Knights, castles and warfare

Knights, castles and warfare

Knights and Chivalry

  • Knights were heavily armoured soldiers, often part of the nobility, crucial to warfare during this period.
  • Knights adhered to a code of chivalry– a religiously influenced ethical code with principles such as bravery, courtesy, and respect for women.
  • Training for knighthood was intense, generally beginning in childhood, included both martial training and education in the Chivalric Code.
  • Knights were typically well-equipped for battle, with weapons such as swords, lances, and early firearms, and wore chain-mail or plate armour.
  • Knights played key roles in the Crusades, many joining religious-military orders like the Knights Templar or the Knights Hospitaller.

Castles and Fortifications

  • Castles were principal fortresses of defence and also served as administrative centres or residences for nobility.
  • They were often situated at strategically significant locations - often high ground or near key routes.
  • The main components of castles were Keep, an often tower-shaped central structure for refuge during an attack, surrounding walls, and gatehouses that could be fortified.
  • Many technical innovations were introduced in castle architecture during the Crusades, including concentric walls and machicolations- openings that allowed defenders to drop objects on attackers.
  • Siege warfare was common during the Crusades, with techniques like undermining walls, using siege towers, and firing projectiles from catapults or trebuchets.

Warfare and Tactics

  • Warfare during the Crusades involved both sieges and open battles.
  • The core of armies were often heavy cavalry – armoured horses and knights – with infantry and archers playing important supporting roles.
  • Tactics could vary greatly, depending on the commanders involved, the nature of the battlefield, and the composition of the armies.
  • During this time, religious motivations and morale could greatly influence the outcome of battles.
  • The Crusaders and their Muslim opponents had differing tactics – crusaders relied heavily on heavy cavalry charges, while their opponents often used more flexible light cavalry and archers.
  • Many battles during the Crusades resulted in high casualties due to the brutal nature of medieval warfare and the refusal of many combatants to quarter foes due to religious zealotry.