Siegecraft II - No Fortress Impregnable (2021) (Book)

Siegecraft II - No Fortress Impregnable


It has been said that the taking of a fortress depends primarily on the making of a good plan to take it, and the proper implementation and application of the resources to make the plan work. Long before a fortress has been besieged and conquered, it has to have been out thought before it can be outfought.

A siege can be described as an assault on an opposing force attempting to defend itself from behind a position of some strength. Whenever the pendulum of technology swings against the "status quo," the defenders of a fortification have usually been compelled to surrender.

This book contains examples of sieges, both successful and unsuccessful, demonstrating that no matter how securely a fortress or defensive position is constructed and defended, eventually a good plan and a determined besieger can overcome it.  One way or another, time, willpower and determined effort will be brought together in sufficient quantity and quality to bring a siege or a defence to a successful conclusion.  It will be argued through the examples presented in this book that ultimately, “no fortress is impregnable.”

You can order Siegecraft II on line here:

The cover of Siegecraft II is an illustration of a Medieval trebuchet in action during the First Crusade (1095–1099), from a book made for King Louis IX (or Saint Louis) of France in 1250.  (Pierpont Morgan Library, New-York)

Trebuchet illustration.

Siegecraft Glossary

Abacus        The flat portion on top of a capital.

Abbatis        An obstacle made by placing cut trees or pointed poles length-wise at a 45° angle to the ground in front of a defensive position, with sharpened ends pointed towards the attacker.

Aisle            The space between an arcade and an outer wall.

Allure          Wall-walk, or passage behind the parapet of the battlements on a castle wall.

Ambulatory The aisle around an apse.

Approach     A trench, at least 10 feet in depth and width, dug toward a fortress.  Approaches were intended to shield the besieger from the fortress’s fire and served as communications trenches for the movement of wagons and guns to the more advanced positions.

Apse            The rounded end of a chancel or chapel.

Arcade         Arow of arches, free-standing and supported on piers or columns.  A blind arcade is known as a dummy.

Arch            Round-headed, pointed, two-centered or drop, which is an arch struck from center on the springing-line.  An ogee is a pointed arch with double-curved sides, upper arcs convex, lower concave.  A lancet is a pointed arch formed on an acute-angle triangle.  A depressed arch is flattened or elliptical.

Archère        A narrow-slit or loophole in castle walls for archers to fire through.

Arrow Slit    A narrow slit in towers or curtain walls which allowed archers to shoot through. They were carefully spaced to avoid weakening the castle’s masonry.  There were generally two kinds: the single, upright slit and the cross-shaped slit for use with a crossbow.  Also called an Arrow Loop.

Ashlar          Worked stone or masonry with a flat surface, or squared stone in regular courses.

Aumbry       A recess in a wall used to hold sacred vessels, often found in castle chapels.

Bailey          A courtyard, specifically the area enclosed within a curtain wall or palisade.  It would provide space for outbuildings such as the kitchen and stables. The term is applied to any court within a series of walls.  Also known as a Ward.

Ballista         A siege engine resembling a crossbow, which uses tension to throw projectiles, hurl missiles or fire large arrows.

Baluster       A short shaft, such as is used in balustrades, usually thicker in the middle than at the ends.

Banquette     A step or ledge behind the parapets of a rampart, a covered way, or of a trench, to enable soldiers to fire over them at attackers.

Barbican      A masonry outwork built to protect the approach to a castle.  It was primarily a form of protective stonework for a gateway used to defend the approaches to a bridge or gatehouse.

Barmkin       Outer fortification of a castle.  Also, a siege tower, known as a Belfry.

Barrel Roof   A roof shaped like a covered wagon or inverted ship’s hull.  

Barrel Vault  A plain vault with a uniform cross-section.

Bartizan       A small overhanging turret projecting from the top of a wall or tower, also known as an Eschaugette.  Often an overhanging battlemented corner turret, corbelled out. Common in France and Scotland.

Bascule        A gate at the entrance of a fort, raised and lowered by counterweights.

Bastide         Military settlements laid out in a Roman pattern in southern France, 14thCentury.

Bastille         Redoubt or outwork.

Bastion        A small tower at the end of a curtain wall or in the middleof the outside wall.  It is usually afour-sided projection from the main rampart in an enceinte of a fortress,consisting of two faces and two flanks. Also, a fortified projection occurring at intervals in a castle wall.  These were usually a low, solid masonryprojection, generally sharp-angled and designed to provide the maximum amountof flank protection to the curtain walls and to its neighbouring bastions,while at the same time providing as small a target as possible to theattackers. “Tours bastionées” were bastions with two or more stories introducedby Vauban in the 17thcentury.

Batter           Astrong sloping or scarped side of a curtain wall thicker at the base.  The sharp angle atthe base of all walls and towers along their exterior surface. Alsoknown as a Talus.  Inclined face of awall, therefore “battered.”

Battlement    Narrow wall built along the outer edge of the wall walk   An indented parapet with a series ofopenings originally designed for shooting through and to protect archers withraised parts in between known as ”merlons” or crenellations.

Bays            A constituent portion or compartment of a building,complete in itself and corresponding to other portions.  Also refers to internal divisions of abuilding marked by roof principals or vaulting piers.

Belfry          A siege tower, also called a Beffroi.

Bergfried     Atall, narrow tower similar to a keep, found in many castles in Germany and German speaking countries.

Berm            A flat space between the base of the curtain wall and the inner edge of the moat.  It is also a narrow ledge between the ditch and the base of the parapet next to a moat or ditch, designed to prevent earth and debris from falling into the ditch when the parapet was struck by projectiles.

Berquil         A large outdoor reservoir found in Crusader and Muslim castles.

Bivalate        A hillfort defended by two concentric ditches.

Bombard      An early cannon that fired stones or other projectiles.

Boyau          A communication trench.

Bracket        Apiece of stone or wood projecting from a wall, used to support hoarding ormachicolation.  Also known as a Console.

Brattice        Atimber tower or projecting wooden gallery. An open-floored latrine or machicolation over a gate, also called aBretèche.

Breach         Ahole or gap blown in the rampart or wall of a fortification by projectiles ormining, wide enough for a body of troops to enter the inner works of afortress.

Brown Bess   Britishmusket, 1750, caliber .75.

Burgh          A fortified Anglo-Saxon township.

Buttery         Room for the service of beverages.

Buttress        A projection from a wall for additional support.

Caponnière  A covered passage from the main wall of a fortress with firing ports for muskets, intended to provide communication with the outworks.  It is also a strong casemated work of 6 or 7-foot parapets sloping perpendicularly down to the ditch in order to provide additional flanking fire for the ditch.

Cascane       A hole sunk by the defenders in the platform of the rampart to provide an escape for mines or made by the attackers as a way up from mines made below the moat.

Casemate     A bombproof chamber or gallery generally built into the thickness of the ramparts and used as barracks or for firing positions. Early versions were normally fitted with loopholes for archers.  Later versions housed cannons that fired through embrasures in the scarp.  Vaulted in permanent fortifications, casemates also appeared in tiers in seacoast defences of the 19th century. They were often sighted in the base of a tower from which flanking fire could be given.

Castellan      The governor, commander, or officer in charge of a castle, also known as a Constable.

Castellation   Battlements used as a decorative feature.

Cat               A nickname for an assault tower or penthouse, which is used as a moveable shelter for miners, sappers, and ram operators.  Also called a Sow or Mouse.

Catapult       Stone-throwing engine, usually employing torsion.

Cavalier       A raised work built on the rampart, terreplein of a bastion, or of a curtain wall where an artillery battery could be placed.

Cesspit         The opening in a wall in which the waste from one or more garderobes (toilets) was collected.

Chamfer       A masonry surface made by smoothing or paring off the angle between two stonefaces.

Chandelles   Posts set up to provide a concealing screen for the defenders.

Chemin couvert  A level walk on the far side of the moat, protected by the parapet formed by the higher portion of the glacis, with “places d’armes” at intervals.

Chemin de ronde   The rounds, a narrow walkway or passage on top of the scarp wall at the base of the exterior slope of a rampart.  It was protected by a small parapet, and was used by soldiers to make their rounds, to observe the glacis at close range, and to defend against attempts at escalade.

Chemise       An inner walled enclosure of a castle built closely around a Donjon or Keep protecting it. The wall either completely surrounds it or joins on to it.

Chevaux-de-frise  Defensive obstructions generally used in field fortifications to check cavalry charges, but also used to close breaches.  These consisted of large pieces of timber, 10-12 feet long, into which were driven many long wooden pins tipped with iron points.

Chevron       Zigzag moulding generally found in 12thcentury castles.

Circumvallation  A line of entrenchments cut by besiegers in the surrounding country to prevent a relieving force’s surprising of the besieger’s camp.

Citadel         A small but strong work of four to six bastions or sides, usually at one corner within a fortified town, intended to dominate and protect the town if the main works fell.

Clunch         Hard chalk material.

Cob              Unburnt clay mixed with straw.

Composite bow  A bow made of three basic layers of dissimilar materials, usually wood, horn, and sinew.  This combined the best features of each to yield a bow that was stronger and more resilient than the simple bows of just wood.  It also meant that a much shorter bow could be much stronger than the longer simple bows.

Concentric Castle  A central fortress ringed by a series of outer curtain walls.  This design of castles dates from the late 12thcentury onwards and generally consists of two or more complete circles of walls within one another.  The ground plan gives all sides equal stength against an attacker, while simultaneously permitting the defenders to respond more quickly to an attack on any part of the garrison.

Contravallation  A line of entrenchments made at the beginning of a siege facing the fortification that is under attack in order to prevent a sortie or assault from the fortification.

Console       A bracket, generally describing the supports from which machicolations were built out from a wall.

Constable     The officer or official in charge of a castle in the owner’s absence.

Contregardes  Protective works in front of the bastions.

Contrescarpe  The sloping outer side of the moat next to the covered way, usually revetted.

Corbel          A stone, brick, or timber bracket supporting a projection from a wall to provide a horizontal support.

Cordon        The rounded stone moulding or band below the parapet of the revetment of the rampart going all around the fort.

Cornes         Hornwork(ouvrage à conres), a work outside the fort and detached from it, with two half bastions ending in acute angels on the front facing the attacker.

Cornice        A decorative projection along the top ofa wall.

Corve’e        Unpaidor lowly paid labour, rendered to a lord by a vassal or as a substitute fortaxes.

Corvus         The word means crow or raven in Latin,for a Roman naval boarding device used in sea battles against Carthageduring the First Punic War.

Cour d’honneur  The reception courtyard of a Château.

Countercastle  A castle or defence-work erected by besiegers to protect their operations.  

Counterfort  Interior buttresses built behind scarp walls in order to strengthen them.

Counterscarp  The outer wall or slope of a ditch, the side away from the body of the position.  The counterscarp was usually faced with stone or brick to make the besieger’s descent into the ditch more difficult and might also be used to support the covered way.

Counterscarp gallery  A work situated behind the counterscarp from which the ditch could be enfiladed with reverse fire.

Covered Way  A broad  road extending around the counterscarp of the ditch and protected by the parapet from enemy fire, intended to form a “communication” around the position.  At its foot was the banquette, used to cover the glacis with musket fire to prevent the enemy from approaching the counterscarp of the ditch. It also functioned as a place of assembly for sorties.  Also known as the via coperta.

Course         A level layer of stones or bricks.

Coursière     A wooden roof erected over a wall-walk.

Courtine       Curtain,the long straight front of the rampart from the re-entering angles of thejunction of the bastions with the front of the rampart.

Crenellation  A notched battlement made up of alternate crenels(openings) and merlons (square saw-teeth) in battlements.  Embrasures or gaps in a parapet through which archers or musketeers could fire. Crenellate means “to fortify.”

Crosswall     An interior dividing wall of a castle.

Crownwork  An outwork similar in shape to a crown, with two fronts and two branches.  The fronts were composed of two half-bastions and one whole one and were generally placed in front of the curtain or bastion.  They were intended to enclose buildings that could not be brought within the body of the place, to cover the town gates, or to occupy ground that might be advantageous to the attacker.

Crupper       Strap going from saddle around the backside and under the tail of the horse.  The combination with the breast and girth straps gave some support for steadying the rider (especially valuable if an archer) but was not even close to the steadiness gained with the later arrival of real saddles with stirrups.

Crusades      Holy Wars.  There are many that took place in the Middle Ages.  The most important were the First, 1096-1102; Second, 1147-1149; Third, 1189-1192; Fourth, 1202-1204; Fifth, 1218-1221; Sixth, 1228-1229; Seventh, 1248-1254; and Eighth, 1270.

Curtain Wall  The main outer defence wall of a castle’s fortifications, which connect adjacent flanking-towers, bastions, or gates.  A length or portion of connecting wall hung between two towers or bastions.  Also known as a Courtine.

Cuvette        A narrow secondary trench or ditch sunk in the center of the moat or the bottom of a dry ditch for drainage purposes. Also known as a Cunette.

Daub            A mud and clay mixture applied over wattle to strengthen and seal it.

Dead Angle An angle of view where thee ground can’t be seen by the defenders and istherefore indefensible.

Dead Ground  Anyarea at the base of fortifications where the attackers cannot be reached by the arrows or projectiles launched by the defenders.

Demilune     A detached triangular work built in the moat. It is also a work constructed to cover the curtain and shoulders of the bastion.  It was composed of two faces forming a salient angle toward the country. It had two demigorges formed by the counterscarp and was surrounded by a ditch.  The demilune was also called a ravelin.

Diaper Work  Castle decorations using squares or lozenges.

Ditch            A dry wide, and deep trench around a defensive work designed to either stop the attacker from crossing, or at least hampering them in doing so.  The dirt from its excavation was used to form the rampart and parapet, and when it was filled with water it was known as a wet ditch.

Dogtooth     A design or decoration in the form of diagonal indented pyramids.

Donjon        The inner stronghold of a castle, usually found in one of the towers.  Donjon is the French word for a castle’s Keep (not a dungeon). The word is derived from the Latin ”dominus” which means “lord.”  It indicates the dominion of the keep-holder, but was later changed into “dungeon,” which means prison.  In Germany it is known as a Burgfried, and in Italy it is called a Mastio.

Dormer        A window placed vertically in a sloping roof.

Drawbridge  A heavy timber platform built to span a moat between a gatehouse and surrounding land that could be raised when required to block an entrance.  It was a moveable bridge generally hinged at one end and free at the other, that can be drawn up to prevent an attacker crossing a ditch or moat in front of the gate.  It could be in the form of a simple moveable plank, while others were pulled up by chains mounted on pulleys.  More elaborate versions utilized a counter-poise system in which the chains were suspended from beams which fitted into recesses provided for them above the entrance to house them when they were drawn up.  Others worked on a pivot so that the inner part of the bridge fell into a pit, while the outer part completely covered the entrance.

Dressing      Carved stonework around openings.

Drum Tower  A large circular tower, usually low andsquat.

Drystone      Unmortared masonry.

Embattled    Battlemented walls.

Embrasure   The low segment of the alternating high and low segments of a battlement.  It is a small opening cut through a parapet or wall sighted between the merlons, forming crenellations through which cannon or other weapons could be fired.  The sides of the embrasure usually splayed or flared on the inside of the wall to protect the defenders from attacking fire and to provide a broader sweep or range of fire.

Enceinte       An enclosing wall, usually exterior, of a fortified place.  It also comprised the full circuit of curtain walls, ramparts, parapets, and towers that formed the main enclosure around a fortification or castle.

Enfilade       Artillery or musket fire that swept a line of troops or the length of a defence work from one end to the other.  The equivalent naval term would be “to rake.”

Epaule         A rectangular recess at the junction of the flanks of bastions with the courtine.

Escalade       The assault of a castle by climbing orscaling its walls.

Eshaugette   Aturret projecting from the top of a wall or tower, also know as a Bartizan.

Face             Ina bastion, this is the exposed outer wall between the flanked angle and the shoulder angle.  It is also one of the two sides of the bastion that converged to a salient angle pointing outwards toward the country and was situated on the line of the defense.  The sides of bastions facing the attacker and meeting at an angle at the salient point of the bastion.

Fascine        Along cylindrical bundle of sticks or brush firmly bound together at short, regular intervals, and used in building earthworks and batteries and in  strengthening ramparts.  Fascines were also used to fill ditches during a siege or assault on a fortified position.

Fausse-braye  A low, outer rampart usually built of earth, which stood in front of the curtain wall.  It provided shelter for troops firing against the besiegers before they entered the ditch.  Under bombardment, debris from the wallbehind tended to wound its defenders, and by the end of the 17thcentury, its use was largely abandoned by engineers.

Fieldwork    Temporary fortifications constructed in thefield.

Fillet            A narrow flat band for decoration.

Finial           A slender piece of stone used to decorate the tops of the merlons.

Flanc Fichant  Fire given from a flank to the bastion opposite.

Flanc Rasant  Fire that passes the “face” of the bastion opposite.

Flank           The section of a bastion between the face and the curtain, from which the ditch in front of the adjacent curtain and that flank and face of the opposite bastion were defended.

Flanking      The design of fortifications is such a way as to ensure that the approaches to each tower are covered by neighbouring towers. Flanking eliminates dead ground in order to ensure that no approach is safe for an attacker.

Flèche          A simple V-shaped fieldwork with two faces that formed a salient angle.  Usually used in the fortification of walls where it was not necessary to build bastions. Also known as a Redan, the Flèche pointed toward the attacker and wasopen to the rear.

Fluting         Concave mouldings arranged in parallellines.

Foliated        Castle decorations carved in stone inthe form of leaves.

Footings      The bottom part of a wall.

Forebuilding  A projection infront of a keep or donjon, containing the stairs to the main entrance.  Also, a block-built n front of a keepto form a lobby or a landing.

Fossé           A moat or ditch, dry or wet.

Fraises         Palisades of pointed timbers 5 » square and 7 to 8 feet long, fixed horizontally between the main wall and the ditch or other earthwork, and in some cases slightly inclining toward the attackers. Their purpose was to hinder an assault while at the same time avoiding the provision of the kind of protection an abatis could offer.  Also known as storm poles.

Freestone     High-quality sandstone or limestone.

Fresco          A painting on a wet-plaster wall.

Gabion         Acylindrical wicker basket filled with earth and used during sieges to formtemporary defences or parapets and to reinforce fieldworks.

Gable           A wall covering the end of a roof-ridge.

Gallery         A long passage or room.

Ganerbenburg  A German term for a castle under the mutual ownership of several heirs.

Garderobe    Small latrine or toilet, either built into the thickness of the wall or projected out from it.

Gatehouse    The complex of towers, bridges, and barriers built to protect each entrance through a castle or town wall.  Essentially the fortifications specifically designed to guard the main or other points of entry into a castle.

Glacis          A gentle (less that 45°) bank, sloping away from the parapet of the covered way.  Its purpose was to expose an attacker to fire from the defenders. Since considerable time and labour went into removal of trees and scrub growth, and grading the soil, glacis were normally found only around permanent fortifications.

Gorge          The neck or the open rear portion of a bastion or other outwork.

Great Chamber  The overlord’s Solar, or his bed-sitting room.

Great Hall    The building in the inner ward that housed the main meeting and dining area for the castle's residents.

Groining      The angular edges formed by the intersection of cross-vaults in a ceiling.

Guerite         A sentry-box corbelled out from the angles of ramparts, also known as an echaugette.

Gunloop      An aperture for firing handguns through, similar in use to the Arrow Slit    There are many varieties, with some consisting of a round hole

forthe barrel of the gun, and a slit, sometimes vertical, often in the shape of across (making the cross and orb pattern), for sighting and to allow the gases to escape.

Half-shaft    Roll-moulding on either side of an opening.

Half-timber  The common form of medieval construction in which walls were made of a wooden frame structure filled with wattle and daub.

Hall              Principal living quarters ofa medieval castle or house.

Hall for hynds  Servants' hall.

Herringbone pattern  The placing of stones aslant in a wall so that each two rows form a succession of angles resembling the backbone of a herring.

Hillfort         A bronze or Iron Age earthwork made of ditches and banks.

Hoarding     A temporary covered wooden gallery or balcony suspended from the tops of walls and towers to provide vertical defense before a battle. Hoarding enabled defenders to see the base of a wall and to drop or accurately fire objects on the attackers below.

Hood           An arched covering.  When used to throw off rainwater, it is called a hood-mould.

Hornwork    An important outwork made up of a bastioned front with two demibastions and a curtain, and two long sides called branches/

Impost         A wall bracket used to support an arch.

Inner Curtain  The high wall that surrounds the inner ward.

Inner Ward  The open area in the center of a castle.

Investment   The process of isolating a fortress at the beginning of a siege by cutting off roads and taking control of all routes around it, so that it could not be relieved.

Jamb            The side of an arch, door, or window.

Joist             Timber which is laid from wall to wall to support floorboards.

Keep            English term for the donjon, usually the strongest and often the biggest tower or building within a castle.  It was oftenused as the place of last refuge and in later ages, as a residence.

Lancet          A long, narrow window with a pointed head.

Lantern orlouvre  A small open turret placed on aroof as an outlet for smoke.

Light            The spaces between the mullions and transoms of a window.

Line of defence (Ligne de defense)  A theoretical line extending from the flanked angle of a bastion along a face to the point of the adjacent bastion.  This line of fire determined the position of the face of the bastion relative to the flank that would defend it.

Lintel           A horizontal stone or beam bridging opening.

Lists             A term for the area designated for jousting. A few authors also use the word list to describe the spaces between two lines of towers and curtain walls in concentric castles.

Loop            A narrow opening.

Louvre         An opening in a roof, often vented to allow smoke to escape from a central hearth.

Machicolation  A stone projection or gallery mounted on brackets on the outside of castle walls with floor holes through which projectiles, missiles, molten lead, and other hot liquids could be dropped onto attackers at the base of the wall.  Wooden hoardings served the same purpose.

Madrier        A long plank.

Mangonel    A siege engine in the form of a catapult using torsion for flinging its missiles.

Mantlet        A moveable shield or mobile protective screen consisting of 3-inch planks, 5 feet high, sometimes covered with tin and mounted on wheels for use by besiegers as covering protection.

Merlon         The high part of the square “sawtooth” between crenelles ina battlement, and the solid part of masonry or brick parapets between the embrasures in a wall.

Meurtrière    An arrow loop, slit in battlement or wall to permit firing of arrows, or for observation.  Also, a loophole in a castle or fortification sited over a passageway to permit defenders to drop objects on the attackers below and known in English as“ murder holes.”

Mine Gallery  Siegeworks designed to cause a wall to collapse.

Moat            A water-filled ditch surrounding a castle, sometimes completely artificial, often partly natural in origin.  The word is derived from “motte,” originally meaning the highest part of the castle, which was transformed to name the ditch from which it was excavated. It could be either left dry or filled with water.

Motte           An artificial earth-mound for Norman and English keeps of 11th and 12thcentury castles.

Motte-and-Bailey  A steep artificial hillock or natural mound of earth often mounting a wooden or stone keep surrounded by a ditched and palisaded enclosure or courtyard.

Moulding     Decorative masonry.

Moulinette   A turnstile.

Mullion        The vertical divisions of stone or wood between the lightsof windows.

Multivallate   A hillfort with three or more concentriclines of defence.

Mural           A wall.

Murderhole  Openings in the floors of rooms in gatehouses above the passageway from the entrance to the castle or other important access routes.

Nailhead      Decorative pyramid moulding.

Neolithic      Of, or relating to, the last period of the Stone Age, with polished stone tools, bows and arrows, domestic animals, cultivated crops, wheels, weaving, and village life.

Newel          The centre-post of a circular staircase.

Nookshaft    A shaft set in the angle of a jamb or pier.

Onager         A heavy catapult.  Over the history of the Roman Empire the onager, catapult, and ballista changed in appearance, due to design changes, gradual technology improvements, and intended uses (such as fora lengthy siege or for a mobile attack). The catapult which could throw large spears looked at times like the ballista, which could be configured to throw small stones or wood or metal bolts (much like the later crossbow).

Oolite           Granular limestone.

Open Joint   A wide space between the faces of stones.

Oratory        A private chapel in a house or castle.

Orgues         A defence for the entrance to forts consisting of long heavy pieces of wood covered with iron, hung singly, and dropped separately to block entrance.

Oriel            A projecting window in a wall on an upper floor. Originally a form of porch, often made of wood.

Orillon         A curved or rounded projection (also known as an epaule, or “ear”) placed at the shoulder of a bastion, designed to cover a retired flank from fire.

Oubliette      Asecret dungeon or prison whose opening was a trap door from above.

OuterCurtain  The wall which enclosed theouter ward.

Outer Ward  The area around the outside of and adjacent to the inner curtain.

Outwork      Awork inside the glacis but outside the body of the fortification.

Ouvrages de couronnement  Crown works, fortifications supplementary to the hornwork.

Palisade       A sturdy wooden fence usually built to enclose a site until a permanent stone wall could be erected. They were usually constructed with sharpened wooden stakes or posts 9 feet long, 6” or 7” square and fixed 3 feet in the ground in rows with 3” spaces between the posts surrounding a castle or defensive position.  Also set in the covered way at a distance of 3 feet from the inner face of the glacis.

Parados        A low wall on the inner side of the main wall.

Parallel trench  A wide and deep trench dug by besiegers parallel to the fortress under attack.  From it, zigzag approaches were dug to the next,more forward, parallel as the siege progressed.

Parapet         Protective wall at the top of a fortification, around the outer side of the wall-walk.  Usually a low wall or earth or masonry on top of the rampart providing protection behind which troops could fire.  Often found on the outer side of the main wall or tower, it forms a protective screen of Crenelles and Merlons, also known as Battlements.

Paté or Patée  A small outwork of earth well rammed, usually horseshoe shaped in plan.

Pediment      A low-pitched gavle over porticos, doors,and windows.

Pier              The mass of masonry between arches and other openings.  A pier served as a support base for anarch, usually square rather than pillar (round).

Pilaster         A square or rectangular pillar, engaged in, and projecting slightly from, a wall, in order to buttress the wall.

Pinnacle       An ornament crowning a spire or tower.

Piscina         A handbasin, usually set in or against a wall, with a drain attached.

Pipe-rool      Exchequer accounts rolled on narrow woodencylinders.

Pitch            The slope of a roof.

Pitching       Rough cobbling.

Place d’Armes  Spaces left at intervals in the covered way and other outworks for soldiers to assemble.

Plinth           The projecting base of a wall.

Polygonal trace  A fortification design devised by Montalembert consisting of faces forming salient angles (the outward points of a bastion) or re-entering angles (angles pointing toward the interior of a fortification) of small depth, flanked by a powerful caponnière.

Pont-levis    The drawbridge of a castle.

Portcullis     Vertical sliding wooden grille shod with iron suspended in front of a gateway, let down to protect the gate.  Usually a heavy wood and metal grating suspended on chains worked by winches which could be dropped quickly down vertical grooves in the gatehouse or at other important entrances.

Postern orsally-port  Small secondary exit gate used as the “backdoor” of a castle.

Putlog Hole  A hole intentionally left in the surface of a wall for insertion ofa horizontal pole.

Quadrangle  The inner courtyard of a castle.

Queue d’Aronde  An outwork shaped in panform like a swallow’stail.

Quoins         Dressed decorative cornerstones.

Ram             Battering-ram.

Rampart       A thick defensive stone or earth wall often formed from the dirt excavated from the ditch to protect the enclosed area from artillery fire and to elevate defenders to a commanding position overlooking the approaches to a fortification.  Usually, a rampart was capped with a stone or earth parapet. Its presence signified a permanent defence.

Rath             A low, circular ringwork.

Ravelin        A low V-shaped or triangular-shaped outwork consisting of two faces that formed a salient angle, sited outside the ditch of a fortification to cover the portion of a curtain wall between two bastions.

Redan          A simple V-shaped fieldwork with two faces that formed a salient angle.  Usually used in the fortification of walls where it was not necessary to build bastions. Also known as a Flèche, a Redan was shaped like a saw pointed toward the attacker and was open to the rear.

Re-entrant    A recessed angle pointing toward the interior of a castle or fortification.

Redoubt       A small work in a bastion or ravelin.  A redoubt is also a small independent outwork, usually an earthwork of square of polygonal shape, with little or no means of flanking defence.  Redoubts were used to fortify a hilltop or pass, or any other main avenue of enemy approach.

Re-entering place ofarms  A larger space in the covered way, found at the re-entering or salient angles of the covered way, designed for troops to assemble and engage in a sortie.

Refectory     A communal dining hall.

Relieving arches  Tiers of arches built in the rear of the scarp wall and between the counterforts, intended to make it more difficult for attackers to make breaches in the wall.

Revetment    A facing of earth, sandbags, or stone built to protect an embankment (such as the sides of the ditch or parapet), against bomb splinters and shell fragments.  Essentially a protective retaining wall.

Rib               Raised moulding dividing a vault.

Ricochet fire  The art of firing projectiles so that the missiles drop over the parapet of a fortification bounce along its length. The ricochet was intended to wreak havoc among the defenders in a fortification as it skipped along the ground.

Ring-work   A circular earthwork combing a bank and a ditch. Also used to describe any defensive enclosure, regardless of period, size, or function.

Romanesque  An architectural style in use from the 8th to 12th centuries, with rounded arches.

Roofridge    The summit line of a roof.

Rubble         Unsquared stone that has not been laid in courses. A random mixture of rocks and mortar.

Rustication   Worked ashlar stone, with the faces left rough.

Salient          Two lines of works meeting and pointing toward the country, away from the center of fortification.

Salient angle  An angle pointing out toward the field.

Sally port     An opening or underground passage that led from the inner to the outer works.  Cut into the glacis, it was a gateway through which many troops could pass when making a sortie.

Saltire          A diagonal, equal-limbed cross.

Sap              Anarrow trench cut by besiegers to protect their approaches toward afortification.

Sapping       Undermining, as of a castle wall.

Scaffolding  The temporary wooden framework built next to a wall to support both workers and materials.

Scarp           The slope on the inner side of a ditch.  Also known as “escarp,” it is part of the facing of a fortification that fronts the exterior, from the bottom of the ditch to the parapet of that wall.

Schildmauer  A particularly strong wall guarding the only line of approach to a castle built on a mountain or on a spur in certain parts of Germany.

Screens        Wooden partition at the kitchen end of a hall, protecting a passage leading to the buttery, pantry, and kitchen.

Scutum        Roman battle shield.

Semi-detached Scarp  A scarp wall with loopholes constructed inits upper part so that soldiers can fire into the ditch or across the ditch toward the covered way and the glacis.

Shaft            A narrow column.

Shell-keep    A circular or oval wall surrounding the inner portion of a castle.

Shoulder angle  The interior angle formed by the meeting of a flank and a face of a bastion. An orillon sometimes supported the shoulder.

Soffit           The underside of an arch or opening.

Solar            Originally a room above ground level, but commonly appliedto the great chamber or a private sitting room off the great hall.  It was a private room for a lord orhis family, generally with windows facing sunlight.

Splay           A chamfer, or sloping face.

Springald     War engine of the catapult type, employing tension.

Spur             An angular projection applied, for example, to the base of a drum tower to hinder mining operations.  It served the same purpose as a Talus.

Squint          An observation hole in a wall or room.

Star fort       An enclosed work with a trace made up of a series of salient and re-entering angles.

Stele (stela)  A slab, column, pillar, or wall erected for commemorative purposes, with pictures and/or text carved on it.

Steward       The man responsible for running the day-to-day affairs of the castle in the absence of the lord.

Storm poles   Palisades of pointed timbers between the main wall and the ditch or other earthwork, directed horizontally or slightly inclining toward the attackers.  Their purpose was to hinder an assault while at the same time avoiding the provision of the kind of protection an abatis could offer.  Also known as Fraises.

Stringcourse  A continuous horizontal moulding on a wall face.

Talus            A strong sloping or scarped side of a wall thicker at the base.  Also known as a Batter.

Tenaille        A small low-lying work, placed in a main ditch between adjoining bastions to provide cover from the curtain wall.

Tenaille trace  A succession of redans (V-shaped works, open to the rear) joined at right angles to form a front of defence that resembles the teeth of a saw.

Terreplein    The top or horizontal surface of the earthen rampart, situated behind the parapet and used as a support for the cannon.

Testudo        A protective screen (usually of overlapping shields) held overhead or in front of attacking soldiers.  In some cases (such as Roman) it was even in the form of a protective “house” on wheels, which the soldiers rolled forward from inside.

Tire-à-Ricochet  Plunging fire.

Tour bastionnée  A masonry tower, several stories high, with gun platforms higher than the curtain ramparts.

Tourelle       A turret projecting from a larger tower which was used either as a watchtower or, if constructed with machicolation, for vertical defence.  Also used for decoration.

Towerhouse  Residential towers of the 14th and15th centuries.

Trace           The plan on which fortifications are arranged on the ground.

Tracery        Intersecting ribwork in the upper part of a window.

Transitional Keep  French and English polygonal Keeps of the 12th century designed to overcome the disadvantages of the square or rectangular Keep.

Transom      The horizontal division of a window.

Traverse       A barrier (earthen bank or wall) constructed across a covered way, a terreplein or other defensive work, to protect troops and guns from flanking fire (enfilade).

Trébuchet    A siege engine developed in the Middle Ages which relied on an unequal counterpoise arm to launch its missiles.

Trefoil         Three-lobed, or three sided.

Trous de loup  Field fortifications comprised of a series of pits designed to hold pointed stakes projecting from the bottom.

Truss           One of the timber frames built to support the roof over the Great Hall.

Turret          A small slim tower or a tourelle, round or polygonal, projecting from a larger tower, usually used as a lookout point.

Vault            Stone roofing.

Via coperta  Abroad “road” extending around the counterscarp of the ditch and protected by the parapet from enemy fire, intended to form a “communication” around the position.  At its foot was the banquette, used to cover the glacis with musket fire to prevent the enemy from approaching the counterscarp of the ditch.  It also functioned as a place of assembly for sorties. Also known as a covered way.

Vice             A spiral stairway in the thickness of a wall.

Vitrified       Material reduced to glass by combustion.

Voussoir      Wedge-shaped stone in an arch.

Wall-stair     A staircase built into the thickness of awall.

Wall-walk    A passage along a castle wall.

Ward           The courtyard or baileyof a castle.

Wattle          A mat of woven sticks and weeds.

Weathering   Sloping surfaces designed to throw offrainwater.

Wing-wall    A wall down slope of a motte to protect astairway.

Yett              The Scottish word for an irongate.


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