Castle2to break down stone walls. Although castles were built across Europe well into the 16th century, new techniques todeal with improved cannon-fire eventually led to them becoming uncomfortable and undesirable places to live. Truecastles went into decline and were replaced by artillery forts with no role in civil administration, and country housesthat were indefensible. From the 18th century onwards, there was a renewed interest in castles with the constructionof mock castles, part of a romantic revival of Gothic architecture, but they had no military purpose.
The Norman "White Tower", the keep of the Tower of London, exemplifies alluses of a castle: city defence, a residence, and a place of refuge in times of crisis.In this view from the Thames, the keep rises behind the Traitor's Gate.
"Castle" is derived from the Latin word
. This is a diminutive of the word
, which means "fortified place". TheOld English
, and terms for castlein other Romance languages derive from
The word castle wasintroduced into English shortly before theNorman Conquest to denote this type of building, which was then new to England.
Although these various terms derive fromthe same root, they are not universallyapplied to the same types of structures. Forexample, the French
is used todescribe a grand country house at the heartof an estate, regardless of the presence of fortifications.
In its simplest terms, the definition of acastle accepted amongst academics is "a private fortified residence".
This contrasts with earlier fortifications, suchas Anglo Saxon burhs and walled cities such as Constantinople and Antioch in the Middle East: castles were notcommunal defences but were built and owned by the local feudal lords, either for themselves or for their monarch.
Feudalism was the link between a lord and his vassal, where in return for military service the lord would grant himland and expect loyalty.
In the late 20th century, there was a trend to refine the definition of a castle by includingthe criterion of feudal ownership, thus tying castles to the medieval period. However, this does not necessarily reflectwhat medieval people called castles. During the First Crusade (1096
1099) the Frankish armies encountered walledsettlements and forts that they indiscriminately referred to as castles, but which would not be considered as suchunder the modern definition.