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Clifton Hill
09-27-2008, 12:12 AM
Hi everyone, I've been looking for this off and on the last couple of weeks and just can't find any info. I'd like to know what the usual occupancy for a small or large castle in the medieval period of say France is. I also want to know what the usual capacity is when filled to the max in times of siege. How many soldiers they can be crammed in there in addition to the castle occupants, the local peasants and what not that take to the castle for protection. Also anybody know what is a realistic ratio needed to take a castle, considering the military advantage of a castle's fortifications.

I would like examples of real life castles if anyone can point some out. I'm trying to keep my epic castle siege somewhat realistic.

Also if anybody knows any good books on the subject?

ideagirl
09-27-2008, 12:16 AM
Also if anybody knows any good books on the subject?

Life in a Medieval Castle, by Joseph and Frances Gies

http://www.amazon.com/Life-Medieval-Castle-Joseph-Gies/dp/006090674X

Also, try googling "life in a medieval castle" (without quotes).

waylander
09-27-2008, 12:22 AM
Also anybody know what is a realistic ratio needed to take a castle, considering the military advantage of a castle's fortifications.

Depends on what you brought with you.
Have you got siege engines, mining engineers, bombards or just a lot of brave guys with ladders?
What are your supply lines like? How well supplied is the castle?

The Ottomans had something like a five-fold advantage in men but failed to take Malta in 1565
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seige_of_Malta

Beach Bunny
09-27-2008, 12:40 AM
The answers to your questions really depend on what time period of the Middle Ages you are looking at. In the Early Medieval period (500 - 1000 CE) they didn't really have stone castles. They had motte and bailey forts built of wood. It wasn't until after about 1100 CE that Europe started building castles in stone.

Within the later Medieval period (1000-1500 CE) the design and size of a castle varied widely.

The Gies book already mentioned is a good starting point. Two other books that are really good are:
The Medieval Fortress - Castles, Forts, and Walled Cities of the Middle Ages; J. E. Kaufmann and H. W. Kaufmann; Da Capo Press; 2001
Castles - Their Construction and History: Sidney Toy; Dover Publications: 1985

Dover Publications has a lot of interesting books that you might find relevant in your research.

As for web resources. I don't have my bookmarks on this computer. But, start with a wikipedia search on castles or castles in France and you should hit a wealth of information and links to other sites.

This site is also pretty good to start with: http://www.castles.org/index.htm

waylander
09-27-2008, 12:51 AM
It was the Viking raids that started the French building castles. Before that they had walled towns in the Roman fashion e.g. Toulouse.

Mike Martyn
09-27-2008, 03:27 AM
When I was a kid, I hitch hiked around Ireland staying at youth hostels. One of them near Waterford (?)was a castle (morely commonly called a "keep") built by the Normans around 1250. It consisted of a stone wall about 12 feet high which enclosed an acre or so of grass and the castle proper which was two stories with lots of arrow slots through the stone walls all of which was topped by a tower of about six stories. Each floor would have been no more than 2500 square feet.

So, the building itself could easily held a couple of hundred soldiers living incomparative discomfort.

The peasants and their cattle and horses could have tented out on the enclosed grounds I guessing probably a a couple of hundred or so plus live stock. The lower ranking soldiers migh have bivwacked there as well.

The military would have consisted of knights on horse back who could have made sorties out of the main gate of the enclosed area with archers covering them from the castle proper plus from all the arrow slits from the Norman tower.

Here's how the enemy would have to take the castle.

First they'd have to get through the main gate by battering it down while the archers shot at them from the castle and the tower.

Once through they would have had to fight their way through the men at arms in the enclosed area.

If they got that far, they'd have to get into the castle proper which would mean battering their way through a solid oak door banded with iron about 4 ft. wide, 6 ft high and about 12 inches thick.

Mean while those bloody archers are still shooting at you.

Once through the door, about 10 feet down the corridor is an iron grating (porticus?)which the defenders would have lowered down. Above you is a trap door through which the defenders will drench you with boiling water or lead or preferably pitch since it sticks and burns.

On each side of the corridor are cross shaped arrow slots in the the thick stone walls and more bloody archers shooting through them.

Some now if you make it past the boiling pitch, the archers and batter down the porticus, you have to fight all the men at arms through the two first stories.

Hurray you've won! Well no actually.

Remember that tower? Inside is just a winding stone stair case in which the stairs ascend in a clockwise fashion. This gives the retreating defenders an advantage if they are right handed.They can strike downward with their swords but the attackers' blows are impeded by the staircase's central piller not to mention that it's too narrow for more than two attakers at a time.

At the top of the tower is a small room with more of those bloody archers archers as well as someone frantically signaling for reinforcements.

According to the old couple that lived there, althought this Norman keep had been attacked by the Irish on numerous occasions, it was only taken once and that was because some servant had an Irish boy friend on outside and some how let the attackers sneak in.

Hoped that helped.

Dommo
09-27-2008, 06:26 AM
Prior to the advent of gunpowder a well fortified city was largely unassailable as long as the defenders were well supplied. In order to realistically take a castle or fortress, you'd pretty much need to starve out the defenders, or sack it through the use of a bit subterfuge(like a spy on the inside to open a gate, or poison a well).

The reason I say this, is because in order to take a well defended castle, assuming you had proper siege equipment, you'd still need to vastly outnumber the defenders. This meant a choice. You could leave a smaller force to blockade(lay siege to) the castle and starve it, thereby leaving the majority of your forces free to attack other targets, OR you could risk losing a very large portion of your army to take a castle. Unless the castle was of ABSOLUTE importance, the vast majority of armies would simply surround the place, and starve it out over the course of a few months, or maybe years.

Willowmound
09-29-2008, 12:34 PM
was a castle (morely commonly called a "keep")

The keep is actually just the main tower inside a castle. It's a castle within the castle. If the walls are breached, you pull back there.

There will also usually be a gatehouse keep. It defends the vulnerable gate.

qwerty
09-29-2008, 12:52 PM
This is a medieval fortified village with a chateau near where I live in France.

Chateauneuf en Auxois (http://www.france-for-visitors.com/photo-gallery/burgundy/bourgognechateauneufaux.html)

Mike Martyn
09-29-2008, 07:22 PM
The keep is actually just the main tower inside a castle. It's a castle within the castle. If the walls are breached, you pull back there.

There will also usually be a gatehouse keep. It defends the vulnerable gate.

You're correct about the keep which is why it is often refered to as a "castle keep". The place in Ireland didn't have a guardhouse keep just the Norman tower. As castles go, it was fairly small.

mscelina
09-29-2008, 07:36 PM
In answer to the OP--The Medieval Mind by Henry Osburn Taylor.

This site I keep onmy favorites short list because I use it a lot in my work. The Castles of Wales (http://www.castlewales.com/home.html#Please%20Select) has a lot of great information on it, including pictures. You can also check out the Castle Learning Center site (http://www.castles-of-britain.com/castle6.htm) for some informative articles about sieges, daily life and ground plans.