Castles in the Middle Ages
Imagine you owned a large amount of land people were always trying to take from you. Also, imagine that you had no alarm systems, fancy locks, or security fences to protect your family, land, and possessions. During the Middle Ages in Europe, which lasted roughly from the 400s to the 1400s, having the best castle possible was a very important part of a landowner's life. Your castle would act as your number one line of defense against any enemy coming onto your land.
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Types of Castles
There were three major types of castle styles used in the Middle Ages: motte-and-bailey, stone keep, and concentric castles. Some of the first styles to become popular throughout Europe were the motte-and-bailey castles, which we'll discuss next.
A motte-and-bailey castle was very basic and consisted of two parts: a lookout tower and a place for people to live. The first part (the motte) was the lookout tower on top of a high hill. The lookout would be positioned up high so that soldiers could see people coming from far away. The second part of the castle was the bailey, which was the area where the family lived. The bailey was on the level ground behind the hill and surrounded by a tall wooden fence. Typically, a motte-and-bailey castle would also be surrounded by a moat, or a shallow, man-made waterway that circled the dwelling and made it harder for outsiders to enter the area.
As time went on, castle styles continued to develop to provide more protection for the families living within their walls. A stone keep castle was built of rocks, which made it harder to burn or attack with flying boulders from catapults. In contrast to the two disjointed parts of the motte-and-bailey castle, it was completely enclosed behind a high stone wall. A stone wall castle usually had turrets, or lookout towers, built into it and a surrounding moat.
As the Middle Ages progressed, the castle that provided the best protection was the concentric castle. The concentric castle used the same design and wall style as the stone keep castle and was almost always surrounded by a moat. However, there was one major difference: it had two walls surrounding the dwelling. The first was a tall stone wall with the standard turrets; the second was just a few feet away and slightly shorter.
In the case of an attack, archers would position themselves on the shorter wall and shoot arrows down onto any enemy that managed to get past the first wall.
In the Middle Ages, having the proper castle would have been of the utmost importance when it came to protecting your family, land, and possessions from outside enemies. Over hundreds of years, castle styles changed and evolved to include a moat, turrets, and complex wall systems. The three main types of castles used in the Middle Ages were the motte-and-bailey, stone keep, and concentric castles.
- A motte-and-bailey castle consisted of two parts: a lookout tower and a place for people to live.
- A stone keep castle was a single dwelling built of rocks, making it harder to burn or attack, and surrounded by a moat.
- A concentric castle was similar in design to the stone keep castle, but had two walls surrounding the dwelling in addition to the moat.
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Prompts About Different Types of Castles for Kids:
In three to five sentences, write a paragraph that explains the time period of the Middle Ages and the general importance of castles during that time.
Example: The Middle Ages in Europe lasted about one thousand years, from approximately the 400s until the 1400s.
Based on the description given in the lesson, draw a motte-and-bailey castle. Be sure to label each part of your motte-and-bailey castle (lookout tower, moat, etc.), and briefly describe what each part was used for.
Example: The moat discouraged strangers from entering the castle.
Essay Prompt 1:
In one paragraph, describe how a stone keep castle was built, its parts, and why it offered better protection than a motte-and-bailey castle.
Example: Stone keep castles were less likely to be burned because they were made of stone.
Essay Prompt 2:
Write an essay of one paragraph in length that explains the parts of a concentric castle and why it was considered to offer the best protection. Also make sure your essay discusses similarities between concentric castles, motte-and-bailey castles, and stone keep castles.
Example: Like motte-and-bailey castles, concentric castles had moats.
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Different Types of Castles: Lesson for Kids
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