Castles & Fortification
Medieval Definition
Religion, Monks & Monasteries
Art History

Legends + Myths


In the beginning - France

From 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.

These 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.


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