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.
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
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.