Monday, July 31, 2017

Anatomy of a Castle: Magic, Myth & Legends

Ivy clad ruins of Ballycarbery Castle, Kerry, Ireland
Many of us have learned most of our knowledge of castles from childhood stories, from books, television and films. Or, at least, that is where we begin. From these interpretations, castles are infused with stories, with legends of King Arthur, visits from Merlin, with legends of ghosts and banshees, with the sadness of unrequited love, the joy of amorous reunions, even the mischief of fairies in the nearby woods. I see a castle turret and wonder who pondered the horizon from that window. I walk into a great hall and wonder who supped at the table. What kings plotted dominion from private chambers, what knights plotted treason from their seat below the lord. What lovers met secretly in dark corridors. All of these inklings woven with the true history and glorious architecture of castles form a truly magical tapestry. For this, I never tire of visiting these strongholds, these homes, these works of arts, these magical realms. I hope you've enjoyed the journey as well.  Here are some (well many!) of my favorite photos through which I hope you can grasp some of the magic.

Cahir Castle, Ireland 

Tower House of Aughnanure Castle, County Galway, Ireland
Courtyard of Craigmillar Castle, Scotland

Chepstow Castle, Wales

Cliffside ruins of Dunluce Castle, County Antrim, Ireland

Edinburgh Castle, Scotland

The remote ruins of Auchindoun Castle Scotland

Hilltop ruins of Carreg Cennen Castle, Wales

View from Kidwelly Castle, Wales

Stirling Castle, Scotland

Anatomy of a Castle: The Servants' Realm

Recreation of a hot and busy kitchen in Stirling Castle, Scotland. 
Castles were once well-oiled machines and the people that really held it together were the servants: the cooks, scullions (kitchen assistants), butlers, stewards, gardeners, chamber maids, blacksmiths, stable boys, maids, servers, and surely some folks I'm forgetting. Some of the more commonplace elements of castles are actually my favorite things: gigantic fireplaces, usually part of kitchens where whole animals might be roasting or being smoked, or where giant cauldrons could be hung to simmer stews and soups, dimly lit barrel vaulted cellars, beehive dovecotes which still serve as home to many birds.   

Fireplace at Craigmillar Castle, Scotland

Cellars Storeroom (Sometimes called and Undercroft) for storing ales, wines, food or supplies. Dirleton Castle, Scotland

Cellar at Dunnottar Castle, Scotland

Cellar at Dunnottar Castle, Scotland

Urqhart Castle, Scotland
Well at Dunnottar Castle - a source of fresh water within the castle walls was a necessity for any castle especially in the case of a siege. 
This beehive shaped structure is a Dovecote which is a home for pigeons or doves to nest, as these were a source of food for the castle. Think of them as the castles chicken coop. The birds were kept for their meat, eggs and dung (fertilizer). The bands on the outside prevented rats from climbing the structure to the top where the birds enter. This Dovecote is just below the tiered gardens of Aberdour Castle, Scotland

Dovecote at Aberdour Castle, Scotland - In Scotland they are often referred to as a doocote

The nesting boxes inside of dovecote at Hailes Castle, Scotland
Dovecote at Crossraguel Abbey, Scotland

Anatomy of a Castle: The Chapel

Stained Glass of St. Margaret in St. Margaret's Chapel, Edinburgh Castle, Scotland
Another essential part of any castle was the chapel were mass was heard daily. The chapel was located in various parts of the castle including the castle keep, the gatehouse, or even in the bailey as a separate building. It was common for the chapel to be two stories high so that the royal family could hear mass privately as servants and commoners sat below.  

Cahir Castle, Ireland

Chapel of St. John the Evangelist, Tower of London, England
King's Prayer Room, Tower of London, England

A Font for Holy Water  (and aumbry) in the Chapel at Doune Castle, Scotland 

An Aumbry (or cupboard or alcove for storing holy vessels, books,
reliquaries, oils, or for keeping the Holy Sacrament.
This aumbry is in the chapel of Goodrich Castle, England.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Anatomy of a Castle: The Great Hall

Great Hall - Doune Castle, Scotland

Usually found within the castle keep is the Great Hall, a part of the castle you might be familiar with, from stories to film. The Great Hall was the large, main room of the castle. On one end there would likely be a raised platform from where the lord and lady of the house would dine, all else would dine below them on floor level (literally and metaphorically I suppose). Walls might be hung with tapestries (which kept the warm in as well), heraldic shields of armors, or trophies from The Hunt. There would be candles and torches about for light and often a large fireplace for heat. Long wooden tables would fill the great hall. The Great Hall was the heart of the castle, home of ceremonies, feasts and gatherings, where guests would be received, disputes resolved, and the locus of daily life in the castle.

Great Hall at Blackness Castle, Scotland
Where the Lord & Lady Dine - Stirling Castle, Scotland

Stirling Castle Great Hall, Scotland

Great Hall - Cahir Castle, Ireland

Friday, July 28, 2017

Anatomy of a Castle: The Castle Keep

Keep in the center of Blackness Castle, Scotland
Within the castle walls you will find the Castle Keep. The Keep is a heavily fortified central tower serving as the last defense of the castle. This might also be called a donjon, especially academically, though donjon is not to be confused with dungeon, they are different things altogether. If the enemies have breached the castle walls and gotten past the gatehouse to the inner bailey - everyone would be in the castle keep, and they would try as they may to defend it. It was the last stronghold. 

The Keep at Trim Castle, Ireland

View of Castle Keep at Chepstow Castle, Wales
Strategically situated on a Cliffside on the River Wye

Keep & Great Hall at Caerphilly Castle, Wales
Depending on the date of the castle, some keeps were central towers, giants rising from within the inner bailey. Later, some were built so that one side of the keep was part of the castle walls. Most often, the Great Hall would be found near the bottom of the keep and the living quarters at the top. 

Keep of Carrickfergus Castle, Ireland

Keep of Ross Castle, Ireland

Round Keep of Pembroke Castle, Wales

Interior (looking up) of Round Keep at Pemrboke
Though in its day, there would have been several floors to this tower 
and a staircase to reach them all. Now it is home to a million pigeons and doves
whose cooing was amplified magnificently. 

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Anatomy of a Castle: Fortress Block Print

Fortress Block Print $11

This hand carved and hand pressed Fortress Block Print was featured in the Castle Edition of Emerald Post. You can still get one in the July Issue of Emerald Post HERE or the Fortress Print individually HERE. This is no particular one castle but a concoction of many that I've visited. You can see many parts of the castle here: castle walls, a drawbridge, gatehouse, a portcullis, arrow loops, and the castle keep. You can have your castle printed on black, ivory, or and old page from The Death of King Arthur. The Anatomy of a Castle Series will continued tomorrow so keep the comments coming to enter the giveaway!

July Castle Edition - $15
The July Editions of Emerald Post contains a 5x7 Notecard & Envelope featuring Dunluce Castle in Northern Ireland, the 5x7 Fortress Block Print, and 5 Polaroid inspired photos nestled into a tiny envelope.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Anatomy of a Castle: The Inner Bailey

Raglan Castle, Wales
Once inside the gatehouse, you are in the castle bailey, or courtyard. The bailey is the open space within castle walls, often populated with grand buildings like the castle Keep or Great Hall and smaller structures like stables, the blacksmith's shop, a well or cistern, and usually a garden. Think of the castle environment as a small village- it must have everything for daily living like food, water, transportation, etc. Access to all of these things were most likely in the castle bailey, safe within the protection of the castle walls. This was especially important if you were to find yourself surrounded by enemies, unable to leave the castle walls. Visiting a castle now, the bailey is usually just a wide open green space populated with visitors, but imagine a small bustling village there. It is hard to capture these large spaces within a photo but think of your favorite medieval film or television series.... they have surely illustrated these scenes of life within the castle walls.

Caerphilly Castle, Wales

Cheptstow Castle, Wales

Stirling Castle, Scotland

Pembroke Castle, Wales
The large map was originally a royal tennis/croquet court
Pembroke Castle, Wales

Caernarfon Castle, Wales

Caernarfon Castle, Wales