Castles were never intended to be art. In the middle ages (about a thousand years ago) they were built to protect the land of kings. As time went on, the castles of Europe grew into more than just fortresses built for battle. They became beautiful palaces.
Neuschwanstein was begun in 1869, which makes it pretty late for a castle. It was never built as a fortress, but as a pleasure palace for King Ludwig II of Germany. It sits atop a cliff in the Bavarian Alps. Many of its halls and rooms were built to remind visitors of the operas of Richard Wagner. King Ludwig built three castles, only one of which was completed. Neuschwanstein was not that castle. The king's apartments and a few other rooms are the only finished parts of the castle interior.
The resemblance to the castle in the Walt Disney logo is not your imagination. Though the castle Tinkerbell flies around is not the same as Neuschwanstein, Disney used this building as inspiration.
King Ludwig's bedroom, Neuschwanstein.
Windsor Castle is one of the main homes of the Queen of England. It is the largest occupied castle in the world. It has been in its place outside London on the River Thames for over 900 years. Today it has the mark of both a mighty fortress and a comfortable palace. Ten of the former rulers of England are buried in the castle's St. George's Chapel.
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Chepstow Castle sits on a bluff high above the Wye River in southwest Wales. It has been there since 1067. It is one of the oldest casltes in England. It is clearly in ruins, but its plan is very close to the classic castle layout you will find on this site. The only real difference is that there is no outer curtain wall. Why no wall? It could be because Chepstow Castle is laid out along the river, the better for firing on anyone using the river without the lord's permission. This makes the castle grounds stretch out awkwardly along the bank. So close to the bank, there is no room for a second wall. Also, when Chepstow Castle was built, there was no town in the area. There would have been nothing for the outer curtain wall to protect.
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These have been examples of the hundreds of castles in the world. So what do all these castles have in common? They have a similar style of construction devoted to protecting the people who live in them and commanding the land around them. Coming up are some of the characteristics of common castles.
It's one thing to look at pictures of castles, but it's another thing to experience and understand what they are and why they were built. In the 1980s, PBS aired this great video on the English castles and where they came from. It is based on the book Castle by David Macauley.