Gothic Castle Architecture
The castles built to the design of Norman Romanesque
architecture had many problems in terms of defence.
The corners of the Square Keeps were weak and at risk of
collapse due to mining techniques employed by attackers
There was only one defensive wall
The Norman Castles were dark, dank and cold
Norman Castles were particularly at risk from siege warfare
The weaknesses of the early Norman style of Castle Architecture
had to be addressed. Enter Gothic Castles Architecture and the
Edwardian Gothic Architecture - Concentric Castles!
The magnificent Medieval Castles built by the Plantagenet King
Edward I are excellent examples of the early Gothic style of
Castle Architecture. King Edward I employed the services of the
best architect and builder of this era of the Middle Ages called
Master James of St George. The style of Gothic Architecture of
the Medieval era is demonstrated in the innovative design of the
Concentric Castles. A good description of a Concentric Castle
is "a Castle within a Castle". The concentric castle is
effectively lots of buildings, walls, towers and gatehouses in
one massive castle complex built within in successive lines of
defence. Concentric Castles provided great vehicles for examples
of early Gothic architecture!
Gothic Architecture - The Gothic Arch
The Medieval Gothic Arch was a major feature of the architecture
of the Middle Ages. The Gothic architects and builders
discovered the amazing strength and stability of using pointed
arches. The walls of Gothic buildings could be thinner because
the weight of the roof was supported by the arches rather than
the walls. The use of the Gothic arch gave the builders
tremendous flexibility. The arch could not only support greater
weights but could also could span greater distances, allowing
vaults to be taller and wider. Thinner walls had wider window
openings which encouraged the use of stained glass and the
magnificent Gothic Rose Windows.
The definition of an arch is as follows:
Gothic Arch : a curved structural device, usually of
masonry, used to support a structure as well as enlarge an
opening. The arch, whether semi-circular or lancet, is one
the principal components of medieval Gothic architectural
The Gothic pointed arch styles included diagonal, longitudinal
and transverse arch. A transverse arch was a supporting arch
which ran across the vault from side to side, dividing the bays.
Gothic Architecture - Gargoyles!
Gargoyles are a fascinating element of Gothic Architecture.
These frightening sculptures are most often associated with
Medieval Churches and Cathedrals but they were also used to
great effect in English Gothic castles. Gargoyles are
frightening and intimidating sculptures - perfect for the likes
of great Lords and Kings who built elaborate fortresses and
castles in order to crush and intimidate the indigenous
The origins of the word 'gargoyle' are derived from the old
French word 'gargouille' meaning throat. Gargoyles came into
gothic architecture in the early 13th century and are defined as
"a waterspout, projecting from an upper part of a building to
throw water clear of walls or foundations."
The number of Gargoyles added to castles were numerous as
dividing the flow of water minimized potential water damage. The
materials used for early Gothic gargoyles were stone but the
later gargoyles, especially in churches, were predominantly
limestone and marble, although metals such as lead were used in
fashioning some gargoyles. Stone masons had free choice of their
gargoyles should depict or look like. It is an interesting fact
that there is no two gargoyles which are exactly the same!
Gothic Architecture - Defining Features
Gothic Architecture can be defined as having the following
- Stone was cut with precision
- Walls were solid walls and
pillars - allowing them to hold far greater weights - the
Gothic style of Castle Building and Architecture provided
much bigger castles!
- Able to hold greater weights
which meant bigger castles
- The use of the Gothic arch led to
the construction of light and airy structures - lightening
and heightening of Gothic structures
- Wider window openings and Gothic
- The introduction of flying
- More Towers
- Decorative designs and sculptures