English Castle Architecture: A Dualism Between Functionalism and Symbolism

Meager, Jessie, Architectural History - School of Architecture, University of Virginia
Reilly, Lisa, AR-Arch History Dept, University of Virginia

In 1066, Duke William of Normandy changed England’s political—and physical—landscape forever when his Conquest swept across the nation and as his builders began a new and ambitious campaign of castle construction. Colchester Castle represents the dual nature of these castles in post-Conquest Britain, being a building with both a military function and a symbolic role as the Normans asserted their control over the country and quelled the Anglo-Saxon population. Intended to help neutralize internal military threats, Colchester and the similar Tower of London also helped establish not only William’s right to rule but his determination to remain in possession of the newly conquered lands. As works of architecture, their layouts reveal similar rectangular proportions and nearly unique apsidal projections and each utilized proximity to Roman ruins to appropriate their ancient symbolic authority as well as to strengthen their final physical design. Moreover, both were deliberately situated in a key strategic location to maximize the Norman civic presence while consolidating their military hold over a subjugated nation as can be seen in the intense interest focused upon them through the ages.

MARH (Master of Architectural History)
Medieval Architecture, English castles
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