Fortification and sovereign powers (1180-1340)

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FORTIFICATION AND SOVEREIGN POWERS (1180-1340) Fortified architecture and the control of territories in the 13th century International colloquium Association Mission Patrimoine Mondial I éditions LOUBATIÈRES

Introductory speech by the President of the Aude Departmental Council, Hélène Sandragné

opening lectures

Jean Mesqui – Sovereignty and fortified architecture. The case of the great enclosures of Saint-Louis in France and the Near East

Xavier Helary – Castles in Capetian France introductory session


Lucien Bayrou, Nicolas Faucherre, Marie-Élise Gardel, Heike Hansen, David Maso and Andreas Hartmann-Virnich – Setting up a fortified network in the 13th century: Comparative architecture of the City of Carcassonne and its ‘sentinel castles’

Carole Puig and Lucien Bayrou – Defending the Kingdom of Mallorca with watchtowers between the 13th and 14th centuries (Roussillon, Vallespir, Conflent, Cerdagne and Capcir)

Florence Guillot – Castrum, spulga et villa. The development of a Pyrenean territorial principality: the county of Foix (late 12th century –early 14th century)


Thomas Barrows – The Mottes of Eastern County Down and the Maritime Lordship of Ulster

András Sófalvi – Castles Beyond the Eastern Borders of the Medieval Kingdom of Hungary – Expansionism from the early 13th Century to the mid-14th Century

James Scott Petre – Extending English Sovereignty under Edward I (1272-1307) – The rôle of castles in Edward’s expansion into Wales and Scotland

Vytas Jankauskas – Reorganisation of fortification systems in Lithuania at the end of the 13th century


José Miguel Remolina Seivane – Albarrana towers in Medieval Castile: innovation in defensive architecture in the 13th and 14th centuries

Philippe Bragard – Fortification system or lack thereof in Lotharingia in the 13th and 14th centuries. A case study in the county of Namur

Thomas Biller – The influence of “Philippienne” fortification in Western Germany

Roy Porter – Fortification, residence and seat of authority: Dover Castle in the 13th century

Daniel de Raemy – The network of castles of the Counts of Savoy in the 13th century, or how to build quickly, robustly and affordably: manpower and organisation

4 introduction introduction
summary 9 12 22 30 46 58 session
session ii
of building sites 72 82 96 108 120 132 144 156 168



Hélène Débax – Castles of Southern France: jurable and rendable fiefs (11th-12th centuries)

Daniel Tietzsch-Tyler – Architecture of control on the edge of the Angevin empire: the Irish castles of King John

Jean-Paul Valois and Pierre Simon – Did bastide towns play a military role?

Gérard Guiliato – Princes and fortifications in Lorraine (12th-14th centuries)


Dr Rachel E. Swallow – Overlooking, and Overlooked: Pre-Medieval Watchtowers and Edward I’s 13th-Century Castles in a Medieval Welsh Land and Seascape

Neil Ludlow – William Marshal, Hubert de Burgh and Angevin design

Clément de Vasselot de Régné – From fortification to signature architecture. The Lusignan castles of the 13th century

Marie-Pierre Baudry – King John’s fortifications (France, Great Britain, Ireland, 1199-1216)


Jeremy Ashbee – The Royal Castles of Edward I and the English Control of North Wales

Lindy Grant – Power and Domesticity: Castles and Capetian Rulership in the 13th Century

Amicie Pélissié Du Rausas – ‘Flogging the walls’: Louis IX’s siege war in Poitou (1242)


Denis Hayot – Architecture in written ‘briefs’. How project management was handled on Philip Augustus’ building sites and its impact on the standardisation of fortified architectur

Carlo Tosco, Maria Mercedes Bares, Tancredi Bella, Fabio Linguanti and Alessandra Panicco –The architecture of Frederick II’s castles in Sicily: research perspectives

5 session
182 192 206 220 234 246 258 272 session v
the Edwardian Castle conclusion Hervé Baro, First vice-president of the Aude Departmental Council 288 302 312 322 334 346 358
Hislop – James
St George and


Xavier HÉLARY 1

Ivory work was one of the specialities of artists active in northern France around 1300.2 These artists often chose to depict the capture of the Château d’Amour, as in a fine example from the early 14th century in the Louvre (fig. 1). In the lower part of the scene, on their mounts, or climbing the walls with a ladder, knights attempt to overrun a castle defended by noble ladies. Even if the precise literary origin of the scene remains unknown, the theme of the capture of the Château d’Amour encapsulates the culture of chivalry as it was expressed throughout the 13th century, when the service of one’s lady and the prowess of warfare were valued above all.

The castle was also a useful motif in another context. Friar Laurent d’Orléans was a Dominican, and therefore a preacher specialist; he was also the confessor of Saint Louis’ son, Philip III (1270-1285).3 Around 1279, at the request of his penitent, Friar Laurent wrote a long treatise which exalted virtue and condemned vice. This work, Somme le Roi, quickly met with great success. It was found in the libraries of kings and princes, translated into every western language. Here is an example of what Friar Laurent says:

‘When enemies who war against the castle find its gate open, they can easily enter. And so the devil who wars against the heart’s castle, when he finds its main door open, that is, the mouth, easily captures the castle. And that is why David said in the Psalter: ‘I have warned my mouth against my enemy who stands against me’, that is, the devil. The mouth’s guards are reason and discretion, which examine the words before they come out of the

1. Professor at Sorbonne-Université; Centre Roland-Mousnier (UMR 8596)

2. L’Art au temps des rois maudits 1998, p. 158-159.

3. La Selle 1995, p. 261-262 and in the index.

23 castles in capetian france
Xavier Hélary 1

Királykő Castle appears in written sources from the early 15th century under various names (Hungarian: Keralkew, German: Königstein, Latin: Lapis Regis); a border castle, which was under the jurisdiction of the ruler’s Transylvanian envoy the voivode, and the Szekler count, is often mentioned together with the castle of Törcs/Bran/ on the Transylvanian side of the pass. For centuries, the north-south road crossing from Transylvania to Wallachia was called the King’s Road, a name that appears several times in sources from the 16th and 17th centuries. The Romanian toponym Oratea or Oratia was formed in the late Middle Ages from the Hungarian common noun “vár” (=castle) with the suffix -d (“várad”).19

The castle was built at a strategic point on the road that crosses the Dâmbovița River and climbs steeply towards the Törcsvár Pass, providing optimal control over the traffic passing by. It was built with an excellent view to the south and was able to provide an effective military defence against units attacking Transylvania from the river valley, but the reverse was not true: attack

19. See historical sources in detail Sófalvi 2018-2019. p. 288-290.

from the northern hill (Dealul Sasului) could not be stopped from the castle (thus its construction cannot be linked to the Wallachian voivodes).

There are two known traces of medieval roads alongside the fortress, of which the eastern one may be the earlier; after steep bends it reached the plateau on the eastern side of the castle, where the medieval tollhouse must have stood. The western road runs closer to the castle rock; the wheel tracks (with a gauge of 1.80 m) cut deep into the rock are evidence of the traffic of iron-shod, heavy carts. This trail probably came into being after the Ottomans arrived in the area in the 15th century. (fig. 5)

The small stone castle has an irregular rhomboidal plan, 35 m long along its north-northwest–south-southeast axis and 26 m wide along its east-west axis. The height of the ruined limestone curtain wall reaches 4-5 m in the south and the east, while it is between 2,50 m and 3,60 m thick. No loopholes are visible in the fabric, and there is no direct evidence of battlements or a parapet. On the eastern side, the curtain wall was flanked by a semi-circular tower integral to the wall, and the castle was protected against attacks from the plateau by a dry

88 fortification and sovereign powers (1180-1340)
Fig. 5. The trails of the medieval roads near the castle of Királykő (CloudScale Digital Ltd.).

moat cut into the rock (7-8 m wide, 1.5-2 m deep today).

(fig. 6.a, 7) A timber bridge crossed the moat in line with the south-east corner of the castle, continuing on the south side as a rocky road leading to the entrance of the fortress. The entrance to the castle was through a gateway with an entrance arch, 2 m wide, set high in the curtain wall and accessed from both sides by timber stairs. This archway, which was subsequently walled in, is clearly visible on the internal face of the wall. In the castle interior, which slopes downwards towards the east, two rock-cut constructions can be identified; the north-eastern, square pit was used as the castle cistern.

An amateur excavation was undertaken in 1905, but the first professional archaeological excavations in Királykő Castle were carried out in 1968-1969 and 1971. A brief report of the results appeared in a later monograph on the fortresses of Wallachia20 but the finds have not been published. The Argeș County Museum (Pitești town) has processed the weapon finds in its collection (40 arrowheads), which I have recently evaluated. Based on the typological study and analogies of the arrowheads, I have concluded that certain types (tanged rhomboidal and pyramidal arrowheads, as well as socketed short barbed arrowheads) do not exclude the possibility of a

date from the knighthood period for the construction of the castle.21

A new chapter in Királykő Castle’s history started in 2021, focusing on the touristic use of the fortress, conservation of the ruins, and the accurate presentation of the history of the castle. This required a new, authenticating archaeological excavation, the first phase of which was carried out between April and July 2021. As part of this, a comprehensive excavation was carried out in the interior of the castle and outside the walls, around the entrance

castles beyond the eastern borders of the medieval kingdom of hungary 20. Cantacuzino 1981, p. 120-124. 21. Sófalvi 2018-2019. p. 304-305. Fig. 7. Aerial view of Királykő Castle, eastern view (CloudScale Digital Ltd.). Fig. 6.a. Királykő, the layout of the castle with the moat and the trails of road leading to the entrance (CloudScale Digital Ltd.). Fig. 6.b. The Királykő Castle, archaeological sections opened in 2021 (CloudScale Digital Ltd.).

ago. The big four of Conwy (fig. 1), Caernarfon (fig. 2), Harlech (fig. 3) and Beaumaris (fig. 4) are so remarkable that they have Unesco World Heritage status, one of only four such designations made in that country. The designation was made because they and their fortified

towns are deemed ‘the finest examples of late thirteenth century and early fourteenth-century military architecture in Europe, as demonstrated by their completeness (and) pristine state…’.4 A similar eulogy comes from the pen of Professor Michael Prestwich of Durham in his outstanding biography of Edward. Prestwich described them as ‘the most remarkable chain of castles ever constructed’.5 Accolades do not get much better than that!

On the other hand, there is next to nothing which may now be discerned of Edward’s works in Scotland. Architectural accounts of structures built in Edward’s reign scratch around for castles to describe. Malcolm Hislop very recently produced an absorbing account as a chapter in his book on Edwardian castles in Wales.6 Like previous accounts, he pays considerable attention to works carried out at Kildrummy, Bothwell and

98 fortification and sovereign powers (1180-1340)
4. 5. Prestwich 1997, p. 170. 6. Hislop 2020, p. 189-221. Fig. 2: Caernarfon castle from across the mouth of the river Seiont (© James Petre ). Fig. 3: Harlech castle (© James Petre).

Lochmaben. So far as the first two are concerned, it is indeed the case that they have close affinities with structures in Wales, but as Hislop notes, that in itself does not mean that Edward built at those Scottish castles. The Harlech-type gatehouse at Kildrummy may very well have been designed by a master of works either involved with, or at any rate familiar with, the building at the Welsh castle, but its main sponsor was more likely the Earl of Mar.7 Bothwell too has at least the foundations of a twin-towered gatehouse but more spectacularly, a towering donjon (fig. 5). This is now seen as the inspiration of Aymer de Valence, eventual Earl of Pembroke, and perhaps modelled on the great tower at Pembroke.8 As for Lochmaben, the sparse masonry remains which are still visible more likely date from later in the fourteenth century.9 What were more cer-

argued that in Scotland, his decidedly lesser works had more value than is generally accepted. Indeed, to quote Professor Michael Brown of St. Andrews University, ‘it might be argued that Edward’s strategy of fortifications

tainly Edwardian works are now mere small embankments and shallow ditches, little more than creases in the landscape, diminished by centuries of collapse or superseded by later works from after the years of English occupation.

This essay aims to consider the value of his castles in King Edward’s campaigns and expansion into both Wales and Scotland. There are two threads to follow here. The first is to think about the uses to which the castles were put and their performance in war. The second is to look at a broader picture of what other factors lay behind Edward’s achievements in Wales and those which frustrated him from fully achieving in Scotland. In pursuing these lines of thought, I will suggest that the impact of the great castles built in Wales as regards establishing and maintaining English sovereignty has been susceptible to exaggeration. Conversely it can be

7. Hislop 2020, p. 198-200; Ashbee 2021, p. 216-7.

8. Ludlow 2018, p. 237-280.

9. Hislop 2020, p. 192-4.

in Scotland was more pragmatic and effective than the monster castles of north Wales’.10

Edward’s castles at war

First then, let us look at Edward’s castles’ war record. Starting with Wales, we should perhaps note that building at Flint at least, was started at the same time as Edward’s campaign of 1277 was launched. In that respect it served as something of a campaign base but in general, Edward’s castles were begun after victory in the field had been completed. It is fair to add that in the Welsh uprising of 1294-5, Flint, along with Rhuddlan and Conwy, had value as military bases but on the other hand, others, notably Harlech and Criccieth, had none. Indeed Edward’s great Welsh castles did not deter that uprising. Although the Welsh were not equipped

99 extending english sovereignty under edward i (1272 – 1307)
10. Brown M.H., personal communication. Fig. 4: Beaumaris castle. The triple line of moat, outer and inner curtains—west side (© James Petre). Fig. 5: Bothwell. The great donjon (© Malcolm Hislop).







The extraordinary medieval town walls of Talavera de la Reina and Escalona, two towns not far from Toledo in Castile-La Mancha, have a unique battery of Albarrana towers and represent a remarkable episode in the history of medieval Iberian fortification, in which influences from Islamic and Western architecture came together.

This article will examine these unique urban fortification projects in an attempt to establish the circumstances and concepts that gave rise to them. Special attention will be devoted to two aspects. Firstly, the origin and diffusion of Albarrana towers will be considered. These are towers that are stand separately in front of the wall-face, to which they are connected by an arch. With one earlier exception, construction of these towers began during the 12th-century Almohad period in Muslim southern Spain and they were widely used after the Christian conquest, from the 13th to the 15th century. They are confined to the Iberian peninsula.2 Secondly, I will look at their possible origins in the traditional practice of strengthening enclosures by enlarging their pre-existing towers, a very common practice in the Middle Ages which permitted urban defences to be reinforced relatively quickly, and which lies behind the exceptional form of the Albarrana towers at Talavera.

Medieval town walls in the kingdoms of Castile and Leon: Ávila

Throughout the 11th to the 14th centuries, during the so-called ‘Reconquista’, the boundary between the Christian kingdoms of the northern part of the Iberian Peninsula, and the Muslims in the south, shifted continously southwards as the main cities were conquered by the kings of Castile, Leon and Portugal. During this period, many castles and walled enclosures were built hastily, forced by the immediate need to secure the newly conquered areas and leading to the emergence of new architectural solutions.

albarrana towers in medieval castile: innovation in defensive architecture in the 13th and 14th centuries 1. Architect. Colegio Oficial de Arquitectos de Cantabria (Spain). Associazione Storia della Città. 2. Torres Balbás 1970, p. 586.

to the second half of the 13th century—scientifically reliable dating of this wall cannot therefore go back any further than the middle of the 13th century.

More realistic are the dates currently proposed for the two castles of Mayen and Münstereifel (fig. 8), both polygonal hilltop castles in the mountain region of the Eifel. Mayen was begun in 1280 by the Archbishopric of Trier as a border fortification against Cologne, and in 1291 the settlement that moved to the castle was granted town privileges.15 The castle in Münstereifel, which is very inaccessible today, was begun before 1300 by a member of the dynasty of the Dukes of Jülich,

15. Die Kunstdenkmäler der Rheinprovinz, vol. 17, part 2,2: Hanna Adenauer, Josef Busley etc., Die Kunstdenkmäler des Kreises Mayen, Düsseldorf 1943, repr. 1985, p. 194-205. - Fridolin Hörter: Die kurfürstliche Burg und das Landschaftsmuseum in Mayen (Rheinische Kunststätten,  236), Neuss 1980. - Udo Liessem: Die Burg in Mayen. Eine gotische Anlage westlicher Prägung, in: Burgen und Schlösser 23, 1982, p. 2–6.

but is not mentioned until 1314.16 Another example of polygonal moated castles with round mural towers was the castle in Reichshof(f)en in northern Alsace, first mentioned in 1275 and probably built shortly before by the Lords of Ochsenstein.17 However, we only know this from old plans, as the ruins were levelled in 1769, before the construction of a Baroque castle. In the case of the castle of Mürlenbach near Trier, probably built before

16.  Die Kunstdenkmäler der Rheinprovinz vol. 4, part II, Ernst Polaczek: Die Kunstdenkmäler des Kreises Rheinbach. Düsseldorf 1898, p. 106-109.—Harald Herzog, Burgen und Schlösser, Geschichte und Typologie der Adelssitze im Kreis Euskirchen, Köln 1989, p. 395-400. – Lutz Jansen, Die Burg der Herren von Bergheim in Münstereifel, in: Geschichte in Bergheim, Jahrbuch des Bergheimer Geschichtsvereins, vol. 10, 2001, p. 26-76.

17. Will, châteaux de plan carré… see note 5, p. 71-72, fig. 15-18.

150 fortification and sovereign powers (1180-1340)
Fig. 9. Mürlenbach Castle (Rheinland-Pfalz), “Doppelturmtore” and mural tower (Th. Biller)

(left) and Hülchrath (NordrheinWestfalen), plans (Münchhausen: Jansen, Münchhausen; Hülchrath: Kunstdenkmäler Grevenbroich, see note 19)

1331 by the important monastery of Prüm,18 the ground plan has become so irregular that one can hardly speak of a deformed “Kastell”; it is rather an irregular complex adapted to the mountain, as is often the case in Germany. Only the twin-towered gatehouse (“Doppelturmtor”, fig. 9) and a mural tower still point to French influences.

One of the more frequent theories on the origin of North German moated castles is that their round or polygonal shape is derived from an underlying motte. However, I cannot support this idea on the basis of my material. Truly round castles are quite rare, even in the lowlands; at least I found only two whose features, with round mural towers, indicate French influence. Of these, Münchhausen19 near Bonn (fig. 10), apparently built by the Counts of Are-Hochstaden, is unquestionably the earlier, still Romanesque in form and probably from the first quarter of the 13th century; unfortunately only parts

18. Die Kunstdenkmäler der Rheinprovinz, Bd. 12, 2, Ernst Wackenroder: Die Kunstdenkmäler des Kreises Prüm, Trier 1927, S. 314-317.—Michael Losse: Die Bertradaburg in Mürlenbach an der Kyll (Schriften zur Kunst, Geschichte und Kultur der Eifel, booklet 3), Marburg a. d. Lahn/Adenau 1997.—same: Bertradaburg/Kyll (Edition Burgen, Schlösser, Altertümer Rheinland-Pfalz, booklett 18), Regensburg 2002.

19. Lutz Jansen: Münchhausen, eine übersehene Wasserburg der Stauferzeit im nordöstlichen Eifelvorland (Veröffentlichungen der Deutschen Burgenvereinigung, ser. A, vol. 19), Braubach 2018

of the main castle have survived. And Hülchrath20 (fig. 10) near Düsseldorf is the only example among my sites, apart from Linn Castle mentioned before, that can probably be described as a remodelled motte. Likely to have been established as a comital castle, and subsequently under changing ownership, the prevailing opinion is that it was surrounded by a circular wall with semicircular towers before 1300. After it fell to the Electorate of Cologne, in 1314, the castle was further developed in brick, effectively resulting in its present form.

French Influence in Eastern Germany

This concludes the examples of “Kastelle” with moreor-less regular ground plans on the western edge of the German-speaking area. I have started my article with them because influence from development in France, as it began in the late 12th century and reached its first spec-

20. Die Kunstdenkmäler der Rheinprovinz, vol. 3, part 5, Paul Clemen: Die Kunstdenkmäler des Kreises Grevenbroich, Düsseldorf 1897, S. 43–51.—Brigitte Janssen, Walter Janssen: Burgen, Schlösser und Hofesfesten im Kreis Neuss, Neuss 1980, S. 120–139.Hans Kisky: Hülchrath (Rheinische Kunststätten, booklet 9), Neuss 1964.

151 the
influence of “philippienne” fortification
Fig. 10. The castles of Münchhausen

fortification and sovereign powers (1180-1340)

The roofs also protected the battlements; their slope was defined by the width of the building and the height of the parapet protecting the gallery. In Yverdon, these parapets were very thick, 4 feet thick (1.12 m). They were not pierced by simple battlements but by crenelated bays or covered battlements. Under a stone roof,

the embrasure of the bay was equipped with seating space (fig. 7bis). These covered battlements are typical of almost every other castle built in the time of Peter of Savoy under the same type of roofing. Although they have now disappeared, they existed in the castle of Rolle for Ebal de Mont, a relative and vassal of Peter of Savoy. The design of this building can be attributed to another magister operum of Peter of Savoy, Jean Mésot, who was also magister ingeniorum of the King of England in the south of France. It was he who in 1261 gave instructions to the mason François for the circular tower of Saillon in the Valais. Between 1270 and 1310, a building frenzy took place: many new fortresses were erected in a context of permanent war between the Bishop of Lausanne and his allies, the Grandsons, and the Savoyard clan, i. e., the successors of Peter of Savoy, the Counts Philippe and then Amédée V. During the latter’s reign, the country of Vaud had become an independent dominion (‘apanage’), in the hands of Louis of Savoy, a brother of Amédée.

The low roofs are characteristic of the castle of Chenaux in Estavayer, built between 1285 and 1292 by the same workforce that had just completed the castle of Grandson, for Pierre d’Estavayer, a nephew by marriage and close relative of Othon de Grandson.14 This system was also probably used at the castle of Bulle in 1289-1295 (fig. 8), for Guillaume de Champvent, bishop of Lausanne and cousin of Othon. The Champvents also resorted to it in their own fortress, built after 1295, for Pierre de Champvent, brother of the bishop of Lausanne, Guillaume de Champvent. In response, in order to control the western border of the episcopal territories around Lausanne, Louis of Savoy founded the town of Morges in 1286, with a quadrangular castle, also governed by the same construction principles under low-pitched roofs.

The vertical passages of the great towers, when they were set in the masonry, were a factor of complexity and required skill. Several options were retained: the intra-wall crawling staircase, the crawling staircase on the recessed inner facing of the towers, and the spiral staircase. The intra-wall crawling staircase was more common in the oldest circular towers whose walls were generally thicker, as Louis Blondel rightly observed. They can be seen in the round tower of Orbe from 1230-1235, in the tower of the great keep of Romont in 1240-41 and in the tower of Saillon, from 1261-1262; they were the work of the mason François directed by Jean Mésot. The spiral staircases never served all levels, but were generally

14. On the castle of Chenaux in Estavayer, see recently Raemy 2020, p. 278-313. Fig 7. The castle of Yverdon seen from the south-east. Model created by Jean-Fred Boekholt reconstituting the medieval castle and its low roofs. State at the beginning of the 15th century. After the fire of 1476, during the Burgundy wars, the Savoy family raised the main buildings by one floor between 1484 and 1507 and fitted the current gabled roofs. (Fibbi-Aeppli) Fig 8. Yverdon Castle, southern curtain wall, bay windows on the parapet of the wall walk. Condition in 2011. (D. de Raemy)

the network of castles of the counts of savoy in the 13th century, or how to build quickly, robustly and affordably

used to connect the two highest floors, thus avoiding the need to make an opening in the floor under the roof, which was a fire hazard. These staircases were extended into a ‘guette’, as in the Boyer de Romont tower or in Lucens (see fig. 2). In the most recent constructions, i. e., the castles of the conflict period 1270-1310, there was a real tendency towards simplification. In Saxon, in 12791281, Gilles and Tassin de Saint-Georges connected the levels with mill ladders. This tower, judiciously located for the surveillance of the Rhone valley, was even less dedicated to residential use than its sister towers, even though it was equipped with the traditional chimney on the entrance floor and with latrines. It was mainly used as

a watchtower. The great tower of Bulle Castle still retains its original joists and, above all, the original mill ladders (figs. 9 and 10). The latter are dated by dendrochronology to the autumn/winter of 1292-1293.

In conclusion

The extreme simplicity of this castle architecture during the period of Savoyard domination should be acknowledged, as it was primarily designed to meet defence and administrative requirements in a very troubled political

Fig 9. Castle of Bulle, section through the great tower (Survey: Augustin Genoud, 1936; editing: Frantz Wadsack, 2004) Fig 8. Castle of Bulle. Section through the eastern residential building. In yellow, reconstruction of the levels and roofs from 1289-1294. The corner turrets were equipped with hoardings. In green, reconstruction of the 16th century. Current roofs and subdivisions from 1763-1768 (Survey: Fribourg State Building Service, 2020; additions: D de Raemy, 2022)



iDaniel Tietzsch-Tyler1

Anglo-Norman entry into Ireland: a knightly adventure

In 1200 Ireland had been the western frontier of the Angevin empire for just three decades. The Anglo-Norman colonisation of Ireland had its roots in the flight of Diarmait Mac Murchada from his Leinster kingdom in 1166. Mac Murchada appealed to English king Henry II for aid. Henry sent word to Bristol to provide assistance. After a period, Richard fitz Gilbert, known as ‘Strongbow’, agreed to go to Ireland to help. The first Anglo-Norman intervention occurred in May 1169 when Robert fitz Stephen landed with a small force on Bannow Island off the south Leinster coast (fig. 1a), followed in May 1170 by Raymond le Gros with a larger force. Strongbow himself arrived in August with an even larger force and captured Waterford, where he married Mac Murchada’s daughter and became his heir before marching on Dublin and taking the city (fig. 1, b). Mac Murchada died in May 1171 leaving Strongbow as nominal king of Leinster. Henry II responded to this threat of an independent Anglo-Norman state on his western flank by imposing an immediate embargo on travel to Ireland. Strongbow, in response, surrendered Leinster to the king.

Invasion: Henry II’s 1171-2 expedition

While the first Anglo-Normans had only responded to the invitation of a provincial king, Ireland was finally invaded in October 1171 when Henry II landed with a large army. From Waterford he travelled to Dublin (fig. 1b), where most Irish provincial kings submitted, but not the high king, Ruaidri O’Connor of Connacht. Wintering in Dublin, Henry regranted Leinster to Strongbow as his vassal, but withheld Waterford and Wexford. He granted Dublin to the citizens of Bristol. As a first step, Henry created the lordship of Meath from the Irish kingdom of Mide and granted it to Hugh I de Lacy (fig. 1c). Meath was a speculative grant and, like each grant that followed, it was de Lacy’s job to secure and settle the lordship.

193 architecture of control on the edge of the
angevin empire: the irish castles
king john
1. Independent Scholar, Limerick, Ireland.

fortification and sovereign powers (1180-1340)

Shannon has cut through it, a ditch isolating it from the rest of the esker to create a ringwork castle. After John left Ireland in 1210 the justiciar John de Gray replaced the timber castle with one of stone12. A large sub-circular, ten or eleven-sided polygonal enclosure was constructed, only half surviving post-medieval changes. (fig. 6a) The side facing the river was longer than the others to accommodate a timber hall later replaced in stone. The walls stood eight metres above the enclosure inside and fifteen metres above ground outside. One long plunging arrow loop survives at the south-southwest angle. A 1685 map indicates that the polygonal curtain had at least three rectangular mural towers, one a gate-tower in the north face and the others probably open-gorged. (fig. 6c) The latter two were on the southeastern arc of the curtain overlooking the road into Connacht from the Shannon bridge. A tower collapse in 1211 that the annals tell us killed nine people probably refers to one of the mural towers perched on the unstable edge of the esker.13 (fig. 6d)

At the centre of this enclosure a polygonal great tower was built. The tower was c. ten-sided externally but circular internally. It was taken down c. 1800 and a new

12. Hennessey 1871, p. 245.

13. O’Donovan 1848, p. 169; Hennessey 1871, p. 245-6. The Annals of the Four Masters incorrectly place this event in 1210.

Fig 5. Dungarvan Castle: a. the shell-keep with its modern entrance. The blocked original first-floor entrance contains the left-hand pair of modern musketloops;

b. reconstruction drawing of the castle after later 13th-century additions (courtesy of Dave Pollock);

c. plan of the castle.

Fig 6. Athlone Castle: a. part of the remaining curtain. The arrow indicates the blocked plunging arrow loop;

b. The 19th-century polygonal tower built on the foundations of the demolished

c. 1210 polygonal great tower;

c. comparative plans of Athlone and King Henry II’s Orford; d. reconstruction drawing of the castle after the 1211 collapse of a tower, killing Richard de Tuite and eight others.


slightly narrower polygonal tower built on top of the base of the old one and no medieval features survive. (fig. 6b)


Limerick castle was also begun c. 1210 following John’s expedition to Ireland. Architecturally, it is certainly the finest of John’s castles in concept, though it did not come close to completion before John’s death. The 1211-2 pipe roll records expenditure of £ 733 16s 11d on the castle, an exceptionally large sum14. The sum is too large a sum for that part of the castle that he constructed. This comprised a two-storey twin-towered gatehouse with round towers, a separate larger round tower, and short polygonal arcs of curtain between and on either side of these. (fig. 7a-c) By comparison with John’s works in England, this façade cannot have cost more than £500 to build. The rest of the money probably went on repairing the ringwork castle that the masonry only partially replaced, and on thirteen stone piers that were to support a timber bridge built over the Shannon beside the castle.15 (fig. 7e) Work then stopped for over two decades, after which the castle adopted a quadrilateral plan. (fig. 7a)

The gatehouse is probably one of the first of its type built in Britain and Ireland. In Britain, Dover’s north gatehouse, brought down in the 1216 siege, may date from 1207-8 when £ 170 was spent on the castle, though more likely sums of £ 200 or more don’t appear in the records until 1212.16 Only Marshal’s gatehouse at Chepstow is earlier if it predates 1200 as is presumed.17 In Ireland, William I Marshal was responsible for the early twin-towered gatehouse at Kilkenny, begun c. 1208. The gatehouse at Limerick is unusual in that its round towers are truncated in line with the interior of the curtain, but the gate passage extends into the castle as a square third two-storey tower, giving the structure a T-shape. (fig. 7a, d-e) The square tower was demolished c. 1750, so the only detail known is that the upper storey was entered from an external staircase. (fig. 7, d, arrowed, e) The truncation of the inner arc of the towers extends to the northeast tower. (fig. 7d) The location of doors at different levels into the tower, which has a large ground-floor chamber with a fireplace, and embrasures in the adjacent curtain suggest

14. Davies, Quinn 1941, p. 69; Tietzsch-Tyler 2013, p. 144.

15. Tietzsch-Tyler 2013, p. 160.

16. Brown 1955, as reproduced in Lidyard 2003, Table A, p. 164-6, Table B, p. 173.

17. Avent 2003, p. 53. Some doubt has been cast on the interpretation of the dendrochronological dating of the gates as reflecting the date of the twin-towered gatehouse itself: Guy 2015, p. 193-201; Tietzsch-Tyler 2018, p. 130.

that the tower acted in conjunction with a timber-built domestic range erected against tower and curtain. (fig. 7e) One of two ground floor window embrasures has a pair of arrow loops in the style of Henry II’s work at Dover.

The polygonal arc of masonry curtain and towers replaced less than half of the perimeter of the existing oval

Limerick Castle: a. phased plan; b. map of walled medieval Limerick on King’s Island; a-b. 1. early Viking enclosure, 2. Norse walls at 1200, 3. religious enclosures, 4. Anglo-Norman ringwork, 5. 121112 castle walls, 6. 1235-50 castle and town walls, 7. 12721300 castle walls, 8. 15th-century harbour walls, 9. post-medieval castle artillery bastion; c. King John’s castle exterior; d. King John’s castle interior. The arrow indicates the firstfloor entry into the third square tower; e. reconstruction drawing of the castle after completion of King John’s works in 1211-2.

ringwork which it closely follows. This begs the question of what the final castle was intended to look like. This writer has suggested before that a polygonal castle might have been intended with several round towers but no great tower.18 The castle stood isolated outside the city walls to the south, (fig. 7b) so an alternative possibility is that the ends of the king John’s northern façade were intended to be carried back to the existing north city wall to create a long ridge-top citadel comparable to Angevin fortresses such as Chinon in France.

architecture of control on the edge of the angevin empire: the irish castles of king john 18. Tietzsch-Tyler 2013, p. 145. Fig 7.




Carlo TOSCO 1 M aria M ercedes BARES 2 Tancredi BELLA 3 Fabio LINGUANTI 4 Alessandra PANICCO 5

Frederick’s castles in Sicily: general framework


Several castles built at the behest of Emperor Frederick II in Sicily have survived with varying degrees of preservation. While the castles of Catania and Syracuse can receive visitors, others like Augusta, have been left in a state of abandonment. Various studies have been carried out on the Sicilian castles, which now have a rich bibliography,6 but still lack stratigraphic analyses, carried out according to the principles of architectural archaeology. In this essay, we will present the castles of Syracuse, Augusta, Catania and Enna, limiting our attention to the most important and best preserved fortified structures built by the emperor in Sicily (fig. 1)

Frederick preferred to reside in the region of Capitanata, in Apulia, where Castel del Monte is located, and only spent short periods of his reign in Sicily. His stay on the island is divided into three phases: childhood and adolescence at the court of Palermo, the suppression of the Saracen revolts

1. Architecte et professeur d’histoire de l’architecture, Politecnico di Torino.

2. Architecte, docteur en histoire de l’architecture, università degli studi di Palermo.

3. Professeur d’histoire de l’art médiéval, università di Catania.

4. Architecte, docteur en archéologie du bâti, Aix-Marseille Université.

5. Architecte paysagiste, Politecnico di Torino.

6. The bibliography on Frederick II is very extensive, and the standard reference is the Enciclopedia fridericiana, edited by O. Zecchino and published by the Istituto della Enciclopedia Italiana, vol. I-II, Rome, 2005, available online. An important event for publications took place in 1994, with the celebrations of the eighth centenary of the emperor’s birth. For a historiographical overview: D’Onofrio 2003, p. 127-147; Knaak 2001. For the history and architecture of Sicilian castles, the most recent works include: Calò Mariani, Cassano 1995; Di Stefano, Cadei 1995; Cadei 2006; Martin 2009, p. 251-269; Maurici 2014; Safonte 2016; Pistilli, Gianandrea 2020, p. 115-134; Tosco 2021, p. 73-116.

335 the
architecture of frederick ii’s castles in sicily:
1kar2 cs3 vsq4 vq5 Fig 1: Castles of Frederick II in Eastern Sicily.

Furthermore, studies are currently underway on the lapidary marks (stonemasons’ marks): the first results of the research at the Castle of Maniace have revealed over a hundred marks, not counting the so-called ‘derived’ signs.18 The comparative analysis of these marks in various Sicilian and Swabian continental buildings will allow us to examine in greater depth the dynamics of the building sites and the mobility of the workers who were the material protagonists of Frederick II’s imperial project.19

18. The data comes from the archaeometric study of stonemasons’ marks engraved during the restoration of Maniace Castle in Syracuse (a. 1999, L’isola, laboratori di restauro). See also Zoric 1995, II, p. 409-413.

19. For a first approach to the subject, see Linguanti 2018, p. 104115.

The castle of Augusta (Alessandra Panicco)

The Swabian castle was built on the highest grounds of the island of Maremorto from 1232 and building continued for about a decade.20 It dominated the harbour opening into Augusta, a city situated on the territory between Catania and Syracuse (fig. 5). A series of rebellions had indeed taken hold of Sicily at the beginning of the 13th century, hence the need to erect fortified structures useful for the control of urban centres, the

338 fortification and
sovereign powers
20. Agnello, Trigilia 1994, p. 36-43. Fig 4: Syracuse, hypostyle hall of Maniace castle (M. M. Bares).

reorganisation of ports and the protection of economic and commercial activities.21

Frederick II encouraged the construction of the fortress on the isthmus linking the island to the mainland, thus changing the previous geography of the coast. The castle, together with Ursino Castle in Catania and Maniace Castle in Syracuse, was an important architectural innovation in Sicily.22 Thanks to a careful geomorphological study of the island of Maremorto, the Swabian building probably played a fundamental role in controlling the land and, with a height of about 23 m

resting on a rock face about 10 m above sea level, had a considerable visual impact, both from the sea and from land, to further assert imperial power.23

The foundations are set directly on the rock and are of a more imposing size than those used in Syracuse. The castle has a square plan of 63 m x 62 m, with an inner courtyard edged by wings preceded by porticoes, four corner towers (of which the one to the northeast has not survived), two rectangular towers along the east and west sides, and an octagonal tower in the middle of the south side, which originally housed a cistern and is characterised by its rusticated masonry (‘bugnato’ in

the architecture of frederick ii’s castles in sicily: research perspectives 21. Tosco 2021, p. 84. 22. Alberti 1997, p. 40. 23. Alberti 1995, p. 424-425; Pistilli 2006, p. 169-182. Fig 5: Augusta, current aerial view of the Swabian castle from the southeast (from Alberti S. A., Il castello dI augusta, 1995).
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