Life in a fortified Castle

The Castle is the symbol of Seigneury.

It's raised where one can surprise and ear without risking to be spied on or surprised himself : steep slope, abrupt crest... Its internal arrangement and its silhouette are familiar to us : ditches, ramparts, carved towers, rampart-walk, corbellings, machicolations, drawbridge, harrow, posterns, bartizans, are words which stayed in our memory...

The castles we visit today are almost all posterior to the twelfth century. They are masterpieces of military architecture against which one operated a complicated machinery, artillery of balistes and catapults, battering rams, rolling towers and which succumbed under the knocks of the fire artillery.

Primitively, they were less arrogant. They were big wooden buildings hoisted on an artificial clod protected by a ditch and by a fence. At the end of the tenth century only the armor begins to be made of stone. It was a surrounding wall of masonry dominated in one of the angles by a massive tower, a donjon, where was living the Lord. One reaches the donjon by a narrow door opened by the first floor and communicating with the ground by a moving bridge pressed on the bank of the ditch.

Imposed by the war, the castle is made for the war : fortress, refugee and shop all at the same time. When the danger approaches, the farmers there come to lock themselves with their cattle. Forty villages sometimes find asylum in the same surrounding wall. The columnist Lambert left us the description of the castle that Arnoult, Lord of Ardres, built in 1099.

It consisted of two buildings : a big three-floored tower and a house. At the ground floor of the tower, storerooms and barn; on the first floor the main room, the essential part where are celebrated feasts and banquets, where meet the vassals and where is held the court, the bedroom of the feudal lord and the chatelaine, the retreat for the chambermaids, the dormitory for the servants, and finally in an angle separated from the big room, the cubbyhole provided with a fireplace which serves as bathroom and where children are kept warm. Finally, quite at the top, the dormitory of young men, the one of the girls, the niches of the lookouts.

Outbuildings include a piggery, a chicken run, stables, kitchens, chambers for servants. On one side, the room communicates on the same level as kitchens, on the other one with the chapel.

Windows are closed by chassis of oiled canvas and by shutters of plain wood. The use of stained glasses will be slow to spread : it is a rarity reserved for churches. No carpet on the ground, but according to time and the season the ground is furnished with fresh greenery, dry grass or straw. In winter, one piles up in the kitchen. The fire burns there permanently, the vapor which escapes from stew-pans maintains a warm and heavy atmosphere. Few furniture but strong and unrefined : beds, chests, tables, stepladders, benches, some heightened seats of splendor compose the whole of this furniture.

According to Pierre Gaxotte "The life of Frenchmen" Volume I - Text drafted by Mr Bertrand d'Orange