7 Strange and Wonderful Elements of Castle Architecture

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7 Strange and Wonderful Elements of Castle Architecture


Castles may not have been the best place to spend one’s summers if you’re looking at sewage problem with moats and the absolute chore it is to clear the courtyard of horse dung. Nevertheless, castles are impressive structures with the extravagant treatment built not just to house a noble family but more as fortresses to keep out the angry mob with torches and pitchforks, or worse, invading hordes of barbarians. Moreover, these magnificent stone structures have a few more tricks up their sleeves that most people don’t know about. (And that’s because most people don’t have a castle of their own.)


Castle spiral staircase / Photo by: Lewis Clarke via Wikimedia Commons


1. Spiral Staircases

According to History Hit, a website bringing the most extraordinary, dramatic, tragic, and fascinating stories of our shared past, spiral staircases were the wisest option for many castles as so many sieges and battles happened back then. Spiral staircases are designed that way because they help in making sure that invaders will have to struggle to use their swords while going up the stairs. 



The castle toilet area / Photo by: Dave.Dunford via Wikimedia Commons


2. A Loo Inside the Closet

This infamous architectural decision has medieval pseudoscience written all over it. Back then, restrooms were placed in close proximity to a person’s belongings. Sometimes, even the clothes were also situated beside a toilet hole where people “released waste into a shoot” and it led to the moat. This was deemed as the best way to protect clothes from being literally moth-eaten because people believed the odor from the toilet hole “would act as a deterrent” against insects. 



The castle well / Photo by: MariuszMatuszewski via Wikimedia Commons


3. Wells Are Not Well

Let's say you are laying siege to a neighboring castle you want to conquer, what is the first thing you should do to make sure that you succeed? If you say drop a corpse into the castle’s well, then you are correct.

Wells was the common weak point of castles and sometimes built outside so that poisoning its water will render those inside without anything to drink. You would then just need to wait for them to raise the white flag of surrender. 



One of the secret passages of the castle / Photo by: Przykuta via Wikimedia Commons


4. Secret Entrances and Exits

Called posterns and are “often secure with metal grates and protected by battlements above,” these secret passageways ensure that royalty had an escape route should the peasants decided to revolt and wanted to have their royal heads separated from their royal bodies.  



The castle facade / Photo by: DeFacto via Wikimedia Commons


5. Design Was Key, but No More Than Location

Fortification is always the first order of business for anyone in the medieval ages seeking to lord over the land as much as they can, but more than the inner walls or the two-meter-deep rubble-fortified circular defense walls, picking the perfect location for a castle is the true key element. Such has been understood by those who built the Predejama Castle in Slovenia, which is built into a cliff. 



The castle gatehouse / Photo by: Fraser Sutherland via Wikimedia Commons


6. The Gatehouses

Remember those period movies and stories set in castles and fortresses that had drawbridges guarding the entrance? It turns out they aren’t entirely accurate. In those feudal days, battles were inevitable so that most castles would only have gatehouses big enough for wagons to enter but too small for a large contingent of intruders to enter simultaneously entry. They were also often bracketed by towers on each side, battlements, and portcullis to trap the invaders inside. 



Castle facade and its fortifications / Photo by: Orikrin1998 via Wikimedia Commons


7. Expensive Maintenance

After mentioning all these features of castles and their roles in defending these structures, it is reasonable to see why castle upkeep and rebuilding efforts take a huge chunk out of a king’s annual income. According to History Hit, maintenance of a castle that was almost always under siege tore off 40 percent of a king’s salary.