ARCHAEOLOGY - the role of citadels

Reply Sat 5 Oct, 2013 07:26 am
I recall learning in Archaeology that citadels in Europe were an important phenomenon as they provided security and required artisana from many different countries and with a variety of skills and techniques. This coming together in a secure environment enabled them to share skills and stimulated a period of innovation in the arts and culture. Can anyone refer me to where i can read more about this?
Walter Hinteler
Reply Sat 5 Oct, 2013 07:51 am
Castles and Fortified Cities of Medieval Europe: An Illustrated History - you can look in this book at google books. There, in other mentioned books and via a normal google search you'll find a lot of infos.
0 Replies
Reply Sat 5 Oct, 2013 01:13 pm
I find the contention about artisans to be problematic. A citadel is, essentially, a castle within another walled space, such as a walled city. Citadels are military facilities, and they don't require highly specialized skills beyond those which can be provided by ordinary masons and carpenters. It is far more likely that you are confusing the seminal effect of the coming together of craftsmen to build cathedrals. Not only did cathedrals require more highly specialized craftsmen, but there was a constant ferment of new ideas in cathedral building, as they were built larger, higher and with more windos.

Obviously, windows in citadels would not be a good idea. They would not need to be built higher, either--the military authorities could (and in the middle ages undoubtedly would) prohibit anyone from building a structure which overlooked the citadel. Citadels could, and often did, hold out when the rest of the city fell. In the civil war between Stephen of Blois and Maud the Empress, Maud's forces held out in the citadel within the city walls of Lincoln, and a relief force arrived before Stephen could break into the citadel. When Stephen was defeated in battle outside the city walls, the men inside the citadel sallied out and plundered the town. King Stemphen was captured, and it looked as though Maud the Empress had won the war. But things are not always what they seem.

Part of the reason for Stephen's defeat was that Henri de Blois, his younger brother, the Papal Legate, Abbott of Canterbury and Bishi\op of Winchester had betrayed him. He didn't join Stephen's enemies, he simply failed to send him aid when he needed it. After Lincoln, Henry went back to Winchester. A patron of architects, he had built the Bishop's palace in Winchester, which was, effectively, a citadel itself. Maud the Empress arrived in Winchester, and called Henry to attend her. He ignored the summons, and soon Maud besieged the Bishop's palace--Henry had turned his coat yet again. Stephen's queen, Matilda, then arrived with the King's main army (such as it was), and now Maud was besieged in the King's citadel in Winchester, on the opposite side of the city from Henry's palace. Eventually, near starvation, Maud broke out to march to Gloucester. Her principle adviser and military leader, Robert of Gloucester (who was also her bastard half-brother) fought a spirited rear guard action which allowed Maud to escape--but most of her army was killed, captured or scattered, and Robert of Gloucester was also captured. Things are not always what they seem, and her victory at Lincoln had evaporated. To make matters more confusing, Maud (sometimes rendered as Maude) was actually Matilda, just like Stephen's queen. She was the only adult survivor of King Henry I, upon which she based her claim to the throne of England. We call that a civil war. The people of the times, however, being wiser, just called it The Anarchy.

In 1346, King Edward (the great, great, great, great grandson of Maud the Empress) landed in Normandy with a fairly large army. His immediate goal was to take the city of Caen, then the second largest city ni France, and one of the wealthiest cities in Europe. As he neared the city, he had everyone, including cooks, carters, camp followers and the wives and children of the soldiers, spread out in a large cresent. They then formed a line on the east, north and west sides of the city. Hoping to have intimidated the defenders, Edward summoned them--that means he called upon them to surrender on honorable terms. Unimpressed with the artificially enlarged army, the French authorities in Caen citadel ignored the summons.

As was the practice in Europe in those days, the able-bodied men of the city were given crossbows and quarrels (the French literally manufactured tens of millions of crossbow quarrels every year), and they manned the city walls. The English archers wandered up the the walls, just outside of crossbow range to have a look at the town and its walls. They knew what breaking into the city could dost them. Then, suddenly, to their astonishment, the defenders on the walls hauled up their banners, and began to disappear from the walls. One brave soul took an ax and hacked his way through a city gate, and when the archers broke in, they found the city deserted. Moving around to the south side, they saw the defenders streaming out of the city and crossing a bridge to the Ile St. Jean. Long before, the wealthy citizens of Caen had moved to this island in the rivers south of the city; the wealth of Caen was on that island, and they didn't give a damn about the homor of the French King, they wanted to defend their wealth. The archers began to assult an impromptu barricade on the bridge, and were now taking horrible casualties from the crossbowmen. Edward sent orders that they sould fall back, but they ignored that, and some of the men sent to stop the attack actually joined it. There was a barbican tower at the south end of the bridge from which the crossbowmen were firing, but the Ile St. Jean had no city walls. The tide was going out, and soon the English archers and Welsh lancers began to wade the river, again taking heavy casualties, but once they gained the south bank, there was no way to stop them. Hours of rapine, slaughter and plundering followed. A few dozen of the knights and men at arms defending the barbican tower had had their horses brought up, and they escaped into the city, leaving the Ile St. Jean completely undefended. The next day, Edward set up his cannon in the city and once again summoned the citadel. They ignored him again. For several days, they bombarded the citadel with almost no effect. The English had not figured out that stone cannon balls are no good against stone walls. The Dutch and Italians, who were in the contract artillery business, had already figured that out, and they used iron cannon balls. It would take the English several generations for the penny to drop about iron cannon balls. Edward gave up after a few days, in disgust, and marched away. The citadel survived.

The haul in plunder was fabulous by anyone's standards. The records are uncertain, but Caen was probably as wealthy as Paris, if not more so--after all, William the Conqueror had set the city up by sending the plunder of England there in the 11th century. The English archers really, really hated William and his memory. Any archer who got a good haul, survived the march toward Paris, and then the march away to the River Somme, the battle of Crécy and the siege of Calais, went home a rich man. So did their lords and the King. Every archer gave one third of his plunder to his captain. His captain in turn gave one third of his share to his lord. The Earls and Barons then gave one third of their take to the King. It was a great racket.


That's what citadels were all about. The image you paint of skilled craftsmen and the sharing of ideas and innovations was the province of the cathedral builders. I suggest you focus on cathedral building for that aspect of medieval culture.
Walter Hinteler
Reply Sat 5 Oct, 2013 01:35 pm
Besides that, I don't think it's really an archaeology-topic: there are a lot of examples of various centuries and periods still to be seen.

Reply Sat 5 Oct, 2013 04:59 pm
@Walter Hinteler,
We used to have a citadel, but the maintenance costs were ruinous . . .
0 Replies

  1. Forums
  2. » ARCHAEOLOGY - the role of citadels
Copyright © 2020 MadLab, LLC :: Terms of Service :: Privacy Policy :: Page generated in 0.03 seconds on 04/04/2020 at 12:15:13