How did castles function?

During the middle ages castles were important as staging points for conquest as well as for defence of territory. There are still to this day many fine castles for sale in Italy that have varied design and construction techniques.

The word “castle” originates in the Latin word “castellum” which means “a place which is fortified.” The word castle came into common use by the French during the period between the 10th and 15th centuries which are commonly called, the middle ages.

The primary purpose of a caste was military; the castles were used for the housing of armies that were deployed to guard a certain area. In many cases, the castle was an integral part of towns and the castle was a refuge for the villagers and town-folk in times of siege and battle. Over time, castles became homes for the wealthy and nobility and as the middle ages began to wane, many castles that no longer had any military use were renovated for residential purposes or simply abandoned. Many listings of castles for sale in Italy are those which were renovated after serving their military purpose.

The history of castles:

The development of fortifications was an evolutionary process starting with walled cities such as Babylon and Troy. The cities have high, thick walls of stone with gates to limit the people and goods in and out. The gates and the walls were fortified and guarded against any possible attacks.

Prior to the middle ages, the castles that were built used wooden or dirt walls for fortification. These were used as they could be constructed quickly. In the middle ages, castle construction changed considerably:

  • Stone replaced wood as the wall material
  • The open courtyard had building erected on them. Such buildings were stables, chapels, soldier’s residences and even great halls.
  • The keep became taller and was made from stone rather than wood
  • Large towers were erected, some integral with the outer walls, some free-standing.

The features of a castle:

During the middle ages castles were primary used to house the military; it was not for many years that they evolved in residences for the nobility. This being the case, the castle was designed and built for defence. Castle design changed rapidly as more and more was learned about siege technology. Under siege, the castle had to be self sufficient with fresh water, sanitation, food supply and cooking areas.

The outer defence for many castles was the moat, a wide trench that surrounded the castle walls. Some moats were filled with water; others were left dry and lined with sharpened poles. The moat had a drawbridge that spanned it; the bridge was drawn up when the castle was being attacked.

Many of the castles for sale in Italy do not have moats as they are built on high spots which gave the inhabitants equal protection.

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