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A battlement in defensive architecture, such as that of
city wall A defensive wall is a fortification A fortification is a military A military, also known collectively as armed forces, is a heavily armed, highly organized force primarily intended for warfare. It is typically officially authorize ...

city wall
s or
castle A castle is a type of fortification, fortified structure built during the Middle Ages predominantly by the nobility or royalty and by Military order (monastic society), military orders. Scholars debate the scope of the word ''castle'', but u ...

castle
s, comprises a
parapet A parapet is a barrier that is an extension of the wall at the edge of a roof A roof is the top covering of a , including all materials and constructions necessary to support it on the walls of the building or on uprights, providing protecti ...
(i.e., a defensive low wall between chest-height and head-height), in which gaps or indentations, which are often rectangular, occur at intervals to allow for the launch of arrows or other projectiles from within the defences. These gaps are termed " crenels" (also known as ''carnels'', or ''
embrasures Pillbox stepped embrasure, Taunton Stop Line, England An embrasure is the opening in a battlement A battlement in defensive architecture, such as that of city wall A defensive wall is a fortification A fortification is a ...
''), and a wall or building with them is called crenellated; alternative (older) terms are castellated and embattled. The act of adding crenels to a previously unbroken parapet is termed crenellation. The function of battlements in war is to protect the defenders by giving them something to hide behind, from which they can pop out to launch their own missiles. A defensive building might be designed and built with battlements, or a
manor house#REDIRECT Manor house A manor house was historically the main residence of the lord of the manor. The house formed the administrative centre of a manor in the European feudal system; within its great hall were held the lord's manorial court ...
might be fortified by adding battlements, where no parapet previously existed, or cutting crenellations into its existing parapet wall. A distinctive feature of late medieval English church architecture is to crenellate the tops of church towers, and often the tops of lower walls. These are essentially decorative rather than functional, as are many examples on secular buildings. The solid widths between the crenels are called
merlon A merlon is the solid upright section of a battlement A battlement in defensive architecture, such as that of city wall A defensive wall is a fortification A fortification is a military construction or building designed for t ...
s. Battlements on walls have protected walkways (''
chemin de ronde A ''chemin de ronde'' (French, "round path"' or "patrol path"; ), also called an allure, alure or, more prosaically, a wall-walk, is a raised protected walkway behind a castle battlement A battlement in defensive architecture, such as th ...

chemin de ronde
'') behind them. On tower or building tops, the (often flat) roof is used as the protected
fighting platform A fighting platform or terraceKaufmann, J.E. and Kaufmann, H.W (2001). ''The Medieval Fortress'', Cambridge, Massachusetts, Da Capo, p. 29. . is the uppermost defensive platform of an ancient or medieval gateway, tower (such as the fighting plat ...
.


Etymology

The term originated in about the 14th century from the
Old French Old French (, , ; Modern French French ( or ) is a Romance language The Romance languages, less commonly Latin or Neo-Latin languages, are the modern languages that evolved from Vulgar Latin Vulgar Latin, also known as Popular o ...
word ', "to fortify with ''batailles''" (fixed or movable
turrets In architecture, a turret (from Italian language, Italian: ''torretta'', little tower; Latin: ''turris'', tower) is a small tower that projects vertically from the wall of a building such as a Middle Ages, medieval castle. Turrets were used to ...

turrets
of defence). The word ''crenel'' derives from the ancient French ''cren'' (modern French ''cran''), Latin ''crena'', meaning a notch,
mortice
mortice
or other gap cut out often to receive another element or fixing; see also
crenation Crenation (from modern Latin ''crenatus'' meaning "scalloped or notched", from popular Latin ''crena'' meaning "notch") in botany and zoology, describes an object's shape, especially a leaf or shell, as being round-toothed or having a scalloped edg ...
. The modern French word for crenel is ''créneau'', also used to describe a gap of any kind, for example a parking space at the side of the road between two cars, interval between groups of marching troops or a timeslot in a broadcast.


Licence to crenellate

In medieval England and Wales a licence to crenellate granted the holder permission to fortify their property. Such licences were granted by the king, and by the rulers of the counties palatine within their jurisdictions, e.g. by the
Bishops of Durham The Bishop of Durham is the Church of England, Anglican bishop responsible for the Diocese of Durham in the Province of York. The diocese is one of the oldest in England and its bishop is a member of the House of Lords. Paul Butler (bishop), Paul ...
and the
Earls of Chester The Earldom of Chester (Welsh: ''Iarllaeth Caer'') was one of the most powerful earldoms in medieval England, extending principally over the counties of Cheshire and Flintshire. Since 1301 the title has generally been granted to heirs apparent to ...
and after 1351 by the
Dukes of Lancaster The Duke of Lancaster is the titular owner of the estates of the Duchy of Lancaster The Duchy of Lancaster is the private estate of the Monarchy of the United Kingdom, British sovereign as Duke of Lancaster. The principal purpose of the estate ...

Dukes of Lancaster
. The castles in England vastly outnumber the licences to crenellate. Royal pardons were obtainable, on the payment of an arbitrarily determined fine, by a person who had fortified without licence. The surviving records of such licences, generally issued by
letters patent Letters patent ( la, litterae patentes) ( always in the plural) are a type of legal instrument ''Legal instrument'' is a legal Law is a system A system is a group of Interaction, interacting or interrelated elements that act acco ...
, provide valuable evidence for the dating of ancient buildings. A list of licences issued by the English Crown between the 12th and 16th centuries was compiled by Turner & Parker and expanded and corrected by Philip Davis and published in ''The Castle Studies Group Journal''. There has been academic debate over the purpose of licensing. The view of military-focused historians is that licensing restricted the number of fortifications that could be used against a royal army. The modern view, proposed notably by Charles Coulson, is that battlements became an architectural status-symbol much sought after by the socially ambitious, in Coulson's words: "Licences to crenellate were mainly symbolic representations of lordly status: castellation was the architectural expression of noble rank". They indicated to the observer that the grantee had obtained "royal recognition, acknowledgment and compliment". They could however provide a basic deterrent against wandering bands of thieves, and it is suggested that the function of battlements was comparable to the modern practice of householders fitting highly visible CC-TV and burglar alarms, often merely dummies. The crown usually did not charge for the granting of such licences, but occasionally charged a fee of about half a
mark Mark may refer to: Currency * Bosnia and Herzegovina convertible mark The Bosnia and Herzegovina convertible mark (Bosnian Bosnian may refer to: *Anything related to the state of Bosnia and Herzegovina or its inhabitants *Anything related to Bo ...
.


Machicolations

Battlements may be stepped out to overhang the wall below, and may have openings at their bases between the supporting
corbel In architecture upright=1.45, alt=Plan d'exécution du second étage de l'hôtel de Brionne (dessin) De Cotte 2503c – Gallica 2011 (adjusted), Plan of the second floor (attic storey) of the Hôtel de Brionne in Paris – 1734. Archit ...

corbel
s, through which stones or burning objects could be dropped onto attackers or besiegers; these are known as
machicolation A machicolation (french: mâchicoulis) is a floor opening between the supporting corbel In architecture upright=1.45, alt=Plan d'exécution du second étage de l'hôtel de Brionne (dessin) De Cotte 2503c – Gallica 2011 (adjusted), Pla ...
s.


History

Battlements have been used for thousands of years; the earliest known example is in the fortress at
Buhen Buhen ( grc, Βοὥν ''Bohón'') was an ancient Egyptian Ancient Egypt was a civilization of Ancient history, ancient North Africa, concentrated along the lower reaches of the Nile, Nile River, situated in the place that is now the cou ...

Buhen
in
Egypt Egypt ( ar, مِصر, Miṣr), officially the Arab Republic of Egypt, is a transcontinental country This is a list of countries located on more than one continent A continent is one of several large landmasses. Generally identi ...

Egypt
. Battlements were used in the walls surrounding
Assyria Assyria (), also called the Assyrian Empire, was a Mesopotamia Mesopotamia ( grc, Μεσοποταμία ''Mesopotamíā''; ar, بِلَاد ٱلرَّافِدَيْن ; syc, ܐܪܡ ܢܗܪ̈ܝܢ, or , ) is a historical region of We ...

Assyria
n towns, as shown on ''
bas relief Relief is a sculptural technique where the sculpted elements remain attached to a solid background of the same material. The term ''wikt:relief, relief'' is from the Latin verb ''relevo'', to raise. To create a sculpture in relief is to give the ...
s'' from
Nimrud Nimrud (; syr, ܢܢܡܪܕ ar, النمرود) is an ancient Assyrian city located south of the city of Mosul, and south of the village of Selamiyah ( ar, السلامية), in the Nineveh plains in Upper Mesopotamia. It was a major Assyri ...
and elsewhere. Traces of them remain at
Mycenae Mycenae ( ; grc, Μυκῆναι or , ''Mykē̂nai'' or ''Mykḗnē'') is an archaeological site near Mykines, Greece, Mykines in Argolis, north-eastern Peloponnese, Greece. It is located about south-west of Athens; north of Argos, Peloponne ...

Mycenae
in
Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, Elláda, ), officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country located in Southeastern Europe Southeast Europe or Southeastern Europe () is a geographical subregion A subregion is a part of a larger region In geogr ...

Greece
, and some
ancient Greek Ancient Greek includes the forms of the Greek language Greek ( el, label=Modern Greek Modern Greek (, , or , ''Kiní Neoellinikí Glóssa''), generally referred to by speakers simply as Greek (, ), refers collectively to the diale ...
vases suggest the existence of battlements. The
Great Wall of China The Great Wall of China () is a series of fortifications A fortification is a military A military, also known collectively as armed forces, is a heavily armed, highly organized force primarily intended for warfare. It is typic ...

Great Wall of China
has battlements.


Development

In the European battlements of the
Middle Ages In the history of Europe The history of Europe concerns itself with the discovery and collection, the study, organization and presentation and the interpretation of past events and affairs of the people of Europe since the beginning of ...
the crenel comprised one-third of the width of the merlon: the latter, in addition, could be provided with arrow-loops of various shapes (from simply round to cruciform), depending on the weapon being utilized. Late merlons permitted fire from the first
firearm A firearm is any type of gun A gun is a ranged weapon designed to use a shooting tube ( gun barrel) to launch typically solid projectiles, but can also project pressurized liquid (e.g. water guns/ cannons, spray guns for painting ...
s. From the 13th century, the merlons could be connected with wooden shutters that provided added protection when closed. The shutters were designed to be opened to allow shooters to fire against the attackers, and closed during reloading.


Ancient Rome

The
Romans Roman or Romans usually refers to: *Rome , established_title = Founded , established_date = 753 BC , founder = King Romulus , image_map = Map of comune of Rome (metropolitan city of Capital Rome, region Lazio, ...
used low wooden pinnacles for their first ''aggeres'' (
terreplein In fortification A fortification is a military construction or building designed for the defense of territories in warfare, and is also used to establish rule in a region during peacetime. The term is derived from Latin ''fortis'' ("strong ...
s). In the battlements of
Pompeii Pompeii (, ) was an ancient city located in what is now the ''comune The (; plural: ) is a of , roughly equivalent to a or . Importance and function The provides essential public services: of births and deaths, , and maintenan ...

Pompeii
, additional protection derived from small internal buttresses or spur walls, against which the defender might stand so as to gain complete protection on one side.


Italy

Loop-holes were frequent in Italian battlements, where the merlon has much greater height and a distinctive cap. Italian military architects used the so-called
Ghibelline The Guelphs and Ghibellines (, also ; it, guelfi e ghibellini ) were factions supporting the Pope The pope ( la, papa, from el, πάππας, translit=pappas, "father"), also known as the supreme pontiff () or the Roman pontiff (), is ...
or ''swallowtail'' battlement, with V-shaped notches in the tops of the merlon, giving a horn-like effect. This would allow the defender to be protected whilst shooting standing fully upright. The normal rectangular merlons were later nicknamed Guelph .


Indian Subcontinent

Many South Asian battlements are made up of parapets with peculiarly shaped
merlons A merlon is the solid upright section of a battlement A battlement in defensive architecture, such as that of city wall A defensive wall is a fortification A fortification is a military construction or building designed for the ...
and complicated systems of loopholes, which differ substantially from rest of the world. Typical Indian merlons were semicircular and pointed at the top, although they could sometimes be fake: the parapet may be solid and the merlons shown in relief on the outside, as is the case in
Chittorgarh Chittorgarh (also Chittor or Chittaurgarh) is a major city in Rajasthan Rajasthan (; ; lit. 'Land of Kings') is a state State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literature * ''State Magazine'', a monthly magazine publish ...

Chittorgarh
. Loopholes could be made both in the merlons themselves, and under the crenels. They could either look forward (to command distant approaches) or downward (to command the foot of the wall). Sometimes a merion was pierced with two or three loopholes, but typically, only one loophole was divided into two or three slits by horizontal or vertical partitions. The shape of loopholes, as well as the shape of merlons, need not have been the same everywhere in the castle, as shown by
Kumbhalgarh Kumbhalgarh (literally "Kumbhal fort") is a Mewar fortress on the westerly range of Aravalli Hills, in the Rajsamand district near Udaipur Udaipur () (ISO 15919 : ''Udayapura'' ) also known as the "City of Lakes", is a city in the state of R ...

Kumbhalgarh
.


Middle East and Africa

In
Muslim Muslims () are people who follow or practice Islam Islam (; ar, اَلْإِسْلَامُ, al-’Islām, "submission o God Oh God may refer to: * An exclamation; similar to "oh no", "oh yes", "oh my", "aw goodness", "ah gosh", ...

Muslim
and
Africa Africa is the world's second-largest and second-most populous continent A continent is any of several large landmass A landmass, or land mass, is a large region In geography Geography (from Greek: , ''geographia'', ...

Africa
n fortifications, the merlons often were rounded. The battlements of the
Arabs The Arabs (singular Arab ; singular ar, عَرَبِيٌّ, ISO 233 The international standard An international standard is a technical standard A technical standard is an established norm (social), norm or requirement for a repeatable technica ...

Arabs
had a more decorative and varied character, and were continued from the 13th century onwards not so much for defensive purposes as for a crowning feature to the walls. They serve a function similar to the cresting found in the
Spanish Renaissance architecture Renaissance architecture was that style of architecture which evolved firstly in Florence and then Rome and other parts of the Italian Peninsula as the result of Renaissance humanism and a revived interest in Ancient Roman architecture, Classical ...
.


Ireland

"Irish" crenellations are a distinctive form that appeared in
Ireland Ireland ( ; ga, Éire ; Ulster Scots dialect, Ulster-Scots: ) is an island in the Atlantic Ocean, North Atlantic. It is separated from Great Britain to its east by the North Channel (Great Britain and Ireland), North Channel, the Irish Sea ...

Ireland
between the 14th and 17th centuries. These were battlements of a "stepped" form, with each merlon shaped like an inverted 'T'.


Decorative element

European architects persistently used battlements as a purely decorative feature throughout the Decorated and
Perpendicular In elementary geometry Geometry (from the grc, γεωμετρία; ' "earth", ' "measurement") is, with , one of the oldest branches of . It is concerned with properties of space that are related with distance, shape, size, and relativ ...
periods of Gothic architecture. They not only occur on parapets but on the transoms of windows and on the tie-beams of roofs and on screens, and even on
Tudor Tudor most commonly refers to: * House of Tudor, English royal house of Welsh origins ** Tudor period, a historical era in England coinciding with the rule of the Tudor dynasty Tudor may also refer to: Architecture * Tudor architecture, the fi ...
chimney-pots. A further decorative treatment appears in the elaborate paneling of the merlons and that portion of the parapet walls rising above the
cornice In architecture upright=1.45, alt=Plan d'exécution du second étage de l'hôtel de Brionne (dessin) De Cotte 2503c – Gallica 2011 (adjusted), Plan of the second floor (attic storey) of the Hôtel de Brionne in Paris – 1734. Arch ...
, by the introduction of
quatrefoil A quatrefoil (anciently caterfoil) is a decorative element consisting of a symmetrical shape which forms the overall outline of four partially overlapping circles of the same diameter. It is found in art, architecture, heraldry and traditional C ...
s and other conventional forms filled with foliage and shield.


See also

*
Merlon A merlon is the solid upright section of a battlement A battlement in defensive architecture, such as that of city wall A defensive wall is a fortification A fortification is a military construction or building designed for t ...


Notes


Sources

* * * * *


Further reading

* Coulson, Charles, 1979, "Structural Symbolism in Medieval Castle Architecture" Journal of the British Archaeological Association Vol. 132, pp 73–90 * Coulson, Charles, 1994, "Freedom to Crenellate by Licence - An Historiographical Revision" Nottingham Medieval Studies Vol. 38, pp. 86–137 * Coulson, Charles, 1995, "Battlements and the Bourgeoisie: Municipal Status and the Apparatus of Urban Defence" in Church, Stephen (ed), Medieval Knighthood Vol. 5(Boydell), pp. 119–95 * Coulson, Charles, 2003, ''Castles in Medieval Society'', Oxford University Press. * Coulson, Charles, ''Castles in the Medieval Polity - Crenellation, Privilege, and Defence in England, Ireland and Wales''. * King, D. J. Cathcart, 1983, ''Castellarium Anglicanum'' (Kraus)


External links

{{fortifications Castle architecture Types of wall