10 May 2005

A fascination for castles

As a child, I had always been fascinated with knights, kings and their castles. “Ivanhoe” was my favourite film and I had pestered my father into letting me see it twice. It was a treat! Later, I bought the Eyewitness Series from Dorling Kindersley on subjects like knights, castles and medieval life. And even today, while watching films like “Kingdom of Heaven”, “Braveheart” or “Excalibur”, I escape into a fantasy world.

Did you know, medieval castles were incredible feats of construction designed for military efficiency? They were fortifications ready to withstand onslaught from the toughest and the most skilled of invaders. Military tactics centred on the taking of castles, and weapons technology improved over the years to exploit weaknesses in castle architecture.

A very European concept, castles probably came into fashion as a response to the Viking raids of England. For 500 years, including the Dark Ages and the Medieval Era (1000-1500 AD), thousands of castles were constructed throughout Europe, stretching all the way to West Asia. But, it wasn’t easy to build a castle. Some of them took several years to build depending on the location, weather, and availability of raw material like stone, mortar and timber, as well as labour.

What’s more interesting is that a castle was more than a building to attack or defend. It was a whole community, designed to be self-sufficient in times of siege. Records still exist documenting the lives of castle residents like the lord and the lady, the knights, soldiers, servants, cooks, masons, carpenters, blacksmiths, tailors, musicians, jesters, stable boys, and many others. Quite fascinating!

No comments: