Castle Preservation and Restoration

Castle Preservation and Restoration

We could create a stand along blog on the subject of castle preservation and restoration. The fact that many castles have survived for many hundreds of years with varying degrees of intervention gives them a sense of permanence, but ruins of castles like Richard the Lionheart’s Château Gaillard (pictured above) remind us that survival is often politically motivated and always requires a passionate visionary. Dan Snow described the challenges faced by visitors and researchers to Malaga’s Gibralfaro Castle, which were subject to improvements made during Franco’s regime.  This type of restoration project is motivated by attracting tourists and not necessarily historical preservation. As mentioned above, Château Gaillard now lies in ruins.  We have heard that it was used as a rock quarry at some point in the past to build a nearby abbey or church.  I believe this happened was because Chateau Gaillard was build by an English king on French soil.  It’s very existence  didn’t mesh with the power narrative put forward by the French victors. Thus it wasn’t considered worth preserving, despite the fact when it was built it was considered the finest castle of its age. The granddaddy of military fortification restoration was Eugène Viollet-le Duc.  Perhaps, his most ambitious monument was the walled city of Carcassone, but he also did work on Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. He also wrote treatises on French architecture and much of how we imagine castles to be can be ascribed to his nineteenth century romanticism of Gothic architecture. A Masters thesis written by Francesc Xavier Costa Guix called Viollet-le-Duc’s Restoration of the Cite of Carcassone: a nineteenth century monument describes the challenges inherent...
Dover Castle: Long Serving Military Site

Dover Castle: Long Serving Military Site

It was clear when we began researching castles that some sites had been considered defensive positions of hundreds and sometimes thousands of years.  We knew that Crac des Chevaliers had been the site of “an outdated Kurdish fort” and that the origins of the Alcazaba in Malaga where lost in time when Yusuf decided to further secure the location.  It’s worth considering other evidence of development at Dover.  There is clear evidence of its Roman and Saxon past.  As a result we can argue that Dover is the longest serving military site in England, through which we can trace many developments of English military history. Dan Snow provides a quick introduction to Dover as more than a castle: The Saxon church he refers has been often restored and updated, but embodies its Kentish location with chunks of local flint embedded in the mortar, like the walls of the castle itself. I was so charmed that this photo of the doors has been my cell phone wallpaper since I visited nearly four years ago. The guidebooks refer to Iron Age earthworks at the site of Dover Castle, but they never go into much detail.  From the height of the Keep at Dover Castle you do get the sense of the the earthworks which would have protected the early site. Compare these earthworks to the one that I found referenced in a guidebook to Dover Castle I found by William Batcheller back in 1828. Batchellor proposed that the origins of the church dated back into Roman times due to the presence of Roman tiles in the structure, although most modern sources claim it was around...
Secrets of Castle Design Revealed

Secrets of Castle Design Revealed

We’re always surprised by the things that we learn while on location filming.  Of special interest are the secrets of castle design we see in some castles given their rather skeletal condition.  This is the especially true of castles like Crac des Chevaliers and Conwy, but less so of Dover Castle which has been better maintained and restored as it has stayed in near constant use over time. So there is no substitute for being there and seeing in person the things you’ve been reading about.  We loved searching for evidence of features that were built right into the structures.  Take for instance this tower at Conwy Castle.  You see the shape of the fireplaces on each level, as well the supports for the floors and floor joists. These things can be explained of course, but being there gives you the added benefit of scale. So this was the case when Dan visited the kitchens which are located on the ground floor of the Keep at Dover Castle.  Check out his vlog post and to see the surprising flaw in the design.  It could be that the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach! What has been your best discovery when you’ve visited a castle in person? Share a photo or video to our Facebook page or via Twitter. Come back every week for a new Medieval Monday...