Fortified fortifications have been around since ancient times. Cities were already protected by walls from attacks. Also in the Roman Empire we built fortifications, so-called castles, which served purely military purposes.

The castle construction in Europe began with the fall of the Western Roman Empire. As the border walls (Limes) to the Germanic tribes more and more yielded to the onslaught and these plundered through the areas, the population was forced to withdraw to hill settlements and to secure these against the looters. The first castles were for the most part surrounded by earth walls, the wooden structures carried such. Palisades and fences.

In the 6th century, the situation in Europe had stabilized again somewhat, so that during this time hardly any castles were built. It was not until the 7th century that the Franconian empire started building castles again to protect its eastern border against attacks. from this time come among other things:
- the sea castle
- the castle Büra
- the castle Amöne
- the Swedes digs near Stade or
- the arrangement on the mountain Odilien



Sea castle


Chapel and ruin on the Amneburg


Part of the castle on the Odilienberg




The high point of the castle construction could be experienced in the high and late Middle Ages. The castles and ruins that have survived to this day also date back to this period, providing an insight into the architecture of the time.


Reasons for the castle construction:

  • Imperial castles and country castles, these were integrated into the territorial system of rule of a king or sovereign
  • Nobles castles, the most frequent art of casltes which served the nobility as residential and weir seat
  • Monastic and religious castles, which provide protection to a religious community or influence
  • City fortresses or fortified cities
  • Safety Fortresses or folk castles that temporarily serve a full local population as retreats in times of danger. These also include fortified churches and fortified churches, which were also used only temporarily in their function as a refuge



Imperial castle


Religious castle


Part of the town castle of Andernach on the Rhine




The different castle types:

Hilltop castles:
- Hilltop castle
(castle built on a mountaintop)
- Stronghold
(Rock formations were integrated into the defence system)
- Ridge Castle
(castle on a ridge or ridge)
- Spur castle
(castle located on a mountain spur)
- Hillside castle
(below the summit, hillside castle)
- Caves castle
(castle incorporated in a natural cave)

Lowland castle
- Water castle
(Type 1: Island Castle: a castle on a natural or artificial island)
(Type 2: Brigde castle: castle on or at a bridge)
- Marsh Castle
(Castle in a bog or marsh)



Hill castle


Cave castle


Castle surrounded by moats




Castles by construction:
- Section Castle
(divided into several sections by ditches and defensive walls)
- Ringcastle
(Round castle where the houses are usually located directly on the defensive wall)
- Quadrangular castle
(Castle that originated from the Roman castles)
- Moth / tower hill castle
(artificial mound with tower or house on it)
- Ground level residence
(like tower hill only at ground level)
- Curtain wall castle
(Castle, whose attack side is particularly strongly attached)



Castles by function:
- Feudal / Lehenscastle
(Rule castles)
- Safety / peoplecastle
(Defense system to protect population from attacks for a limited time)
- Ganerbencastle
(large castle complex in the administration of several families)
- Hofcastle
(temporary residence for a traveling king)
- Country castle
(Castle for securing and extending the sovereign rights of bishops, dukes or princes)
- Stronghold
(Castle built to secure power claims or as a siege fortress in enemy territory)
- Zollcastle
(Castle for the protection of customs stations)
- Zwing / Froncastle
(Castle to secure the restless surroundings)



Location of the castles:

The location of a castle was decisive in its defense and thus in its construction. Thus, most castles in Central Europe were on mountain peaks or on mountain slopes. In addition to the elevated position, rock formations could also be integrated into the weir system. This reduced the construction costs, it was cost-saving and possibly better defended by natural obstacles.

In northern France and in England, where the areas were comparatively flatter, mostly ground-level castles were built, which, however, assumed much larger proportions than the summit castles known from Germany.


Structural elements:

Depending on the function and design, most of the castles had the same components.
Each castle was protected by a wall against attacks. This could be strengthened by watch and defense towers at key points and or gates. Further defensive elements were also a moat, ramparts or natural obstacles or plantings.

Another important element was in most castles the residential tower or the keep. This tower was either used as a pure residential tower or he was the last line of defense should the castle be stormed.

For larger castles that had a fore-castle, there were also some craft businesses that took over the basic supply of the castle with material, food and water and thus could withstand a certain period of the siege.


The fall of the castles:

With the introduction of firearms, the construction of the castles had to be adapted to the new conditions. From the second half of the 15th century, ramparts emerged from the defensive walls, and the wall towers became battery towers, later bastions.

The castles suffered especially badly during the 30 years of war, where many were destroyed and subsequently only partly rebuilt. In the later 17th century, the French campaigns showed that the principle of castles has finally lost its legitimacy.

Due to the social reforms, the castles could now also be sold to non-nobles, which saved at least some castles from decay. Some have even been converted into castles for representation purposes.

Reasons for losing a castle:
- 25% Abandonment
- 13% Termination
- 11,5%Destruction in the 30 years war
- 6% Fires
- 1,5% Earthquake
- 26% Unknown reasons



A nice listing of European castles and palaces can be found on the page






You can find the right literature here:


Late Medieval Castles

Late Medieval Castles

The castles of the late medieval period represent some of the finest medieval monuments in Britain, with an almost infinite capacity to fascinate and draw controversy. They are also a source of considerable academic debate. The contents of this volume represent key works in castle scholarship. Topics discussed include castle warfare, fortress customs, architectural design and symbolism, spatial planning and the depiction of castles in medieval romance. The contributions also serve to highlight the diversity of approaches to the medieval castle, ranging from the study of documentary and literary sources, analysis of fragmentary architectural remains and the recording of field archaeology. The result is a survey that offers an in-depth analysis of castle building from the thirteenth to the fifteenth centuries, and places castles within their broader social, architectural and political contexts.

Click here!



Life in a Medieval Castle

Life in a Medieval Castle (P.S. (Paperback)) Paperback – October 6, 2015

Newly reissued for the first time in decades, Life in a Medieval Castle is the bestselling classic that has introduced countless readers to the wonders of the Middle Ages. Focusing on a castle called Chepstow on the border between England and Wales, acclaimed Medievalists Joseph and Frances Gies offer an exquisite portrait of what day-to-day life was actually like during the era, and of the key role the castle played. The Gieses write eloquently about the many people whose lives revolved around the castle, from the lord and lady to the commoners of the surrounding village. We discover what lords and serfs alike would have worn, eaten, and done for leisure; the songs sung; and the codes of sexual conduct that maintained order. We learn of the essential role of honor in medieval culture, the initiation process undertaken by knights, and how castles attempted to keep the constant threats of outside violence at bay.

Click here!



Castle Builders: Approaches to Castle Design and Construction in the Middle Ages

Castle Builders: Approaches to Castle Design and Construction in the Middle Ages Hardcover – December 6, 2016

In Castle Builders, Malcolm Hislop looks at the hugely popular subject of castles from the unusual perspective of design and construction. In this general introduction to the subject, we discover something of the personalities behind their creation - the architects and craftsmen - and, furthermore, the techniques they employed, and how style and technology was disseminated. Castle Builders takes both a thematic and a chronological approach to the design and construction of castles, providing the reader with clear lines of development. Themes include earth, timber and stone construction techniques, the evolution of the great tower, the development of military engineering, the progression of domestic accommodation, and the degree to which aesthetics contributed to castle design.

Click here!



The Medieval Castle Manual: Design - Construction - Daily Life

The Medieval Castle Manual: Design - Construction - Daily Life (Haynes Manuals) Hardcover – March 27, 2018

The Haynes Medieval Castle Manual explores the background story to castle construction in Medieval Europe, showing that castles had both a domestic and defensive function. It uses the 'new' medieval castle-building project at Guédelon in Burgundy as the centerpiece for the book, examining the construction and anatomy of these awe-inspiring structures, section by section. Life inside the castle walls is explored, from the perspectives of the lowliest servants to the mighty lords and all those ranks in between. Ordinary daily routines to how a castle’s inhabitants would have been fed and watered and the building itself heated and furnished are also covered. When it came to survival in times of unrest, the castle presented would-be assailants with a formidable array of defensive measures, some of which were truly frightening in their ability to inflict injury and death.

Click here!



English Castles: A Guide by Counties

English Castles: A Guide by Counties Paperback – June 1, 2002

A well-written contribution to the literature on the subject, and will interest both the historically minded tourist and, as a reference book, the scholar. WAR IN HISTORY A comprehensive and concise guide to all medieval English castles of which something can still be seen today, ranging from the massive keeps which still dominate the landscape to grassy earthworks and Border pele towers, and spanning the centuries from the Norman Conquest to the accession of the Tudors. English Castles contains over five hundred main entries in county order, each giving a brief history and description of the castle. A short introduction supplies the historical background to the explosion of castle-building in the middle ages, and there is a glossary covering all aspects of castles in some detail. There are also full Ordnance Survey map references.

Click here!






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