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Types of Castle and The History of Castles

Norman Castles

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Norman Castles

 

Normans' favoured traditional Motte and Bailey style castles but with an important difference. Instead of building in wood, they built in stone. Royal Norman castles had absolutely massive stone keeps that impress even today.

In England, where they were never popular the Norman's built a network of massive castles with huge stone keeps - partly for defence and partly to discourage ideas of rebellion. These structures sent out a very strong signal that the Normans were here to stay.

The keep (or donjon) was at the centre of the change in castle architecture in the 12th century. Central towers proliferated, and typically had a square plan, with walls 3 to 4 m (9.8 to 13 ft) thick. Their decoration emulated Romanesque architecture, and sometimes incorporated double windows similar to those found in church bell towers.

Donjons provided a residence of the lord of the castle.. The design emphasis of donjons changed to reflect a shift from functional to decorative requirements, imposing a symbol of lordly power upon the landscape. This sometimes led to compromising defence for the sake of display.

Norman architecture was characterised by rounded arches (particularly over windows and doorways) and massive proportions. They spread their new style (called Romanesque) to England and Italy. The encastellation of these regions with keeps in their north French style fundamentally altered the military landscape.

Many Norman castles survive from the reign of the first Norman King of England, William - now known as William the Conqueror but then known as William the Bastard. Among them are the Tower of London, Windsor Castle, Durham Castle and Norwich Castle. Notable examples in Wales are Chepstow and Pembroke.

Although the vast number of Norman castles were built following the Battle of Hastings and the Norman conquest, a few English timber Motte and Bailey Norman castles had been constructed by Normans who had been invited to England by King Edward the Confessor before 1066. William himself built some wooden castles before he switched to stone. Stone Castles took so long to build that William laid plans to build Norman Timber Castles when he mounted his invasion. Pre-built wooden castles were loaded on to the Norman invasion fleet.

The first pre-built Norman Wooden Castle was erected at Pevensey Bay in 1066. Temporary wooden Motte and Bailey castles were quickly replaced by the permanent stone Norman castles dominated by their massive keeps.

Norman Castles were typically built on the highest ground in the area, often adjoined Rivers and overlooking towns and harbours. They often made use of existing sites of Roman or Saxon forts and burhs. If no suitable motte existed then the Normans simply built one - as at Norwich.

In Italy, the Normans incorporated elements of the native Islamic, Lombard, and Byzantine architecture into their own, initiating a style known as Sicilian Romanesque. In England, the period of Norman architecture immediately succeeds that of the Anglo-Saxon and precedes the Early Gothic.

 

The White Tower in the Tower of London a
is a Norman Keep
 
Pembroke Castle, Wales
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

 

More on Types of Castle and History of Castles

 

Click on any of the following links to learn more about specific types of castle

 

 

Dover Castle, Kent, England

 

Matsumoto Castle, ("Crow Castle"), Matsumoto,, Nagano Prefecture near Tokyo.

 

Château de Sceaux, Sceaux, Hauts-de-Seine,France

 

Alcazar Castle, Segovia,Spain

 

 

 

 

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