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Castle FAQ - Frequently Asked Questions

What is a castle?
A castle is a fortification that was used in the Middle Ages to protect a territory against an invasion.

What were castles built for during the Middle Ages?
Castles had multiple purposes. Protecting peasants and nobles was the most important reason why castles were widely built. Additionally, many lords and kings did frequently construct castles for the sake of power - since it was realized that such a huge construction could show a lord's might throughout the kingdom.

When were castles built?
Castles started appearing in Europe in 1066. Their construction came to a halt when gunpowder was implemented many centuries later.

Who built the first castle?
The first castle was built by William the Conqueror of Normandy in 1066.

Which is the largest castle?
The largest castle in existence is the castle of Prague. It averages 570 meters in length and 130 in width. Thus, containing 74100 square meters.

Which was the first castle that William the Conqueror built?
William the Conqueror built 9 castles in London. The first one of them was Windsor Castle.

How long did it take to build a castle?
There were many factors that determined the time it took to build a castle. Some bigger castles took up to 20 years to complete (such as The Tower of London). At an average of 7-12 years, building castles was a very difficult task. Even when finished, many kings and nobles would still improve a castle by strengthening the walls and towers.

Were castles effective?
Timber castles were very effective against spears and arrows. Nevertheless, wooden castles were very weak against fire. Stone castles were implemented in the XII century. They were very effective to stop a siege.

How many lines of defense did a castle possess?
This varied from castle to castle. Earlier castles (those made of timber) had only one or two lines of defense. Concentric castles, built much later, had sometimes four or more lines of defense.

How did a castle resist a siege?
Most castles had an enormous amount of food stored in them. Bigger castles had a well inside making them much more resistant. Since castles were very strong, the only way to defeat the defenders was either by besieging them or destroying the castle directly. The second option rarely happened; thus besieging was very common.

How long would the food supplies last?
Some castles had farming land in their interior; even though they helped to feed the population inside the castle, the food they produced was very dim compared to what was truly needed. A castle would normally last a few months; when the food supplies were finished, villagers would eat their horses, birds and whatever they could find.

Bigger castles with a lot of farming land could last a lot more. Even though a lot of food was needed, having too much inside the castle would make it spoil. If the castle didn't have a well, generally it wouldn't last more than a week or two.

What was the most effective way to destroy a castle's walls?Diggers were very common. They would dig a tunnel right beneath a wall (usually a corner). When the tunnel was dug, they would destroy it. A castle's walls were severely damaged when this method was used.

Gunpowder was the ultimate way to destroy a castle's walls.

Why did castles stop being built?
With the introduction of gunpowder, castles proved to be useless. Even the mightiest of castles was no match against a cannon.

Which is the biggest inhabited castle in the world?
Windsor Castle. One of the three homes of the queen. It has been inhabited since it was built in the XI century.

How many people could live in a castle?
Depending on the castle, thousands of peasants could inhabit one.

What were the first castles made of?

Earlier castles were normally built of timber and earth. They were very hastily built, but their ineffectiveness was evident when fire was employed against them.

In which century was stone implemented?
In the XVII century, older castles were strengthened with stone.

Who built castles and for what purpose?
Castles were normally built by kings and lords. In the Middle Ages, there was a law that prohibited nobles from building them.

What happened to castles?
Some castles can be seen today. Nevertheless, most have been lost due to wars, etc. Many lords demolished castles so they could build themselves a palace with the stone retrieved. This happened very frequently, but even more frequently did nobles bought a castle and remodeled it.

What was the purpose of Feudalism?
Feudalism was a system supposed to beneficiate all.

Who was the king?
Information about kings can be read here.

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