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8-08-2015, 16:16

The Castle Transformed

In the later years of the fourteenth century the desire for spacious, comfortable living arrangements surpassed the need for defensive outer walls. The hall remained the center of the residential complex. Large windows filled with elegant tracery and glass and protected by wooden shutters made great halls both pleasant and splendid. Sculpture on portals and fireplaces proclaimed the family’s heritage. Used for great occasions and feasts during most of the year, the hall was simply a large enclosed space, and as such it could shelter servants and travelers. The owner lived in a suite of private rooms—a solar or smaller hall, having retiring rooms, library, and office or study. Every great house also had its chapel and rooms for the chaplain. Other support areas included the kitchen, buttery, and pantry. They were still linked to the hall and to suites of rooms in the traditional arrangment. Most rooms had fireplaces, and garderobes adjoined every suite of rooms. When times were peaceful and land available, suites of rooms spread out around a quadrangle. Often domestic wings were added to older buildings. Halls and multistoried houses built along the castle walls filled the inner yard until what had been a multipurpose space became the inner court of a palace. In unstable areas such as the Scottish Borders and the Italian cities, tower houses were the norm. In tower houses the rooms were stacked instead of placed side by side. The stone walls we see today give a false idea of the castle interior. People in the Middle Ages loved brilliant colors. Aristocrats and royals spent enormous sums on tapestries, the woven wall hangings that turned the bare walls and drafty rooms into rich and colorful displays of educational and moral messages—historical and literary themes, religious subjects, and heraldry. Since a powerful lord had many manors where he had to reside in order to use the produce paid as tax and to administer the estate, the tapestries could be packed in trunks and carried from place to place as their owners moved. Furniture was highly functional—wooden tables, stools, beds—and was also covered with woven and embroidered textiles. Clothing was just as rich and colorful.