Marilyn Stokstad

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Marilyn Stokstad (February 16, 1929 – March 4, 2016) was an American art historian of medieval and Spanish art, Judith Harris Murphy Distinguished Professor Emerita of Art History at the University of Kansas, and an author of art-history textbooks

Quotes[edit]

Medieval castles (2005)[edit]

  • The castle was far more than a walled and turreted fortress; it was an instrument of social control and the symbol of power, authority, and wealth.
    • Preface
  • Were castles really as rough and rugged as their owners? The answer seems to be, “not necessarily.” Castles were indeed rough and rugged fortresses, the product of an essentially elite, masculine warrior society, what today we call a feudal society. But they were also among the finest buildings of their times—secure, well-built residences that supported the complex rituals of noble life. To understand how castle form came to meet castle function, we must look briefly at the castle’s social and economic underpinnings.
    • Overview: Castles in Context
  • Never as neat or well organized as many descriptions suggest, in essence feudalism involved the exchange of grants of land for military and political service, sealed by personal oaths between the lord and the vassal. The castle has been called the perfect architectural expression of the European feudal age.
    • Overview: Castles in Context
  • The Church attempted to regulate this rather violent society, and eventually a code of honor evolved known as the code of chivalry. (...) Those who aspired to be knights had to have aristocratic ancestors and wealth enough to own warhorses and armor and to provide for a team of supporters.
    • Overview: Castles in Context
  • Women played a greater role than might be expected in this elite warrior society, as heiresses and chatelaines in charge of castles (see Documents 44–53). Since land was the basis of status and power, estates were kept intact by being passed on to the oldest son rather than being divided among all the children. In spite of high infant mortality and short life expectancies, a family hoped that at least one son survived to inherit lands and titles. Younger sons hoped to gain an estate of their own by marrying an heiress.
    • Overview: Castles in Context
  • An alternate career path for a woman lay in the Church, where as a nun she escaped the dangers of childbirth. In the convent she could hold any position except that of priest, and as an abbess or prioress she had great power and responsibility.
    • Overview: Castles in Context
  • Before we continue our story we must stop to ask, “What is a castle?” Once a castle was defined simply as the fortified and self-sufficient dwelling of an individual feudal lord. Today we know that castles had many functions, both practical and symbolic. The castle was a new ar chitectural form—part fortress, part residence, part statehouse, part the atrical stage. Furthermore, every castle was different, depending on the wealth of the builder, the reason for the castle (control of territory, bor der, coastlines), the local geography (availability of naturally defensible sites), the knowledge of the master builder or patron, the available ma terials, the degree of urgency (speed), and finally the building traditions of the region (the techniques the workmen knew and used). In short, there is no such thing as a typical castle; a castle was a very special build ing whose form and function answered the needs of people living in Eu rope from the eleventh through the fifteenth century.
    • Overview: Castles in Context
  • When a strong central authority protects borders and reduces internal crime, people have little need for fortified dwellings, although the rulers may build walls and towers to define legitimate residents and defend the country against external threats. When central authority breaks down, however, individuals are more likely to fortify their homes. The presence of castles in the landscape indicates a decline in stability and peace.
    • Overview: Castles in Context
  • As they captured each territory, William and his men secured their camps with simple earth and timber defenses characteristic of northern Europe (...). These wooden structures have disintegrated, but sometimes their earthen mounds survive as rolling hills or picturesque elements in the landscape. Timber castles were especially useful to a warrior king like William the Conqueror who moved rapidly to bring new territories under control. The earth and timber castles could be built quickly, since the newly moved earth did not have to support great weight. Such structures were also relatively cheap because they required no specialized masons and expensive stone. Since the timber building tradition was widespread both in the British Isles and on the continent, the carpenters knew the building techniques. These castles were essentially towers and stockades; they provided garrison headquarters as well as residences.
    • Ch. 1 : The Great Tower : Norman and Early Plantagenet Castles
  • Ninth-century castles were relatively small and simple affairs designed to safeguard a relatively small number of people and intended as a refuge during times of trouble.
    • Ch. 1 : The Great Tower : Norman and Early Plantagenet Castles
  • A motte and bailey castle consists of a man-made hill (the motte) supporting a tower and a walled yard (the bailey). (...) Early castle builders looked for a natural hill on which to erect a timber tower, but since a hill might not be available where fortifications were needed, they raised a flat-topped, conical earthen mound by digging a circular trench or ditch the desired diameter and heaping up the dirt in the center.
    • Ch. 1 : The Great Tower : Norman and Early Plantagenet Castles
  • Wherever they went, William and his Norman lieutenants built castles. About 170 great vassals came to England with William. When the king rewarded his followers with grants of land, they also assumed the responsibility for its defense, so each built one or more castles. William and his men had several reasons for building castles. As hostile invaders they had to fortify their dwellings and camps in order to hold the territory and provide security for themselves. Their castles also secured borders and coastlines against other invaders and controlled the movement of people and goods at key transportation centers such as fords, bridges, and passes and along major roads.
    • Ch. 1 : The Great Tower : Norman and Early Plantagenet Castles
  • Stone towers appeared early in the Loire River valley. The massive ruin at Langeais, recently dated 992, was once a broad tower with four corner turrets. Today it stands in the park of a fifteenth-century chateau. Not far off, at Loches, the tower is the earliest surviving great tower to combine within its walls a hall, the lord’s chamber, and a chapel. Recent analysis of the wood used in the original building has dated this tower between 1012 and 1035.
    • Ch. 1 : The Great Tower : Norman and Early Plantagenet Castles
  • By the time Henry II Plantagenet (r. 1154–89) was crowned king of England in 1154, baronial castles outnumbered royal castles. A tough, dynamic ruler, Henry began to rectify the situation at once. In the north, King Malcolm of Scotland surrendered to him, giving Henry significant castles in Scotland and in the border territory. Many older castles like Windsor were strengthened. At Dover the masonry great tower and fore building were built in the 1180s, and concentric walls with half-round towers were added by Richard the Lion Hearted seventeen years later.
    • Ch. 1 : The Great Tower : Norman and Early Plantagenet Castles
  • As castle design evolved, the great tower was eventually replaced by walled enclosures, which permitted more effective use of troops and better living conditions. The future of castle design lay with the curtain wall, that is, a wall “hung” like a curtain between towers, each of which functioned like a keep.
    • Ch. 1 : The Great Tower : Norman and Early Plantagenet Castles
  • Warfare had become endemic in eleventh- and twelfth-century Europe. Castle building used up the resources of the land as every landholder from the king and great nobles to the small landholders fortified their dwellings. Constant skirmishing, brigandage, and open warfare at home and abroad meant that people poured vast resources into training and equipping warriors and building castles and siege machines. The motte and bailey castle with its great tower, as the keep or donjon is called in medieval documents, was admirably suited as a defense against local skirmishes.
    • Ch. 2 : The Castle as Fortress : The Castle and Siege Warfare
  • The siege warfare of the Middle Ages consisted of blockading the castle in hopes of destroying it or taking it over for one’s own use. In peacetime castles controlled the surrounding land, but when hostilities broke out they provided passive resistance and served as a base of operations.
    • Ch. 2 : The Castle as Fortress : The Castle and Siege Warfare
  • When an attacking force laid siege to a castle, they used techniques and weapons not unlike those developed by the ancient Romans. First they surrounded the castle in order to cut off all avenues of escape and resupply. They also built a camp ringed by ditches and palisades to secure their own position. Then they built siege engines—great stonethrowing devices—which they hoped would break down the castle walls. Although the knights’ chivalric code gave pride of place in warfare to a charge on horseback with lance or to hand-to-hand combat with swords, military engineers skilled in the mechanics of offensive engines had to first break through the walls. To breach the walls the army used battering rams, various kinds of projectiles, and mines. In other words they tried to go through, over, or under the walls.
    • Ch. 2 : The Castle as Fortress : The Castle and Siege Warfare
  • Richard the Lion Hearted, who became king of England in 1189, had inherited Aquitaine (western France) from his mother Eleanor and Normandy and Anjou—and England—from his father Henry. As Duke of Normandy and Anjou, Richard was a vassal of the king of France, but he controlled more land in France than did the French king. Although Richard had been an ally of Philip Augustus in the Third Crusade, in 1192 he went to war with the king over his French lands. Richard built Chateau Gaillard (he called it the “cocky castle”) on a cliff above the Seine north of Paris to defend his claims to Normandy. (...) Richard chose an excellent site, in the territory of the archbishop of Rouen, who objected strenuously until Richard paid him a handsome sum for the land. (...) Richard also raised money by selling rights of citizenship to residents of the town.
    • Ch. 2 : The Castle as Fortress : The Castle and Siege Warfare
  • Chateau Gaillard had utilized the last of the newly built, huge great towers, and Rochester had depended on its early twelfth-century tower. During the course of the thirteenth century defense shifted to a towered wall, the enceinte or enclosure castle. Two plans emerged: the castle could rely on a series of courtyards, which had to be taken one after another, or on a concentric defense in which a second wall entirely surrounded the inner wall.
    • Ch. 2 : The Castle as Fortress : The Castle and Siege Warfare
  • Constant warfare, especially against the Muslims, gave rise to a new type of military man—one who combined the character and role of both monk and warrior. These knights, organized into military orders, served officially under the Pope but were essentially independent. Their grand master was both an abbot and a general. They lived under a modified Cistercian rule, and they took monastic vows of obedience, poverty, and chastity. As monks, in theory they owned nothing; for example, their horses and armor were loaned to them by the order. In practice they became a wealthy and often arrogant standing army. Having studied Byzantine and Muslim castles and warfare, they built huge castles that changed castle design in Europe.
    • Ch. 2 : The Castle as Fortress : The Castle and Siege Warfare
  • Castles were more than military posts; they were the centers of political and economic power. As government headquarters they were built to impress the local population as well as visitors and rivals. While power was spread among great tenants-in-chief in a system of delegated government, castles in each territory were places where local lords collected taxes, settled disputes, and administered justice.
    • Ch. 3 : The Castle as Headquarters : The Political and Economic Role of the Castle
  • Castles continued to be the focus of economic activity as the center of an agricultural domain. Wealth continued to be measured in land and its produce. The only access the lord had to his wealth was to move from one estate to another consuming products from the harvests. Housing and feeding a household including retainers and servants required vasts amount of food and space for food preparation.
    • Ch. 3 : The Castle as Headquarters : The Political and Economic Role of the Castle
  • A sharp contrast existed between the upper classes who constantly moved from manor to manor and the peasants who were tied to the land and lived in agricultural villages outside the castle walls. Yet economic opportunities expanded for both groups.
    • Ch. 3 : The Castle as Headquarters : The Political and Economic Role of the Castle
  • Whether looming over the land as a symbol of a ruler’s authority or providing a setting for displays of wealth and power in spectacular feasts and tournaments, castles made a visual statement about their owners. All ar chitecture has symbolic overtones, and the castle is a potent image.
    • Ch. 4 : The Castle as Symbol and Palace
  • Just as towers and crenellations indicated a building’s status, so the crenellated wall signified a castle in the visual arts and in that distinctive medieval sign language known as heraldry. The heraldic symbol of the kingdom of Castile, for example, consisted of a wall and three crenellated towers. This simple composition was easily recognized and reproduced.
    • Ch. 4 : The Castle as Symbol and Palace
  • At the end of the Middle Ages, castles began to lose their military func tion, but not their psychological impact as a symbol of authority. Gun powder and cannons supported armies of mercenary troops, and the garrison forts built to house them adopted the crenellated walls of private aristocratic castles. By the sixteenth century, professional soldiers lived in barracks, a few officers and the governor had finer quarters, and kings and nobles merely directed the operations from distant palaces where battle ments had become purely symbolic decoration. The Battle of Crecy be tween France and England in 1346 is traditionally considered to be the first use of cannons on the battlefield. At first the noise and smoke cre ated by the explosion terrified horses and men, and wreaked more havoc than the projectiles. Early cannons could be more dangerous for the gun ners than for the enemy, but military engineers rapidly developed the weapons’ power and accuracy. A castle’s high walls and towers made easy targets for gunners whose power and accuracy reduced once formidable medieval buildings to rubble. Mining became more successful because the attackers could put explosives under the walls.
    • Ch. 5 : Impact and Consequences : The Afterlife of the Castle

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