A castle is a large, fortified building or set of buildings. The word “castle” is derived from the Latin word for “fortress.”
People have been building castles for as long as they have been building buildings. One of the earliest fortresses was built by the Mayan people about 1,500 years ago in Yucatán, Mexico. This great walled city was called Chichen-Itza and was constructed with huge stones.
Early castles were made of wood and earth. Most of them were built on a natural or man-made hill called a motte. A tower or keep was built on the top of the motte and protected by a wooden wall. Often, fortified courtyards called baileys were built at the bottom of the motte.
Life in a Castle
Castles were more than fortresses — they were also home to a diverse group of people, from lords and ladies to archers, engineers, cooks and carpenters. A nobleman’s castle and lands were defended by noble tenants called vassals. The lord rewarded his noblemen with gifts of land, money and marriages. This system was called feudalism.
Castles were hard to keep warm, so tapestries and carpets were hung on the walls to keep out drafts. The great hall was often used for sleeping and eating, though the lord had private quarters.
When we talk about fairytale castles we instantly remember Cinderella’s castle made famous by Disney. But there are many castles in real life that aren’t fictional and are very much real.
Famous Fairytale Castles
• Normandy Castle, France
• Werfen Castle, Austria
• Edinburgh Castle, Scotland
• Alcazar Castle, Spain
• Covadonga Castle, Spain
• Chillon Castle, Switzerland
• Carondelet Castle, Belgium
• Sigmaringen Castle, Germany
• Bourtange Castle,
• Hochosterwitz Castle, Austria
• Stalker Castle, Scotland