Why Were Medieval Castles Built? - Lesson for Kids

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Nola Bridgens

Nola has taught elementary school and tutored for four years. She has a bachelor's degree in Elementary Education, a master's degree in Marketing, and is a certified teacher.

Expert Contributor
Lesley Chapel

Lesley has taught American and World History at the university level for the past seven years. She has a Master's degree in History.

Sure castles are incredible to look at, but did you ever wonder why they were built in the first place? This lesson will teach you about medieval castles and why they were built the way they were. Updated: 03/03/2021

Why Were Medieval Castles Built?

Have you ever built a castle or fort while playing with your friends? Why did you build it? Probably for the same reason medieval castles were built, for protection. Medieval castles were built as homes for kings and nobility, the noble class of a country such as royalty and important public figures, to protect them from unwanted intruders.

Castles were typically built in the middle of the land the king or lord of the castle was ruler over. The castle served as a way to defend their land and fight off attackers. Castles were usually built where there was a natural feature of the land that would help in the defense of the castle such as building on top of a hill or where they were surrounded by water. The main reason castles were built was not for luxury, but for defense and protection.

Another reason for the construction of castles was to remind the people of the land who was in charge. In medieval times, the king or lord owned all the land and gave pieces of it to people to use. The castle served as a visual reminder and a symbol of power that the king was in charge over all the land.

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  • 0:04 Why Were Medieval…
  • 1:14 Castle Features
  • 2:22 Some More Castle Facts
  • 3:20 Lesson Summary
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Castle Features

Okay, let's now look at some of the features of castles:

  • The moat, which was a deep ditch that can be filled with water that surrounds a castle or a fort for protection; This was a great form of defense for castles. Intruders could not just simply walk up to the castle walls; they had to cross the water first

  • The drawbridge, which was a bridge that can be lowered and raised quickly to cross the moat

  • The curtain wall, which was a thick and tall outer wall that surrounds the castle; some curtain walls had walkways where soldiers could stand guard and walk the entire perimeter of the castle

  • The arrow loops, which were little windows in the wall where archers and bowmen could shoot arrows at attackers while still being protected by the wall

  • The towers, which were round or square structures that were usually built in the corners of the castle and were taller than the curtain wall to serve as a lookout; and finally

  • The keep, which was the main residence for the lord or king of the castle and their family. It was usually made of stone and was either a round or square structure.

Some More Castle Facts

The first castles were made out of wood. Later, they realized that using stone for the walls would make the castle stronger and better able to stand up against an attack.

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Additional Activities

Prompts About Medieval Castles for Kids:

Essay Prompt 1:

In one paragraph, write an essay that explains who built medieval castles and why they built them. Also, make sure that your essay defines nobility.

Example: Protection and defense were the two main reasons medieval castles were built.

Essay Prompt 2:

Write an essay of one paragraph that describes what the inside of a castle was like. Was it comfortable and luxurious? What were the windows like? What was the importance of staircases in castles?

Example: Castles were usually cold inside because they were built from stone, though the earliest castles were made of wood.

Graphic Organizer Prompt:

Create a chart, poster, or some other type of graphic organizer that lists and describes the features of medieval castles and what they were used for. It will help to provide illustrations.

Example: The keep was where the ruler and his family lived inside the castle.

Illustration Prompt:

Draw a picture of what a medieval castle could have looked like. Make sure to consider whether your castle includes all of the features outlined in your graphic organizer, and also think about what kind of land medieval castles were usually built on.

Example: You could draw your castle on top of a hill.

Reflection Prompt:

Think about a time when you built a fort or a castle. In one paragraph, write a reflection about your castle that answers the following questions: Why did you build it? What materials did you use? Was it comfortable? What similarities and/or differences did your castle have with medieval ones?

Example: You built a castle out of couch cushions. It was soft and comfortable, but didn't give much protection, unlike medieval castles.

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