In the beginning - France
the latter part of the Dark Ages in the ninth century, the Nordic nations
began to invade the central parts of Europe including the area now known
as France. These people called Vikings were causing havoc in these areas
and the inhabitants and noblemen in particular, needed a method of defending
themselves. France at that time was generally not well organized as
a nation to fight against these Vikings as the various regions were
basically individual provinces. They devised a type of fortification
which they called a castel (castle). Although inhabitants of Europe
including France and Britain had used strong timber palisades to form
a stockade as the method of protecting their villages for many centuries
before that, the French noblemen utilized a layout whereby within the
stockade was a natural or man-made hill or mound with a further building
called a keep at its top. The mound known as a motte, was surrounded
by a further palisade.
were further developed during the ninth century whereby the perimeter
palisade and the central tower, sometimes referred to as a keep, were
constructed of stone. Further defenses included a large ditch around
the mound which was often filled with water.
These castles were quite effective against the Vikings method of attack,
which was previously to strike at a village or encampment using the
element of surprise and then leave the area very quickly before the
local inhabitants could strike back.
Castles were a principal feature of medieval warfare and society,
as well as featuring in many historical legends and myths which emanated
from England and Europe generally. Take a look at this section to learn
the outline of how and why the idea of the castle originated and evolved.