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8-08-2015, 16:14


Castles were designed to intimidate, or at least impress, visitors (Figures
24 and 25). Any castle reinforced the impression of overwhelming
power and the authority of its owner or his constable (castellan or governor
of the castle). In an age of personal government, the architectural
design of the castle played an important role in the control of the access
to the lord and so to power. The increasing complexity of the physical
relationship of the hall of justice, the presence chamber, and the private
rooms of the lord may have been accidental or calculated but certainly
had an effect. The guest or petitioner moved from public to increasingly
private space, through corridors, courts with views, waiting rooms, and
gates—until the lord is revealed in the great hall seated in a splendid
chair on a raised dais. The castle plan was intended to be spatially confusing,
both for protection and also to enhance the position of power
through the difficulty of access. In time, however, the individual halls
became a continuous series of rooms built against the walls and having
the appearance and effect of a single building with an inner courtyard.
Matthew Johnson imagines and describes the typical visitor’s arrival
at the castle in his book, Behind the Castle Gate. At first sight the castle,
whether emerging from the woods of a hunting park or rising in the distance
on a hill, created an expectation of grandeur within. Arriving at
the gate at last, the visitor waiting to be admitted had time to study the
symbolic heraldic imagery decorating the gatehouse or towers. Coats of
arms established the lineage and family connections of the lord of the
castle. Even the form of admission into the castle depended on one’s place
in the social hierarchy. Trumpeters on the walls might greet important
visitors who then entered through wide open doors. Lesser people entered
quietly through a small door called the wicket, cut into the main
door. A wicket gate sometimes even required the visitor to bend over in
order to enter. The least important people might be sent around to the
postern, which became a back door, not a hidden sally port.