The Castles– as romantic as a fairy tale and as resplendent as our planet are the intriguing antiques of our glorious history. These magical and sumptuous spaces were once upon a time, the residences of Kings and Lords of the particular territories they belonged to. Their rustic high walls and structure undoubtedly mark for the fortification characteristics to protect against the enemy during the time of war. In the present scenario, these magnificent forts are symbolized as luxury, power, and wealth due to its humongous structure and reminiscence of century-old kept elements.

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European Castle  ©Naumenko Aleksandr

Dating far back to 9th CE, European Medieval Castles were constructed of timber and earthwork. Coming over to the next few centuries, these fortifications altered into new thick stone walls with high parapets. The narrow openings (embrasures) were used to aim for shooting against the enemy. Moving onto the Renaissance period, the role of these castles widened. Some would serve the purpose of military and would protect against the attacks while the others for non-military reasons would simply serve as palaces, mansions, and manors.

Here are examples of a few European castles that do the justice of being called the ‘magnificent forts’:

  1. CASTLE ASHBY, UK

Brought by King Henry VIII in 1512, shaped like an “E” to honor the rule of Queen Elizabeth I and then later advancing to a square off-plan with a courtyard planning, this castle defines the authenticity of the castle. At present, the grounds had been used for cricket matches and people adored those moments with cheers and joy. The architecture of such castles has always been changing due to updated architecture and advanced rulers. Some of the common elements they all share are:

1.Great Hall

A Community living area – that serves the purpose of large gatherings and important meetings.

2.Tower

The protruded pieces that are over the staircases add extra royalty and grandeur to the structure.

3.Keep

A self-contained tower used in case of emergencies. It is similar to a panic room.

4.Center Chimney

The fireplaces have been a striking feature in the ancient forts. Due to climate restrictions, they serve not as just a must but a beautifying feature.

5.Courtyard

Enclosed space surrounded by buildings with perfect views to the monumental details and adds on more natural light to the surrounding buildings.

6.Functional Wings

The castle is separated into wings which differ as per different uses in the castle. Major activities involve bedrooms, service quarters, community areas, halls, and ballrooms.

7.Landscaping

More than being an aesthetic element, it also expects to add security to the area. It acts as a great flourish to the magnificent Italian gardens.

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Castle Ash ©whitemillsmarina.co.uk
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Castle Ash by Entrance  ©Haarkon.co.uk
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Landscaping  ©Haarkon.co.uk

2. Neuschwanstein Castle, Germany

Emerging from a small Bavarian town, the tower and turrets could be distinguished from far ahead. From being a “fairy-like” fantastical structure to getting inspired by major designers into getting implemented in the modernist castles, this 19th CE project evolves into a magical aura. The main complex consisted of a gatehouse, two courtyards, the palas, and a keep with the chapel, Ladies’ and Knight’s house, and a square tower. The structure of the chapel is modeled in brick over the concrete foundation and a clad in limestone. The interiors of the castle are highly dominated by Gothic ornamentations. Windows were three meters tall frames, the largest to be built in the era.

The castle seems to have been much equipped with services that were enigmatic in that era. Not just the tall windows but the central heating or cooling and lavatory automatic flushing techniques. Pair of intercom telephones connected to the floors and an electric bell that could be used to call the servants. This ideal romantic castle is now home to 1.4 million tourists each year. The structure has been largely inspired by Disney Land’s Sleeping beauty Castle.

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Neuschwanstein Castle  ©Getty Images
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Interiors  ©acis
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View of castle  ©Flickr user Julian

3. PENA PALACE, PORTUGAL

Looming at the top of the Sintra Hills, Pena Palace sets an exceptional example of 19th CE Romanticism and a classic UNESCO World Heritage Site. Standing as one of the seven wonders of Portugal, the building combines the decorative elements of Neo-Romanesque, Neo-Gothic, Neo-Manueline, and Neo-Moorish with Indo-Gothic. It’s the perfect collaboration of towers, turrets, arches, windows, and drops that create a melodious unique effect. This is a view of the terrace showcasing the Neo-Arab turret features.

The structure is separated into four sections. The first section constitutes two of the gateways, surrounding walls, and foundations. The second section has a clock tower and restored structure of an old convent.

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Pena Palace  ©Sintra Portugal
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Terrace with Neo-Arab  ©Portugal Virtual

The third, highly artistic are the arches and yard stands in front of the chapel while fourth being the palatial zone where interiors are decorated in a cathedral style. Some of the striking features are:

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Triton arch symbolizing the Creation  ©Portugal Virtual
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Twisted Columns  ©Portugal Virtual
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Noble Hall  ©Portugal Virtual
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Edla Chalet  ©Portugal Virtual
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Chapel altarpiece alabaster  ©Portugal Virtual
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Manueline cloister preserved from the old monastery  ©Portugal Virtual

4. Château de Chambord, France

Highly influenced by the works of Leonardo Da Vinci, the castle has been greatly reflected in the era of the Renaissance. It constitutes a unique Greek layout where the courtyard would be centralized surrounded by the building. The double helix staircase is undoubtedly one of the most remarkable features. They are wide and are designed in such a way that no two people have to ever cross paths.

An enormous fireplace and a highly sculpted vault ceiling that calls out the space to be more grandeur and monumental. Being an excellent example of Renaissance, this castle showcases immense medieval characteristics. High ornamentation can be observed in the keeps, towers, and turrets. These embellishments contrast with the humble surface of the facade walls of the Chateau.

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Château de Chambord  ©Robert Harding
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Plans  ©Domaine National de Chambord
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Double helix Staircase  ©Flickr
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The highest parts of Chateau De Chambord ©Explore France

5. Alcázar of Seville, Spain

The Royal Palace of Seville, a magnificent castle of patios, halls, and courtyards inspired by Moorish and Gothic styles. The large gate at the entrance is a massive, defensive wall decorated by decorative ceramic tile work depicting a lion (lion’s gate). Lobed arched windows and blind arches are a primary striking feature when entering the building.

Salon de Embajadores which is one of the most magnificent parts of the palace constitutes intricate decorated hallways and archways with horseshoe arches. Moorish style gilded Dome is made of interlaced wood. Another section of the castle constitutes the gothic vaulted hall decorated with tapestries. The lush gardens are an intrigued feature of the castle. They are terraced and laid out in a number of diverse styles including French, Italian and Arab. The gardens are decorated with fountains, grottos, a labyrinth, and a tiny artificial mountain.

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Alcázar of Seville, Spain  ©Flickr
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Wall intricates  ©Pinterest
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Lush Landscaping  ©Sapphire and Elm

From the medieval period to the present modern era, these castles and forts have been romanticized and transformed into wealth, honor, and chivalry. America’s Disney group has been inspired by the Neuschwanstein Castle and placed them right in the hearts of Orlando, Florida, Paris, and France. Not just the Disney Group but many other Americans and Europeans have been inspired to extract the magnificent features of the castles and place them right on their monumental or governmental buildings or residences.

Author

Nishtha is a 23 years old Architecture Graduate from India currently working with an award-winning Architecture company based in Florida, USA. She is involved in various departments including Design, Management and Writing for their projects. Her participation in International Conferences and Summer Abroad Programs while exploring around the world, let her inner thoughts flow in having a Vision of helping others through architecture and that is how she wants to leave a mark wherever she goes.

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