Medieval Castle Features That Show Why You Don’t Mess With The Nobility

The passage of time has been kind to a great number of medieval castles, and a great number of them have also withstood the test of invasion by hostile forces. The inhabitants of the castle were protected by an array of different fortifications, which helped to ensure their safety. This list focuses on just a handful of the characteristics that made assaulting a medieval castle a foolish notion.

Arrow slit

At Windsor Castle in Windsor, England, there is a stone wall with an arrow slit in it. A thin vertical opening known as an arrowslit is constructed in the walls of a fortress so that archers can shoot arrows through it to defend the structure. (This picture was taken by Robert Alexander and was obtained from Getty Images.) )

Long, vertical openings in the walls of a castle that had an essential purpose during the Middle Ages as defensive elements are known as arrow slits or loops. Invaders trying to shoot at defenders would have a very limited target to try to hit if these forms of protection were in place. As a result, these forms of defense were quite effective. While still being shielded to a large extent by the castle walls, archers were able to fire their arrows at oncoming invaders. The defenders had a significant advantage over their attackers as a result of this strategy.

Chemin de ronde

The phrase “walkway” comes from the French phrase “chemin de ronde,” which is exactly what it was. In essence, a route was constructed along the top of the castle that had low walls built on either side to provide protection to castle defenders. This pathway led to the top of the castle. The soldiers were able to roam about the castle freely while yet being shielded from potential attackers by using these pathways as a means of passage. They also made it possible to survey the area from above, providing the defenders with an advantage over the attackers and enabling them to launch attacks from a higher vantage point.


ITALY – CIRCA 2003: The Fortress of the Trees (14th century), Montagnana, Veneto, Italy. (Photo by DeAgostini/Getty Images)

These are the extremely distinctive notches, often known as “teeth,” that run along the tops of castle walls and towers. Merlons and crenels are the names given to the different sections. The crenellations offered an additional layer of defense to the soldiers as they marched along the chemins de ronde. It would be possible for soldiers to take up positions behind the merlons or crenels and launch attacks from a higher vantage point.


Nunney Castle, Somerset, c1990-2010. View of 14th century, French style castle and moat. A medieval castle at Nunney in the English county of Somerset. Built in the late 14th century by Sir John Delamare on the profits of his involvement in the Hundred Years War,Artist Unknown. (Photo by English Heritage/Heritage Images/Getty Images)

Moats are the enormous ditches that create a protective barrier of water around the walls of a castle. When there is a moat surrounding a castle, it is much more difficult for invaders to get access to the interior of the structure. Attempting to scale castle walls directly out of the water proved to be a treacherous and incredibly challenging task. It’s also possible for moats to be dry and have spikes installed at the bottom. Invaders were unable to dig beneath the walls of the castle because of the moats. This was the most essential function of the moats.


UNSPECIFIED – DECEMBER 16: Italy, Marche region, Drawbridge in Castle of Gradara (Photo by DEA / L. ROMANO/De Agostini via Getty Images)

The drawbridge was constructed as a result of the requirement for those who were permitted inside the castle walls to have a secure means of traversing the moat. One side of the ditch was connected to the other side of the moat by means of a bridge that was lowered across the moat using a system of pulleys, chains, and ropes. It could be erected once more if it was deemed necessary to stop any unwelcome guests from entering the castle walls through a secure passageway.


FRANCE – NOVEMBER 18: Machicolations from Chateau de Dinan (Donjon de la duchesse Anne), Dinan, Brittany. Detail. France, 14th century. (Photo by DeAgostini/Getty Images)

Machicolations are the gaps or spaces that can be found between protrusions on the walls of a castle. They give defenders a way to attack attackers while yet being well protected by the castle walls itself. While the defenders withdrew safely behind the castle walls, large and heavy things could be dropped on unsuspecting invaders, either crushing them or knocking them out. This would pose no danger to the defenders, who would remain safe behind the castle walls.

Portcullis gate

The portcullis gate is yet another characteristic that is synonymous with medieval castles. Invaders would either be crushed or prevented from entering the castle walls by this gate, which was constructed out of both metal and sturdy wood. A recognizably crisscrossing pattern, in addition to sharp spikes at the base, provided an additional layer of defense against incursion. Pulleys were used to lower and raise the portcullis gate, which meant that only one guard was needed to keep it operational at all times.


In spite of the fact that a talus appears to be merely a cosmetic element in the architecture, it actually performed an essential defensive function. A talus is a particularly constructed castle wall that has a broader base and gradually narrows as it climbs upward. Because of the way the structure was built, it was far more difficult to bring down the walls. In addition, the ascent was made much more difficult by these features. In addition, defenders were able to use heavy things to drop down onto the slanted walls. They would hit the talus and shatter, burying the invading forces with lethal shrapnel as they bounced back and forth.

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