Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Anatomy of a Castle: The Inner Bailey

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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

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Anatomy of a Castle: The Gatehouse

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Gatehouse at Kidwelly Castle, Wales
Cross the drawbridge and you'll likely find yourself staring up at the gatehouse, the front door of the castle and arguably the strongest part of the castle.  Flanked, usually, by two enormous towers, peppered with arrow loops, and a slew of armed guards. The gatehouse might sometimes be referred to as a barbican, which is defined as a defensive tower, usually a double tower, of a castle or walled city, often above a gate or drawbridge.

Bridge over moat and Grand Gatehouse of Caerphilly Castle, Wales

Gatehouse of Carrickfergus Castle, Northern Ireland

Gatehouse at Pembroke Castle, Wales

Barbican & Gatehouse at Harlech Castle, Wales

Gatehouse at Caernarfon Castle, Wales
The tunnel through the gate is often extremely thick, supporting several doors or gates, usually including a portcullis. A portcullis is a heavy gate or grill, usually made of metal, which could be raised and lowered with pulleys inside the gatehouse. If lowered at the right time, the portcullis could be a weapon in its own right, impaling or crushing enemies. Two doors lowered in concert could also trap enemies. From within the gatehouse, soldiers could shoot arrows through arrow loops as well as make use of the murder hole. A murder hole is a gap, situated inside the doorway, above where people enter, through which boiling water, hot oil, and rocks might have been heaved upon unsuspecting enemies.

Gate and Portcullis at Cahir Castle, Ireland
Ruined Gate at Rock of Dunamase, Ireland

Monday, July 24, 2017

Anatomy of a Castle: Moat & Drawbridge

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Most people have heard of moats & drawbridges and they make a castle quite iconic as well as very well defended. A moat is a steep, defensive trench or ditch, sometimes dry or filled with water. A drawbridge is a bridge that can be raised or lowered over the moat. The moats could also be stocked with fish for the residents to eat.  Visiting castles with moats is quite a treat. Visually they are stunning, grand fortified islands reflecting in the water.

Moat surrounding the impressive Caerphilly Castle in Wales, the largest castle in Wales and second only to Windsor Castle in the UK
Caerlaverock Castle, Scotland
A wooden bridge spans across the moat where a drawbridge once would have been.
Moat & Bridge around Caerlaverock Castle, Scotland

Bridge over moat, Raglan Castle, Wales
Moat at Raglan Castle, Wales, full of lily pads

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Anatomy of a Castle: Battlements

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Tower along the walls of Cahir Castle, Ireland
There are many defensive elements to a castle wall and many different terms associated with them. The walls themselves might be called battlements - a parapet on the top of a wall with spaced openings for shooting through. A parapet is simply a protective wall on the top of a roof. These opening in the wall are called crenellations as a whole. If you've seen a child draw a castle, they almost always include crenellations, the iconic notched parts on the top of castles. These crenellations also have parts: crenels (or embrasures) are the opening through which archers shoot, merlons are the raised parts which give the archer cover, and machicolations. Machicolations are a part of the wall that juts out with openings on the floor of the walkway through which an archer could also take aim, or defenders could drop things on the enemy below like stones, boiling water, hot oil, and sometimes dead and diseased animals. Also along the walls there is likely to be towers, also called turrets. These were usually round with arrow loops for better vantage points and defense. As I'm sure those laying siege to a castle also felt, it's taking us forever to get inside these walls!  
This is a battlement atop a wall made up of
1. crenel  2. merlon  3. machicolation

Raglan Castle, Wales
Example of corbelled Machicolations

Here you can see the sky through the openings of the machicolations, how they jut out from the towers and how the defenders could use them to drop stones or hot oil on those trying to break into the gate below. Raglan Castle, Wales
Example of an Arrow Loop through which Archers could shoot while being protected.

Outer Walls and Towers of Chepstow Castle where arrow loops can be seen.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Anatomy of a Castle: Castle Walls

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Harlech Castle Walls, Wales
The first line of defense for a castle was location. The lucky ones are perched atop volcanic crags where they can see miles in all directions. Many are on ocean cliffs or along rivers, all serving strategic purposes. After location, the well defended castle has a wall, sometimes called a curtain wall. Later some castles, called Concentric Castles, would have a set of two concentric walls, one inside the next. These walls could be from around 2 meters and 8 meters thick!

Pembroke Castle, Wales
Some castle walls adjoined walls that encircled the entire town such as Conwy Castle, Wales. Conwy Castle was a built for English King Edward I in Wales in 1283 to quell Welsh Rebellions against the crown. Walls were extended to envelop town, where only English settlers & soldiers were allowed. Many castles such as this were built in Wales at this time (Pembroke, Harlech, Caernarfon, Beaumaris, etc).  The walls contain many defensive elements that make up the castle's battlements. Learn more about these in my next post. Until then, enjoy your walk upon the ramparts.

Map of Conwy Castle and complete Town Walls, Wales  (source)
Stretch of Conwy's Town Walls which you can still walk.

Atop Conwy Castle, Wales

Kidwelly Castle, Wales

Friday, July 21, 2017

Anatomy of a Castle - A Giveaway !!!

Comment on any or all "Anatomy of a Castle" posts to enter

Chepstow Castle, Wales, UK
Questions and Comments are always welcome and to make this journey through Medieval Castles a bit sweeter, leaving a comment on any "Anatomy of a Castle" Post enters you into a drawing to win a 5x7 Castle Photo of Your Choice (from the Anatomy of a Castle Blog Series) plus a few other goodies. Winner will be chosen August 1st and announced here on the blog.

You'll be entered once for each blog post that you comment upon (but leave as many comments as you wish) and a winner will be chosen randomly after the blog series closes. Check back on August 1st to see if you won. Winner will need to email me a mailing address and photo choice for prize. So be sure to include a name in your comment.

So come journey with me, comment away and please share Emerald Post and this Giveaway with friends. Thanks!

Coming Up: Walls & Battlements

Descending the spiral staircase

Monday, July 17, 2017

Anatomy of a Castle

Cahir Castle, Ireland
Perched quite high on my list of travel destinations are castles. We prefer the wild, deserted, partially ruinous ones to the overly restored, museum-like, antique filled ones but there are many gems (like Cahir Castle, Ireland) that fall in the middle. It has been thoughtfully restored to it's medieval might in a way that you can imagine the history around you. Castles have inspired the contents of July's Issue of Emerald Post. In addition, I'm starting a series of posts here, digging into the parts of the castle.

Note - I am not a historian or any sort of architectural expert on castles but I did study Medieval History in my college days and continue to be entranced by these grand monuments of the past, their role in history, and their continuing presence throughout Ireland, England, Scotland & Wales. So join me here for my blog series "Anatomy of a Castle" as we explore Medieval fortresses of the Celtic Isles.

My Webster's defines a castle as "a large fortified building or group of buildings." The web adds "fortified against attack with thick walls, battlements, towers, and in many cases a moat." And fortified is the key here. Castles were not just palaces or royal residences. In many cases, royalty did indeed live within the fortified walls and often, these castles showcased power and wealth but they were built to be strongholds. The fortified castle from the Middle Ages (5th-15th century) is where we will journey, touring the massive walls, great halls, and all the nooks and crannies of these Medieval marvels. We'll begin, in my next post, with Walls & Battlements.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Lambs of Celtic Lands

From April's Post, I have some leftover lambs looking for a home:
5x7 Lamb Notecards in shop for $4. Get one (or more) HERE

Friday, July 14, 2017

June Emerald Post - History in Stone

I'm a bit behind in sharing but here is the bounty that was included in the June Special Stone Issue of Emerald Post. I still have 2 in stock HERE for $15 and you can get the Stone Watercolor Print HERE for $9. There was really a lot included in June's Issue as well as the upcoming July Castle Issue which is just about to hit mailboxes. It's not to late to snatch up a Castle Issue HERE. Wishing you all summers of bounty & beauty (but secretly wishing for fall).