Top 10 Castle Terms to Know
Top 10 Castle Terms to Know
By Stephanie M. Bucklin
Sure, you may know a medieval castle has a few towers, a couple bridges, and some convenient gaps to shoot arrows out of—but what actually are the main components of a castle?
Here is a round-up of our top 10 castle terms to know. If you want to learn more, check out Castles on the Web, Castles of Wales, or Medieval Castles, which have dozens more.
1. Buttress – It sounds fancy, but a buttress is really just something that projects out from a wall and supports it. A flying buttress forms an arch with the wall that it supports.
2. Bailey – Think of this as where the action happens INSIDE the castle’s outer walls. The bailey is an open space, like a courtyard or exercise area, and castles can sometimes have a couple of them.
3. Turret – This is the place where the sentinel spots some danger coming at the beginning of the movie—and may or may not be killed with an arrow before he can raise the alarm. A turret is a small tower used as a lookout—a bastion, meanwhile, is a type of turret projecting from a wall or at the corner of two walls.
4. Portcullis – Here’s another you may recognize from movies: the portcullis is a heavy grill, made of wood or metal, that could be raised or lowered over the castle entrance. Definitely beats a deadbolt when it comes to keeping out that pesky rival army.
5. Drawbridge – One of the more common castle terms, the drawbridge is, unsurprisingly, that heavy hunk of wood that is lowered or raised to allow only certain people to traverse the moat and enter the castle. It also makes for exciting dramatic tension whenever a hero/heroine has to gallop through at the last second.
6. Moat – Undoubtedly, you are familiar with this cliché of all castle clichés, the moat, a body of water surrounding the wall of a castle. But did you know that this moat was sometimes about 5 to 15 feet deep, and that it’s primary purpose wasn’t to stop people from attacking—it was to stop tunnelers?
7. Barbican – The barbican, unfortunately, has nothing to do with barbarians. Instead it is a sort of stone gatehouse in front of a castle, usually with a small tower on each side. Here’s a nice little visual.
8. Keep (Donjon) – The keep, or donjon, is the inner part of the castle—basically, where you make your last stand if the outer walls are breached.
9. Parapets – Let’s say you’re strolling along the wall of a tower—a turret, actually. How do you know your enemies aren’t going to pepper you with arrows? Well, you might derive some comfort from the parapet—the protective wall on the outward-facing side of a tower walkway.
10. Battlement – What about if you want to shoot at someone else outside the castle wall (and the parapet)? Well, then you’ll have to find the battlements, or crenellations, which are the openings in the parapet where you can shoot down attackers, or maybe just enjoy the view, if that’s your thing.
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