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Senior Member
posted 12-18-2005 04:19 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for ElCid     Edit/Delete Message
Many early Norman castles in England (Motte and Bailey type) are associated with churches. There are quite a few in Yorkshire where the earthworks and churches share the same ground.

Does anyone have a view on why this is the case?. There have been some interesting theories and discussions in several books I have read but nothing conclusive.

In many cases the churches pre-date the castle and have Anglo-Saxon remains in them.

Any thoughts welcome.


posted 12-20-2005 09:35 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Levan   Click Here to Email Levan     Edit/Delete Message
The relationship between the church and castles is very interesting. In the UK this is especially so as it represents the rather awkward, and sometimes dangerous, relationship and power struggle between the church and state. They were very seperate areas of authority until the dissolution of the Catholic Church by Henry VIII. Apart from anything else, both the churxh and state collected taxes from the people.

Many castles have churches within their environs - others have the church 'next door'. It's also worth considering that 'the church' and 'chapel' are quite different things (even before the Wesleyan movement took over the 'chapel' terminology to refer to their own places of worship).

I'm pretty sure I've posted more info on this subject before - why not take a look in the old postings?


Senior Member
posted 12-20-2005 02:28 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for ElCid     Edit/Delete Message
Hi Levan

Thanks for your reply. You make some good points about the balance of power between church and castle owner. The taxes payable and balance of power this brought between the two are indeed interesting subjects.

One of the aspects of this church/castle relationship I was interested in is who came first to the particular site and why. Some castle sites in England that have these churches built very close by sometimes have pre-conquest (ie before 1066) remains in the church structure such as windows, doors, grave covers etc . This suggests a church was on this site before the castle was built.

Did the new lord rebuild the church at the time the castle was built or did that come later?. Presumably if the new owner was in conflict with the church (ie he wanted the same site as the church for his castle) he could simply have taken it and given the church an alternative place. But they often didn't do this - incorporating instead the church within the castle site.

There appears more to it than just power struggle between the two.

Are there continental parallels to this situation that we find in England?


Senior Member
posted 12-22-2005 05:10 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Merlin   Click Here to Email Merlin     Edit/Delete Message
Yes, there are. The best examples are the rhaetic church-castles, spread about many parts of what is today the Canton Graubuenden, eastern Switzerland.

The churches in many cases are very old or stand on the fundaments of older churches. Some of them go back to late-roman times (5th century) and were the religious centre of a valley. Archaeological campaigns showed that most of them were fortified from the beginning, giving the people who lived in that valley and also their cows, goats and sheep a place of shelter in times of war.

In later times, esp. in the 12/13th century, the fortfied area became the residence of a local noble family. They first built a tower within the walls, then changed the whole complex into a large castle over the generations.

Some examples:
Solavers* / Joergenberg* / Steinsberg* / Crap Sogn Pancrati / Mesocco

* pictures, history an plans of these castles can be found at www.burgenwelt.de > Burgen > Schweiz > GraubŁnden

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