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8-08-2015, 14:30


The medieval castle’s role was to provide a secure aristocratic residence and a military headquarters (Figures 3 and 4). A castle enabled the resident commander to control the surrounding territory including border and key transportation hubs. Located in a defensible position, the castle provided a center from which the lord (or his castellan or constable) oversaw his manors and where he fulfilled his feudal obligation to administer justice (for this reason the castle often included both a great hall and a prison). One writes and speaks of the feudal lord, and so the times dictated, but in fact the lord was often absent, and his wife or a constable took over the daily responsibility of running the castle, even on occasion defending it during an attack. The castle was a symbol of authority and the high social status of the family that owned it. Today castle studies have concentrated on individual monuments and on the social and symbolic role of the castle, while a hundred—and even fifty—years ago scholars emphasized the castle’s military aspects and the effect of the opposing forces of attack and defense in the architectural design. These roles, however, cannot be studied in isolation. For a full understanding of the medieval castle, we must examine the castle as fortress, statehouse, and residence.