The Idea of the Castle in Medieval England by Abigail Wheatley

By Abigail Wheatley

A brand new manner of the medieval castle-as a cultural mirrored image of the society that produced it, noticeable via artwork and literature.

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The preceding examples show that this is merely received wisdom, yet it has influenced the narrow definition of the castle, and led to the exclusion of Biblical and Classical castella from the mainstream medieval meanings of the English word. There are plenty of additional examples to press home this point. The following passages also begin to illustrate the ways in which the medieval understanding of the English word castle changed over the years. They suggest that the word often did become more specifically linked to lordly fortresses, even in Biblical and Classical contexts, but still retained the more general meaning common in earlier usage.

Armitage, The Early Norman Castles of the British Isles (London, 1912), p. 24. Williams, ‘A Bell-house and a Burh-geat’; B. English, ‘Towns, Mottes and Ringworks of the Conquest’, in The Medieval Military Revolution, ed. A. Ayton and J. L. Price (London, 1995), pp. 45–61 (pp. 51–2); J. A. Green, The Aristocracy of Norman England (Cambridge, 1997), especially pp. 172–93. Dictionary of Old English, ed. A. C. Amos, A. di Paulo Healey, J. Holland, D. McDougall, I. McDougall, N. Porter and P. Thompson (Toronto, 1988– ), 2nd fascicle.

However, by this time it might have to be specially explained: The gospel seiþ how, Jesus wente aboute in the cuntre, both to more places and lesse, as citees and castellis . . 85 The sense of this passage follows the Biblical text, relating that Jesus spread his preaching around amongst different kinds and degrees of place. Wyclif seems at pains to clarify the relationship between the castellis and the citees, and to justify their comparison in this passage, by reminding his audience of 80 81 82 83 84 85 Cursor Mundi, ed.

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