacent to the inner curtain.
  • Palisade — A sturdy wooden fence usually built to enclose a site until a permanent stone wall can be constructed.
  • Palmette — Looped like a palm-leaf.
  • Parados — Low wall in inner side of main wall.
  • Parapet — Low wall on outer side of main wall.
  • Pediment — Low-pitched gable over porticos, doors, windows.
  • Peel — A small tower; typically, a fortified house on the border
  • Pellet — Circular boss.
  • Petit appareil — Small cubical stonework.
  • Pier — Support for arch, usually square.
  • Pilaster — Shallow pier used to buttress a wall.
  • Pinnacle — Ornamental crowning spire, tower, etc.
  • Piscina — Hand basin with drain, usually set against or into a wall.
  • Pitch — Roof slope.
  • Pitching — Rough cobbling on floor, as in courtyards.
  • Plinth — Projecting base of wall.
  • Portcullis — A heavy timber or metal grill that protected the castle entrance and could be raised or lowered from within the castle. It dropped vertically between grooves to block passage or barbican, or to trap attackers.
  • Postern Gate — A side or less important gate into a castle; usually for peacetime use by pedestrians
  • Prow — Acute-angled projection.
  • Puddled — Made waterproof.
  • Putlog — Beams placed in holes to support a hoarding; horizontal scaffold beam
  • Putlog Hole — A hole intentionally left in the surface of a wall for insertion of a horizontal pole.
  • Quadrangle — Inner courtyard.
  • Quirk — V-shaped nick.
  • Quoin — Dressed stone at angle of building.
  • Rampart — Defensive stone or earth wall surrounding castle.
  • Rath — Low, circular ringwork.
  • Ravelin — Outwork with two faces forming a salient angle; like in a star-shaped fort.
  • Rear-arch — Arch on the inner side of a wall.
  • Redoubt — Small self-contained fieldwork, a refuge for soldiers outside the main defenses.
  • Reeded — Parallel convex mouldings.
  • Re-entrant — Recessed; opposite of salient.
  • Refectory — Communal dining hall.
  • Relieving arch — Arch built up in a wall to relieve thrust on another opening.
  • Respond — Half-pier bonded into a wall to carry an arch.
  • Retirata — Improvised fieldwork to counter an imminent breach.
  • Revetment — Retaining wall to prevent erosion; to face a surface with stone slabs.
  • Rib — Raised moulding dividing a vault.
  • Ringwork — Circular earthwork of bank and ditch.
  • Roll — Moulding of semi-circular section.
  • Roofridge — Summit line of roof.
  • Rubble — Fill; unsquared stone not laid in courses.
  • Rustication — Worked ashlar stone with the faces left rough.
  • Salient — Wall projection, arrowhead.
  • Saltire — Diagonal, equal-limbed cross.
  • Sally-port — Small heavily fortified side door from which the defenders can rush out, strike, and retire.
  • Scaffolding — The temporary wooden frame work built next to a wall to support both workers and materials.
  • Scallop — Carved in a series of semi-circles.
  • Scappled — Cut to a smooth face.
  • Scarp — Slope on inner side of ditch.
  • Shell-keep — Circular or oval wall surrounding inner portion of castle; usually stores and accommodations inside the hollow walls.
  • Sill — Lower horizontal face of an opening.
  • Sleeper — Lowest horizontal timber (or low wall).
  • Soffit — Underside of arch, hung parapet, or opening.
  • Solar — Upper living room , often over the great hall; the lord’s private living room.
  • Spandrel — Area between top of a column or pier and the apex of the arch springing from it.
  • Spring — Level at which the springers (voussoirs) of an arch rise from their supports.
  • Squint — Observation hole in wall or room.
  • Stepped — Recessed in a series of ledges.
  • Steyned — Lined (like in a well).
  • Stockade — Solid fence of heavy timbers.
  • Stringcourse — Continuous horizontal moulding on wallface.
  • Tau cross — Plain T cross with equal limbs.
  • Transom — Horizontal division of window; crossbar.
  • Truss — A timber frame used to support the roof over the great hall.
  • Tufa — Cellular rock; porous limestone.
  • Turning bridge — A drawbridge that pivots in the middle.
  • Turret — Small tower, round or polygonal; usually a lookout.
  • Vault — Stone roofing.
  • Vitrified — Material reduced to glass by extreme heat.
  • Volute — Spiral scroll at angle of a capital.
  • Voussoir — Wedge-shaped stones in arch.
  • Wall-plate — Horizontal roof-timber on wall-top.
  • Wall-stair — Staircase built into the thickness of a wall.
  • Wall-walk — Passage along castle wall; may be roofed.
  • Water-leaf — Plain broad leaf moulding.
  • Wattle — A mat of woven (willow) sticks and weeds; used in wall and dike construction.
  • Wave — Sinuous moulding.
  • Weathering — Sloping surface to throw off rainwater.
  • Wicket — Person-sized door set into the main gate door.
  • Wing-wall — Wall downslope of motte to protect stairway.
  • Yett — Iron lattice gate.

A Fascinating Story You Can’t Miss

What image would you come up with when asked to visualize a castle?

A grand building made up of stone, with several towers and an impressive keep, a massive gatehouse, battlements with arrow slits, and a deep moat surrounding the entire edifice?

You will be surprised to discover that the original castles were far removed from that romantic image.

3d Archaeological Reconstruction by BeanBox

The Motte-and-Bailey Castles — a medieval innovation

The motte-and-bailey castle was a true European innovation. While the concept of ditches, ramparts, and stone walls as defensive measures is ancient, raising a motte is a medieval innovation.

What is the meaning of a motte-and-bailey castle?

A motte-and-bailey castle was a Norman fortification consisting of a wooden keep that was placed on a raised earthwork called a motte, overlooking an enclosed courtyard called the bailey. Originally, these castles were constructed from timber and earth alone; they were cheap and easy to build and didn’t require any special design.

A typical Motte and Bailey Castle

As we can see, a motte-and-bailey castle included 3 main features:

  1. The Motte

    The Motte (the word derives from Old French) was a large earthen mound with a ditch surrounding its base. It was often artificial, meaning it had to be built by piling up earth, but sometimes it incorporated a pre-existing feature of the landscape, such as a nearby hill.

    Large mottes could be as high as 30 meters and as large as 90 meters in diameter, but they were rarely used. That’s because it took an enormous effort to pile up such a huge volume of earth.

    The motte was flattened on top to make place for the wooden keep. The steep embankment on the side of the motte was known as a Scarp.

  2. The Keep

    The keep on top of the motte was the castle’s primary defensive element. It was surrounded by a protective wall, originally made of wood. Small mottes could only support a simple tower but larger mottes could support more complex structures that often contained multiple rooms.

    The keep on top of the motte was the castle’s last line of defense and it was the place where the lord of the castle (together with his wife) inhabited.

    Larger towers were often equipped with cellars and granaries, more living rooms, and rooms for the watchmen and the servants appointed to keep the house.

    It was not uncommon for the tower to be built and then partially buried within the mound, with the buried part forming a cellar.

  3. The Bailey

    The term bailey refers to a yard formed by flattening an area alongside the motte. The yard was surrounded by a wooden fence called a palisade and then a ditch. The bailey was the center of domestic life within the castle and could contain a variety of buildings, including halls, kitchens, stores, stables, a chapel, barracks, and workshops.

    The bailey was linked to the motte either by a flying bridge stretching between the two, or, more commonly in England, by steps cut into the motte. Sometimes, the ditches were filled with water by damming or diverting nearby streams forming water-filled moats.

A more detailed diagram of a Motte and Bailey Castle

In practice, no two motte-and-baileys were exactly the same although most of them shared these three common elements.

For example, a castle could have had more than one bailey and a good example is Windsor Castle where several baileys flank the motte. Alternatively, some castles were designed with a single bailey and two mottes, such as Lincoln Castle. Fundamentally, the design of each castle adapted to its natural surroundings.

Aerial view of Windsor Castle. We can see the two baileys (left and right) flanking the original motte in the middle

Why were motte-and-baileys so popular?

Motte-and-bailey castles were immensely popular for nearly 200 years. The Normans were huge advocates of this type of castle design and we have already learned that motte-and-baileys were a decisive factor in the Normans’ successful conquest of the British Isles. As William the Conqueror advanced through England, he built motte-and-bailey castles to fortify key positions to secure the land he had taken.

Despite the simple and relatively rough design, motte-and-baileys had excellent defensive capabilities. Attackers soon found out that the keep on top of the motte was surprisingly hard to capture as the height of the motte and the ditch surrounding it gave defenders a significant defensive advantage.

Moreover, Norman designers found that the wider the ditch was dug, the deeper and steeper the sides of the scarp could be, making life even more difficult for the attackers.

The biggest advantage of the Motte and Bailey design was how extremely cheap and easy to build it was. Designers could use an existing mound or hill for foundations which could save significant construction time.

Construction didn’t require any special materials, and the work could usually be carried out by unskilled men. This meant that a motte-and-bailey castle could be built relatively quickly using local manpower and earth and timber alone as building materials. This allowed the Normans to quickly consolidate their power, then move on and conquer the next region.

As a marker of their success, almost 1,000 motte-and-bailey castles were built in England, Wales, and Scotland.

Although the motte-and-bailey design is a particularly northern European phenomenon (most castles of this type can be found in Normandy and Britain), we can also see such structures in other parts of Europe, such as Denmark, Germany, Southern Italy, and occasionally beyond.

Motte-and-baileys decline

By the end of the 11th century, motte-and-bailey castles (especially those made entirely out of earth and timber) began to fall from favor. There were several reasons behind this fact.

One thing that made the motte-and-bailey design so popular was the use of wood as the primary building material, however, this also became the design’s Achilles heel. Because timber burns easily, firing flaming arrows at the castle could have devastating consequences.

Sophisticated fire-launching techniques designed to burn down the castle were developed and used with great success.

Moreover, the broad base of the mottes meant that attacks could come from any direction, and raiders were quick to use this to their advantage, often surprising the defenders inside the keep.

Timber also tends to rot easily, and many of these early castles quickly ran into disrepair and were often abandoned or required significant (and often expensive) repairs and ongoing maintenance.

Small and medium mottes could not sustain a large keep, and this meant that living quarters were usually small and cramped. There was little space to house soldiers and peasants, let alone provide the stature yearned for by many nobles.

To build a large tower that could properly accommodate the lord and his servants, castles needed a large motte. However, a large motte was extremely difficult to build as it took disproportionately more effort to pile up the earth than in the case of smaller hills. As an example, a large motte is estimated to have required up to 24,000 man-days of work while smaller ones required perhaps as little as 1,000.

The cost of this design was not easily scalable and the reality of the times forced local nobles to forego the simple motte and bailey design and turn to more complex design principles to build the large castles that their status and people needed for economics, politics, and defense. To avoid the perils of fire, improve durability and increase the castle’s defense capability, the obvious solution was to replace (wherever possible) timber with stone.

Chateau de Gisors in Normandy, a perfect example of a motte-and-bailey castle, where the wooden tower was replaced with a stone keep

What happened to the motte and bailey castles?

The Motte-and-bailey design became less popular in the mid-medieval period, and from the end of the 12th century, a new scientific approach to castle design had emerged. And with this new approach, the great era of stone castles had begun.

Some motte-and-bailey castles were abandoned or allowed to lapse into disrepair; those with wooden keeps rotted away, leaving a handful of odd shaped hills scattered across the landscape as the only indication they ever existed.

Not all were abandoned however, with many of these original motte-and-bailey castles used as foundations for the newly designed stone castles.


Video — Mottes: a type of castle or simply an element of some castles? : A century of motte studies – Tom McNeill

Wikipedia: Motte-and-bailey castle

World History: Motte and Bailey Castle

Britannica: The motte-and-bailey castle

Britannica: Norman

See also

  • Evolution in Castle design: Stone Castles
  • High point in Castle design and decline

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It is believed that if the newlyweds have fixed their castle on the day of marriage, then they will be together all their lives. It is believed that this custom came to our country from Europe in the last century.

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Engraved on the lock of love

Today, young people are happy to follow a long tradition. Solemn fastening of the castle on a tree or on a bridge acts as an integral part of the marriage. Bridges in our country are very densely covered with love locks, and their number is constantly increasing.

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Locks of love for a wedding — a history of tradition, choosing and decorating a wedding lock with your own hands


  • Why a lock is hung at a wedding: the history of the origin of the ritual. Russian-Italian roots of tradition
  • Selection and decoration of the castle for the wedding. Engraving as the art of decoration
  • How to make a wedding castle with your own hands? Hinged platform for creativity
  • Where to hang and where to put the keys to the wedding lock?
  • How to open the wedding lock? Is it necessary?

Once, on the embankment of my native city, I happened to observe an interesting, but sad and by no means romantic picture. Utility workers cut the love locks one by one from the railing of the footbridge, negotiating future earnings from the delivery of scrap metal. Of course, it is worth noting that there were so many castles that the railings seem to have been in serious danger of damage. And it’s unlikely that all these cute “Nadya + Anton” and “Katya and Serezha = love forever” are really affect the real strength of relationships in the family. What then is the point for the bride and groom to hang a lock for lovers on their wedding day? And are there other interesting places besides bridges for such souvenirs?

The railing of the bridge as the most popular location for locks of lovers

Why a lock is hung at a wedding: the history of the origin of the ritual.

Russian-Italian roots of the tradition

It turns out that the tradition of hanging wedding locks on the bridge came to us from literature. A novel by quite popular Italian writer Federico Moccia «Three meters above the sky» (Italian: Tre metri sopra il cielo), which was released in 1992, became the progenitor of the original wedding ritual.

The heroes of the book swore eternal love to each other, wrapped a chain around the bridge post, hung a lock on it in honor of their high feelings, and threw the key from the lock into the river itself

quickly gained popularity among couples around the world. Since then, brides and grooms have been hanging their love locks on poles, bridges, fences, tree branches and other convenient places.

By the way, ethnographers say that the tradition of closing barn locks for the happiness of the newlyweds, and throwing the key away or giving it to someone respected for safekeeping, existed many years ago in Rus’. By the way, the castle itself was not hung anywhere, and was buried in the ground in a secluded place . Such a romantic, but useless, from the point of view of recycling, rite.

Photo of a wedding castle – how to lock up love

Choosing and decorating a castle for a wedding. Engraving as the art of decoration

Choosing a wedding castle is not so easy if the bride and groom pay special attention to ALL wedding traditions. Especially so idealized. For solid couples, locks are made by craftsmen to order of any size and shape. Locks with engraving for newlyweds in the form of a heart, round, oval are very popular. In general, is the most different from the usual lock form.

Photo of wedding lock for lovers

Many people want to stand out and hang giant heavy locks. Others choose contrastingly very miniature, openwork locks.

Wedding castle as a work of art

Huge castle for lovers as a way to stand out

Ordinary locks are decorated by craftsmen at the request of the newlyweds. It is cheaper to buy a ready-made copy with engraved patterns and patterns. And the master will only have to arrange the names and date of the wedding of the future husband and wife. The exclusive design of the castle will cost a little more. In addition to the usual hearts, doves, silhouettes and fanciful patterns, craftsmen can engrave on a wedding castle even in the form of an image of lovers.

Engraved photo of the castle at the wedding — a classic design option

Memorable words, initials and the date of the wedding are still in the binding of the classic design of the newlyweds’ hanging accessory. Unusual inscriptions on the wedding castle, unfortunately, are rare. Brides and grooms prefer something traditional and romantic: «One breath for two», «Together forever» or « All you need is love «.

How to make a wedding castle with your own hands? Hanging platform for creativity

Making a wedding lock is a task for a blacksmith or lock factory workers. But the newlyweds can decorate the castle for the wedding on their own. It all depends on personal tastes, skills and preferences.

The easiest way is to sign the wedding castle with acrylic paints and fix the inscription with a special varnish so that it does not quickly wash off with rain. The scope of the inscription depends on the size of the castle. On small shutters, as a rule, these are the first letters of the names and the date of the wedding. Something like: «A + K» 04/12/2018. The closures are larger and the phrases can be wider. Newlyweds write declarations of love, wishes for family life and vows of fidelity on locks.

However, this is the main purpose of the «barn» accessory — to lock the love and happiness of the wedding day not only in the mechanism, but also in the heart of the newlyweds

it was not painted with paint. Therefore, it is better to add a little personality to the castle.

A workshop on decorating a clasp with ribbons and beads will make your task easier:

  1. Buy your favorite beads, fabric flowers and other interesting decorations in the needlework store. And also good glue and satin ribbons to decorate the handle.
  2. Have a tube of acrylic paints, brush and clear varnish ready to fix the lettering.
  3. Prepare the lock for work: wash with soap and water, dry, degrease the surface with alcohol or cologne.
  4. Write your names and wedding date on the clasp with acrylic paint. Let the lettering dry. Apply clear varnish on top. Let dry again.
  5. Carefully glue the decor around the lettering and wrap the tape around the lock handle. It is also better to fix it with small portions of glue.

Do-it-yourself photo of a wedding castle — a variety of decor options

Undoubtedly, castles decorated using decoupage technique are beautiful and original. Clay elements and drawings with oil paints look extravagant. In the general pile, even locks caught my eye, tied with a beautiful pattern using a hook. A nautical themed wedding can be complemented with a padlock decorated with shells and sand, and a boho themed wedding can be complemented with a burlap, twigs and lace shutter decor. In short, who cares what. If only inspiration came at the right time.

Newlyweds painted lock

Where to hang and where to put the keys to the wedding lock?

Practically in every city where there is more or less a decent body of water and a bridge over it , the city government suffers from the problem of wedding locks. Of course, one or two shutters will not cause significant harm. But in really popular places, there are hundreds, if not thousands, of these accessories. And this creates an additional load, which can lead to premature deformation of structures.

Even the provinces complain about the abundance of lovers’ castles, and what can we say about cities like Venice or Paris, where newlyweds from all over the world come to

Of course, in the original, the newlyweds’ castle should be hung on the bridge. But other interesting places will fit for this ritual:

  1. Iron trees . The city authorities install metal structures in parks and squares where brides and grooms like to walk. Often they are made in the form of trees so that couples can hang their love lock on one of the many branches.
  2. Memorable place for newlyweds . Surely the couple has their favorite places in the city, which they remember by events or meetings. This is a wonderful occasion to perpetuate the fence of the monument where the first date took place. Or the parking lot fence of the nightclub where the bride and groom met.
  3. Secret place . So that the castle of lovers does not suffer the fate of all extraneous (from the point of view of utilities) objects, it is worth choosing a place where not everyone can see the accessory. Be smart and dexterous, but do not forget about safety. A railing on the roof of a house or an inconspicuous bench is fine.

Love trees with leaf locks in Moscow

Traditionally, the keys to the lovers’ castle are thrown into the pond. So that it would not occur to anyone to open , an accessory closed for happiness and fidelity . But if there is no reservoir at hand (although an ordinary well is also suitable), young people can give the key to a reliable person for storage, bury it in the ground or hand it over for processing.

How to open a wedding lock? Is it necessary?

Superstition says that for the happiness of the newlyweds, the wedding lock should not be opened nobody and never . That is why the bride and groom throw the key far away from human eyes. A one-time lock will help superstitious couples in this matter. It is not possible to open one without a key, because there are no keys for it either.

Disposable wedding padlock for newlyweds

It happens that newlyweds order an inexpensive disposable padlock from a friendly Asian country, and the package arrives with an unpleasant surprise: the padlock is closed in advance by an irresponsible Asian worker.

By alexxlab

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