Stuff about castles: 10 Facts About Medieval Castles

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Medieval Castles Facts

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Medieval Castles Facts

Medieval castles were built during the Middle Ages in Europe and the Middle East as a structure to provide protection for nobility from invaders. Not to be confused with palaces, castles were fortified structures that began to be built in the 9th and 10th centuries, and continued to be built for roughly 900 years. In the late 1100s the structures began to include towers and slits for arrows to be shot through. As the centuries wore on, new weapons evolved and the use of gunpowder made it possible to break the stone walls. Castles began to be less desirable as they were no longer desired for use a residences. Despite their use for military purposes disappearing there are many castles around the world that are in use today for a variety of purposes.

The word ‘castle’ is derived from the Latin word ‘castrum’ meaning ‘Fortified place’.

Originally castles were built of wood and earth but stone was later used as it provided more protection from invaders.

Often there were obstacles put in place to defend the medieval castles from potential invaders. These obstacles could include moats, spikes, curtain walls, and lookouts were placed in strategic positions so that invaders could be spotted and the castle occupants warned.

Life in a castle was unlikely as glamorous as people today believe. They were often stinky and very busy places.

The moat of a castle was often filled with the sewage from the people living behind its walls. It smelled horrible but the smell was not much of a deterrent. Invaders would wade into the disgusting water to try and reach the castle.

Sometimes sharp spikes were set in place in the moats so that invaders that were not turned away by the sewage would still be fought off (or killed) by the spikes.

Medieval castles often had gatehouses that provided access to the castle for its inhabitants but also provided protection against invaders. These gatehouses made it possible to stop unwanted visitors from gaining entry.

The drawbridge was invented late in the Medieval-castle era. Simple drawbridges consisted of a log that was removed when not needed. More complex designs used a counterweight to draw the bridge up or let it down.

The Lord and Lady of a Medieval castle lived in quarters referred to as ‘solar chambers’.

Early Medieval castles often had small windows which made the interior dark. In the 1200s larger windows began to be included to allow for more light.

It wasn’t until the middle of the Medieval times that fireplaces were invented. Up until then castles were very cold.

Medieval people were not as concerned with privacy as we are today and toilets were often just long benches.

The tower of a castle was referred to as a ‘donjon’.

There are more than 10,000 medieval castles still in existence today in Europe and in Asia.

Some of the most famous medieval castles include the Tower of London (England), Château Gaillard des Andelys (France), Castel del Monte (Italy), Alcazar de Segovia (Spain), Kasteel de Haar (Netherlands), Veliki Tabor (Croatia), Edinburgh Castle (Scotland), Burg Eltz (Germany), and Bran Castle, also known as Dracula’s Castle (Romania).


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Medieval Castles Facts

Ireland Castles & Their Fascinating Facts

Guide To Our Favourite Castles In Ireland — Quick Links


⚔️ Dunluce Castle


💋 Blarney Castle


☘️ Rock of Cashel


⛵ Dunguaire Castle


🛡️ Aughnanure Castle


🏯 Kilkenny Castle


🏰 Donegal Castle


Ireland’s castles are landmarks to a time when Gaelic chieftains and Norman lords ruled this magical island.


Each has left its their mark at different times and addied to the rich fabric of Irish history.


Read on for 7 of our favourite Irish castles with interesting facts about each…






🧱 Built: Originally built in the 13th century with the latest structure from the 17th century.


📍 Located: Near the Giant’s Causeway in Antrim


🤓 Facts:


1. Dunluce Castle is thought to have been a part of the inspiration for C.S Lewis’s classic children’s fantasy, Chronicles of Narnia.



2. An annual fair once ran in Dunluce but was shut down because of «excessive bawdiness and debauchery» (!).


3. Over a 100-year period, the castle was besieged on numerous occasions by the English.


4. The castle was originally built by the McQuillan family. They had come from nearby Scotland in the 1200s as hired mercenaries.




🧱 Built: Originally; 1210, latest structure; 1446


📍 Located: Blarney, Co. Cork


🤓 Facts:


1. The Blarney Stone is well-known for its reputed powers of giving anyone who kisses it ‘the gift of the gab’.


2. This originated when Queen Elizabeth I coined the term ‘the gift of the gab’ when she became fed up with Lord Blarney. Apparently, he talked endlessly to avoid agreeing to her demands. Sounds like a Corkman to us!



3. Visitors were once held by the ankles and lowered head first over the battlements to kiss the Blarney Stone. Today, thankfully, slightly more attention is paid to health and safety. Visitors lean backwards to kiss the stone while holding on to an iron rail.


4. Blarney Castle was constructed on an impressive limestone outcrop and was strategically sited so that it could overlook two rivers.




🧱 Built: 12th century


📍 Located: Cashel, Co. Tipperary


🤓 Facts:


1. The shamrock is thought to have gained its symbolism at Cashel. Saint Patrick purportedly plucked the little three-leaved plant to illustrate the meaning of the Holy Trinity to the King of Munster. Patrick was converting him to Christianity.



2. According to legend, the Rock of Cashel was created when the devil took a bite from a tall mountain called the Devil’s Bit, located 20 miles away. When the piece of rock fell from the devil’s mouth, it became the Rock of Cashel. Depending on who you talk to, this may also have happened when mythical figure, Finn McCool, threw the rock.


3. If you translate Cashel direcly from Irish, the Gaelic word Caiseal means circular stone fort.




🧱 Built: 1520


📍 Located: Kinvara, Co. Galway


🤓 Facts:


1. Dunguaire Castle became a meeting place for George Bernard Shaw and W.B. Yeats during the early 20th century Celtic Revival.



2. The castle was built by the Hynes clan who have been associated with the area since 662AD.


3. Legend has it that if a person stands at the front gate and asks a question, their question will be answered by the end of the day. Just don’t ask your VagaGuide!




🧱 Built: 1500’s


📍 Located: Oughterard, Co. Galway


🤓 Facts:


1. Aughnanure Castle stands on the shores of the beautiful Lough Corrib in Galway.



2. Built by the ‘ferocious’ Gaelic O’Flaherty clan, their motto was «Fortune favours the strong».


3. In 1546, Donal O’Flaherty married Grace O’Malley, who became known as the Pirate Queen.


4. The Lord Deputy of the day, Sir Henry Sidney of Galway, famously referred to Grace O’Malley as, ‘a notorious woman in all the coasts of Ireland.




🧱 Built: 1213 AD


📍 Located: Kilkenny


🤓 Facts:


1. Richard De Clare, better known as Strongbow, led the Norman invasion of Ireland in the late 12th century. He built the first Kilkenny Castle which was probably made of wood. Strongbow’s daughter Isabel and husband William Marshall rebuilt Kilkenny Castle as a stone structure.



2. In 1385 the castle was bought by the Butler family and remained theirs for over 500 years.


3. Kilkenny was once the capital of Ireland and its most important city. The Cromwellian conquest of Ireland in 1649 brought Kilkenny’s preeminence to an end.


4. In 1967 Kilkenny Castle was sold to the state for 50 pounds from the sixth (and last) Marquis.




🧱 Built: 1213 AD


📍 Located: Donegal Castle, Donegal.


🤓 Facts:


1. Donegal Castle was the seat of the O’Donnell family. They were one of the most powerful Gaelic Irish families from the 5th -16th century.



2. The castle is regarded as one of the finest examples of a Gaelic castle in Ireland. The Lord Deputy of Ireland, Sir Henry Sidney in 1566 described it as «the largest and strongest fortress in all Ireland«, adding: «it is the greatest I ever saw in an Irishman’s hands»


3. In 1607 the O’Donnell’s fled Ulster after a nine-year battle with the English. The fleeing O’Donnell’s damaged the castle so it couldn’t be used against the remaining Irish chieftains. The castle fell into the hands of Captain Basil Brooke, who restored it and gave it its first glass windows.


4. The castle was sold to the Gore family in the 1670s. It fell into ruin in the 18th century but it wasn’t until the 1990s that the castle was restored


Get in touch if you’d like to know more about our 7 Day Driftwood Castles & Kingdoms Tour


Our friendly reservations team will be more than happy to inform you about these amazing castles and the tours that visit them.

What castles are interesting facts connected with? | Culture

It was believed that the castles of feudal lords and knights were impregnable. At the time, this was quite true. Even the use of powerful rams did not always allow the enemy to enter the castle. Underground digging also often did not lead to the desired result. But why did this happen? Here you first need to look at how the castles were built.

All of them, as a rule, were surrounded by a deep and steep moat with water. Through it it was difficult to adjust wall-beating mechanisms. Without them, it was impossible to take the castle with its thick stone walls. The dig under the moat usually rested on the underground part of the walls. In addition, water seeped into the pit and flooded it. True, the siege to starvation sometimes forced the defenders of the castle to open the gates to the enemy and surrender.

In fairness, it should be noted that not all castles had a moat. But the builders resorted to other methods of protection. On the walls of the castle there were walkways and devices for lifting cauldrons of boiling tar and pouring it over the heads of the attackers. In addition, various stinking sewage poured onto the heads of the enemy. The fact is that the toilets were built into the upper part of the protective walls and the so-called «point» was about a meter from the outer part of the wall. Arrows from the loopholes, boiling tar and sewage on the head, a hail of stones made the capture of the castle unattractive and very unprofitable for the attackers. For this reason, there is little information in history about successfully taken castles. However, there is other interesting information.

For a long time they could not understand why in some medieval castles the stairs in the towers are twisted counterclockwise. In particular, in the castle of the Earls of Wallenstein in Germany and in the castle of Fernihurst in Scotland. Logically, the spin should be the other way around. Its essence is that in a narrow passage, the defenders had a significant advantage over the attackers, since a blow from the right side with a sword is much more powerful than from the left. The riddle was solved when it was learned from ancient manuscripts that the men in these castles had been left-handed for generations. For this reason, they had a strong blow with a sword from their left hand. This secret of the construction of the towers was kept secret — strangers were never allowed into the towers.

There have been incidents in history when the enemy did not take the fortress by force. In 1456, the Teutonic Knights repulsed the attack of the Poles on the fortress of Marienburg. According to its structure, it was a well-fortified castle. It was protected by hired bohemian soldiers. The siege of the Poles continued, and the soldiers, meanwhile, began to resent the fact that they were not paid and threatened to leave the fortress. The Teutonic Order had no money. In order to prevent the soldiers from leaving and force them to defend the fortress further, they were offered… a fortress instead of money. That is, the soldiers became its owners. What did they do? They just sold the fortress… to the Poles. This ended the siege, as the Poles themselves became the legal owners of the fortress.

Were there any cases when the defenders of the castle joined forces with the enemy and fought successfully? Yes, such a case is known. It belongs to 1945. In Austria, in the castle of Itter, Wehrmacht soldiers fought hand in hand with French prisoners of war. The story is like this.

In May of that year, several high-ranking French prisoners were in the castle of Itter. On May 4, the head of the guard and the SS men under him fled, leaving their weapons behind. The prisoners were essentially left alone. They took control of the castle. They were joined by ten German soldiers led by a major. These soldiers and the major, realizing that the war was over for them, essentially surrendered to the Americans over the radio. On May 5, SS tanks (probably called in by escaped SS men — I don’t know the details) began shelling the fortress. The French and Germans succeeded in joint efforts to stop them with fire, and then destroy them. The dents on the walls of the castle from shells and shrapnel “speak” about the battle that happened here even now.

Ancient castles keep a lot of interesting stories and secrets in their design. Let’s say castles in Japan had «singing» wooden floors. It was a fairly reliable protection against uninvited guests. The arrangement of the floors was such that the boards were laid on the base in the form of the letter V and they creaked melodiously. It was like the singing of a nightingale. Anyone who stepped on such floors inevitably caused them to «sing». Of course, the guards in Japanese castles did not doze off and, having heard the «nightingale», acted quickly.

Nowadays ancient castles are not forgotten. They are in the routes of travel companies. Historical films are filmed near castles and in them. Well, besides, castles are present in many works of writers and in computer games.

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Facts about castles: 10 unexpected nuances that we don’t know about

Toilets in castles were called wardrobes.

Clothes were indeed stored there, as the unpleasant smell repelled insects.

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04.10.2021

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Photo: Shutterstock.com

Now, unlike in ancient times, castles are rarely used for housing. Against the backdrop of all the achievements of civilization, they are simply outdated. But we will give you facts about castles that may surprise many.

But once these majestic buildings were intended not only for housing. These were fortresses that protected their owners from enemies. They were also a measure of wealth. Nowadays, there are many ways to show others your wealth, and it is not at all necessary to build huge stone monsters for this.

Toilets

Fact: there were no toilets in the castles, and if there were, they were not the ones we are used to.

This is perhaps one of the most inconvenient features of locks. There were no toilets in them, but there were small rooms called wardrobes. They had a hole where people dumped their waste, which then fell into the surrounding ditches. These rooms were very cold. And they were called a wardrobe because clothes were stored there, since the smell repelled insects.

Building Materials

Fact: The first castles were made of wood

When the Normans (who came from Normandy, France) arrived in England almost a thousand years ago, they started building wooden castles. Usually they were erected on a hill, and you had to overcome steep climbs to get to the castle. It wasn’t a bad idea to use the land, but both the castle and the walls that surrounded it were made of wood and were easy to burn down.

Oldest inhabited castle

Fact: Windsor Castle is the oldest European castle still inhabited.

Although Windsor Castle is approximately 900 years old, Queen Elizabeth II lives there today. This is one of her many houses. It was originally a wooden castle, the first of a series of nine castles built by William I. Later, the wooden buildings were replaced with stone ones, adding outer walls and a round tower.

Defense

Fact: castles were built for defense.

Looking at all the features of the castle, one can easily guess its purpose. Moats, towers, ramparts, holes in the ceiling, weapons … Each of these elements was supposed to hold back the enemy. Holes for uninvited guests can be noted: these are holes in the ceiling through which hot liquid was poured onto the enemy. The guns were in special slots, in which the arrows were slightly protected. In general, without a written invitation, there was no point in approaching the castle.

Ladders

Fact: Ladders always turn clockwise.

Spiral staircases in castles were always built clockwise. This purposeful design element served a practical purpose. The idea was that the attackers needed to climb stairs, but were uncomfortable using a sword. On the other hand, the inhabitants of the castle, descending the stairs, received an advantage. But it would be hard for them if they were attacked by an army of left-handers …

Abundance of castles

Fact: in England alone there are 1500 places where there are or once were castles.

This is according to the Castellarium Anglicanum, which is the highest authority in England and Wales. Note the use of the term «place» as many of these castles are completely destroyed and over 800 have some remnants. And only 300 castles survived and still have structural integrity. There is some debate about what constitutes a castle. Some buildings claim the name «castle», although this is not entirely true.

Uncomfortable

Fact: Living in castles was completely uncomfortable.

When you think of a castle, you most likely imagine a luxurious interior. In fact, no one bothered to clean out this large shed, covered in mud and smelling of horse manure. There was little light in the castles, because the sun entered them through tiny windows. Which means it was very wet. And the air circulation was bad. During the construction of the castle, comfort receded into the background: the main thing was defense. But still, there were also castle owners who decorated their homes with beautiful carpets and bright stained glass windows to make them more comfortable and livable.

Food is for pleasure

Fact: Food was the primary means of entertainment.

The castle was a very boring place. No one was allowed to touch the belongings of the owners. Outdoor entertainment consisted of hunting and combat training, men-only activities. And there was even less entertainment inside the castle. We played chess because there were no other games. But the main attraction was the food. Holidays were arranged, during which they entertained themselves with performances of jesters and minstrels, and also consumed a huge amount of food and drink.

The life of servants

Fact: personal servants received some nuggets of luxury.

In the Middle Ages, personal servants were treated like pets, which, in general, is not bad. Just like the owners of the castle, they slept in isolated rooms that were warm. They slept on the floor, but they were given warm blankets. Lower-ranking servants slept in towers, using only light bedding, relying on their body heat.

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    The well was the weakest point in the castle, the main source of vulnerability. Yes, you can pour boiling tar on the heads of the attackers, the strength of the walls provides invulnerability, but if the well was not properly protected or dried up, all precautions became useless.

By alexxlab

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