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efreysson
12-25-2011, 11:54 PM
I'm writing a scene where the protagonists of my medieval fantasy break into city hall by climbing up to the fourth floor, sneaking in through a balcony and then make their way from there to a certain room on the third floor.

I started wondering; Are there any actual accounts of how strict security was in important buildings back in the day? Would multiple lantern-bearing guardsmen patrol the hallways, or did a lamp here and there and a couple of guard posts suffice? Or did the guards exclusively guard the gate outside, and everyone inside slept soundly in total darkness?
I want to get this more or less right; i.e. similar to what people actually did before modern security measures.

Amadan
12-26-2011, 12:00 AM
Geese (http://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2011/08/alarm_geese.html)!

(Geese are almost as evil as swans...)

waylander
12-26-2011, 05:33 PM
I guess it depends on what was inside the building that would be worth stealing. Guards cost money. Money or valuable trade goods inside then I would expect human guards+dogs.

Snick
12-26-2011, 06:01 PM
I agree with Waylandder. If there was anything worth stealing, then there would be a guard, or several; but in my experience with municial buildings there is little of value, so there is minimal security. In times past there might have been a money vault, if the city had lots of income. A strong room would have been preferable to most of the banks.

Buffysquirrel
12-26-2011, 07:16 PM
You've set up a painful dissonance in my head with "medieval" and "city hall". Ow.

Guards would come from the soldiery provided as part of the pact between the liege lord and those who held land from him. So in that sense, labour was cheap. Those soldiers would also come with their own weapons. Mercenaries were also used, but they did have to be paid.

When we talk about 'something worth stealing', we need to remember the disparity between rich and poor and the lack of a welfare state. If you were poor, almost anything that could be converted to money or used for your own subsistence could be worth stealing. That would include food, clothes, and even things we would regard as having little to no value, eg firewood.

Buildings for administration tended also to be residences. A manor house could be lived in by the lord of the manor or the steward if the lord were away, used as a court of law, used to receive taxes, used as a farmhouse, used as a storehouse, and so on. It would definitely be guarded.

Snick
12-26-2011, 07:35 PM
I was also wondering about the type of city. The Hanseatic cities were independent and fairly wealthy, and there were other free cities scattered around, but cities in knigdoms were mostly the possessions of some great lord. If this city belongs to a duke, or whateer, then the duke might have the administrative offices attached to the palace.

efreysson
12-26-2011, 07:47 PM
You've set up a painful dissonance in my head with "medieval" and "city hall". Ow.


*sigh*

Okay, "fictional world setting where technology is at a level similar to the medieval period of real life Europe". It's not a feudal system. "Medieval" just takes less time to type than a detailed description of the political system and what kind of buildings one can find in a capital city. Sorry for hurting your head.
Feel better now?

Buffysquirrel
12-26-2011, 07:56 PM
It's not a feudal system? That might have been useful to know up front.

So, scratch everything about how soldiers are provided. What *is* the political system?

Vomaxx
12-26-2011, 08:38 PM
Guard dogs might well be used.

ULTRAGOTHA
12-26-2011, 09:52 PM
I think we need more information. Medieval security doesn't seem to be what you're looking for.

If your city isn't really medieval, then go for what security you wish.

Or are you asking for security methods that work with medieval technology?

What is being stolen? Papers? Really important secret papers or just normal papers? Valuable jewels or money? Are your protagonists just trying to get into a room and not steal anything? How important is what's in that room to the people in charge of the building? What about the rest of the building, does it have valuable things in it?

robjvargas
12-26-2011, 10:52 PM
I'm really sorry about your frustration, efreysson. I realize it can seem so petty to worry about the political system that can have such a significant impact on how security can come about.

I can appreciate how unreasonable it is to not simply apply "today, but without the tech" to presume that someone who is asking "how-to" about a "medieval" setting.

And I realize that my response is snarky. It is. You *do* realize, do you not, that the sigh you took the time to post could be interpreted as frustration aimed at the people who took their own time to volunteer answers?

You are free to take their answers as you wish. Speaking for myself, I would see that as a bright, glaring flag that my idea needs more fleshing out in order to find the answer I'm seeking.

But that's just me.

Xelebes
12-26-2011, 10:57 PM
You've set up a painful dissonance in my head with "medieval" and "city hall". Ow.


City halls started appearing in the 12th century (Rathaus in Cologne, for example.)

Smiling Ted
12-27-2011, 01:11 AM
You've set up a painful dissonance in my head with "medieval" and "city hall". Ow.

There were plenty of towns with "city halls" and community life in the medieval period. Histories of the City of London and the Hanseatic League are good places to start.

The real dissonance would be a fourth story in an unfortified, non-religious building.

Buffysquirrel
12-27-2011, 04:35 AM
Fair enough, folks. Just 'city hall' struck me as an American term. I will now go and repeat fifty times that I should just answer the OP's question.

Xelebes
12-27-2011, 05:21 AM
There were plenty of towns with "city halls" and community life in the medieval period. Histories of the City of London and the Hanseatic League are good places to start.

The real dissonance would be a fourth story in an unfortified, non-religious building.

The only thing I could think of that would require such is a medieval megalopolis or ecumenopolis.

Snick
12-27-2011, 07:13 AM
T
The real dissonance would be a fourth story in an unfortified, non-religious building.

That bothered me a little, too. I decided that it wasn't far off, because it couls=d have been a room in a tower, the one window without bars.

frimble3
12-27-2011, 09:35 AM
That bothered me a little, too. I decided that it wasn't far off, because it couls=d have been a room in a tower, the one window without bars.
Probably the simplest solution: one windowless tower (probably has a sinister or 'mysterious' local nickname) with a big guy and a big dog guarding the one (interior) door. All the 'valuables' locked in there when not in use.

Dave Hardy
12-28-2011, 12:58 AM
The Old Town Hall in Prague is four stories high and of Medieval build, IIRC, irrespective of the tower. Some of that may have been added later though.

I get the impression that the level of security in Medieval European cities varied from citizens doing service as night-watchmen to armed guards of high nobles and prelates depending on the level of organization & need.

efreysson
12-28-2011, 02:31 AM
I think we need more information. Medieval security doesn't seem to be what you're looking for.
. . .
Or are you asking for security methods that work with medieval technology?

Maybe I didn't think my question through enough before posting the thread but yeah, it's basically how thorough security measures would/should be in a pre-industrial society. At night. In a big important building.


What is being stolen? Papers? Really important secret papers or just normal papers? Valuable jewels or money? Are your protagonists just trying to get into a room and not steal anything? How important is what's in that room to the people in charge of the building? What about the rest of the building, does it have valuable things in it?The city hall is also the treasury and the national archive, but that's in a different part of the building.
The protagonists are basically going snooping in a dead councilman's bedroom, and then decide to assassinate a servant girl based on what they find there. A vacated room and a servant's cubby aren't likely to be guarded, but I'm wondering if they should run into guard stations or maybe men patrolling the hallways at night.




The real dissonance would be a fourth story in an unfortified, non-religious building.

Hm. Maybe I overdid the size a bit.


The Old Town Hall in Prague is four stories high and of Medieval build, IIRC, irrespective of the tower.

Or maybe I didn't. I'll think about it. The rewrite would be minor, and there will be time for it later.

Manuel Royal
12-30-2011, 11:46 PM
It's not a feudal system? That might have been useful to know up front.Well, the feudal system wasn't really a feudal system either; historians don't tend to use the term "feudal" anymore. It's considered an overly simplistic description, and more reflective of trends and biases among 18th and 19th century historians than of real relationships and economic structures in the countries and centuries to which the term used to be applied.

The first thing I thought of, upon reading the OP, was the tradition of torri, fortified towers, in medieval Italian cities, often connected to the town hall or communal palace.

For instance, the 13th century "People's Palace" and connected tower in San Gimignano (http://www.sangimignano.com/sgpco.jpg).

Or the Palazzo del Priori in Volterra (http://media-cdn.tripadvisor.com/media/photo-s/01/54/dd/dd/palazzo-dei-priori.jpg). That's a nice one.

Besides town nightwatchmen, "gate captains", or whatever guards or militia the municipality might maintain, of course rich people, just like now, could hire private guards, if they had something to keep secret, something worth stealing, wanted to protect themselves from murder or robbery -- or just wanted to flaunt their wealth and importance.

If the building includes living quarters for important people, there'd probably be quite a few servants around.

Anyway, good luck. I'm intrigued.

RexZentah
02-12-2012, 10:00 PM
medieval security. Gossipy stories about monsters, demons, dragons, ghosts living in the "town hall" or wander the streets after dark. Interrogations of caught intruders.

Stlight
02-13-2012, 03:00 AM
If you're going to have four stories you need to be certain that the ground will literally support such a building. Where I live, it won't, at least not without a great deal of underpinning. What does this mean to your story? It might make it difficult for people dig tunnels with ease. It also means you have to think about any dungeons and basements you build - expense vs. depth.