Early Chateau

Motte and Bailey castles

French Kings had gained a reputation for building castles. This was their way of coping with the constant attacks by Vikings from Scandinavia. French kings and noblemen took to protecting themselves in fortified buildings that were known as castellans - these served as private fortifications in which people and animals were protected from rape and pillage.

Some of the Vikings eventually stayed in northern France and the Norsemen became the Normans. They had been impressed with the French castellans and adopted them; the most popular design was the motte and bailey.

Motte & Bailey

In these early chateau, there was a fortified building (the chateau or castle) on top of a man-made hill (typically 50 to 120 feet high) called a "motte". This served as a final fighting place where soldiers would retreat if the rest of the fortifications had been breached. The castle on the motte was reached either by wooden stairs that could be destroyed if the castle itself was attacked or by a 'flying bridge' that connected the bailey to the castle. In the bailey (courtyard between the motte and an outer wooden fence/wall), people and animals lived in relative safety in times of peace as they were surrounded by a large wooden fence that kept out attackers and wild animals.

The Bayeux Tapestry in France is an excellent source of information about the construction of these mottes. The central tower used at Hastings was shipped from Normandy.

During the unsuccessful crusades, the design of the chateaux developed and became more sophisticated to repel the enemy. Attacks were made in four ways:

  • missiles
  • scaling walls
  • starvation
  • sappers - undermining the structure

The development of the chateau had to consider these forms of attack and designs and strategy were developed to survive these invaders.

Excellent resource: More information on Wikipedia.

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