A battlement in defensive architecture, such as that of city walls or castles, comprises a parapet (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, embrasures, or wheelers), and the act of adding crenels to a previously unbroken parapet is termed crenellation. Thus, a defensive building might be designed and built with battlements, or a manor house might be fortified by adding battlements, where no parapet previously existed, or cutting crenellations into its existing parapet wall. The solid widths between the crenels are called merlons (also cops or kneelers). A wall with battlements is said to be crenelated or embattled. Battlements on walls have protected walkways (chemin de ronde) behind them. On tower or building tops, the (often flat) roof is used as the protected fighting platform.


1 Etymology 2 Licence to crenellate 3 Machicolations 4 History 5 Development 6 Ancient Rome 7 Italy 8 Middle East and Africa 9 Decorative element 10 See also 11 Notes 12 Sources 13 Further reading 14 External links

Etymology[edit] The term originated in about the 14th century from the Old French
Old French
word batailler, "to fortify with batailles" (fixed or movable turrets of defence). The word crenel derives from the ancient French cren (modern French cran), Latin crena, meaning a notch, mortice or other gap cut out often to receive another element or fixing; see also crenation. 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.[1] Licence to crenellate[edit] Main article: Licence to crenellate In medieval England 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 and the Earls of Chester and after 1351 by the Dukes of Lancaster. The castles in England vastly outnumber the licences to crene.llate[2] 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, 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.[3] 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".[4][3] They indicated to the observer that the grantee had obtained "royal recognition, acknowledgment and compliment".[5][3] 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.[3] Machicolations[edit] Battlements may be stepped out to overhang the wall below, and may have openings at their bases between the supporting corbels, through which stones or burning objects could be dropped onto attackers or besiegers; these are known as machicolations. History[edit]

9th-century BC relief of an Assyrian attack on a walled town with zig-zag shaped battlements

Battlements have been used for thousands of years; the earliest known example is in the fortress at Buhen
in Egypt. Battlements were used in the walls surrounding Assyrian towns, as shown on bas reliefs from Nimrud
and elsewhere. Traces of them remain at Mycenae
in Greece, and some ancient Greek vases suggest the existence of battlements. The Great Wall of China
Great Wall of China
has battlements. Development[edit]

Cutaway diagram of a tower of Château de Pierrefonds
Château de Pierrefonds
showing its three levels of defensive architecture

In the European battlements of the Middle Ages
Middle Ages
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 firearms. 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[edit] The Romans used low wooden pinnacles for their first aggeres (terreplains). In the battlements of 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[edit]

Gradara Castle, Italy, outer walls 13th-14th century, showing on the tower curved v-shaped notches in the merlons

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 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[citation needed]. Middle East and Africa[edit] In Muslim
and African fortifications, the merlons often were rounded. The battlements of the 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. Decorative element[edit] European architects persistently used battlements as a purely decorative feature throughout the Decorated and Perpendicular 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 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, by the introduction of quatrefoils and other conventional forms filled with foliage and shield. See also[edit]

Merlon Embrasure


^ Larousse Dictionnaire Lexis de la Langue Française, Paris, 1979; Collins French Dictionary Robert ^ Goodall 2011, p. 9. ^ a b c d Davis 2007, pp. 226–245. ^ Coulson 1982, p. 72. ^ Coulson 1982, p. 83.


Balestracci, D. (1989). "I materiali da costruzione nel castello medievale". Archeologia Medievale (XVI): 227–242.  Coulson, C. (1982). "Hierarchism in Conventual Crenellation". Medieval Archaeology. 26: 69–100.  Davis, Philip (2007). "English Licences to Crenellate: 1199–1567" (PDF). The Castle
Studies Group Journal. 20: 226–245.  Goodall, John (2011). The English Castle. London: Yale Books. ISBN 978-0-300-11058-6.  Luisi, R. (1996). Scudi di pietra, I castelli e l’arte della guerra tra Medioevo e Rinascimento. Bari. 

Further reading[edit]

This article includes a list of references, related reading or external links, but its sources remain unclear because it lacks inline citations. Please help to improve this article by introducing more precise citations. (July 2010) (Learn how and when to remove this template message)

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[edit]

Wikimedia Commons has media related to Battlement.

v t e


Ancient history

Abatis Agger Broch Burgus Castellum Castra Castros Circular rampart City gate Crannog Ditch Defensive wall Dun Faussebraye Gatehouse Gord Hillfort Limes Oppidum Palisade Pincer gate Promontory fort Rampart Ringfort
(Rath) Refuge castle Schwedenschanze Stockade Sudis Trou de loup Vallum Wagon fort
Wagon fort
(Laager) Vitrified fort

Medieval history

Advanced work Albarrana tower Alcazaba Alcázar Arrowslit Barbican Bartizan Bastion Battery tower Battlement Bent entrance Bergfried Bretèche Bridge castle Bridge tower Butter-churn tower Caltrop Castle Chamber gate Chartaque Chashi Chemin de ronde Chemise Cheval de frise Citadel Coercion castle Concentric castle Corner tower Counter-castle Curtain Drawbridge Enceinte Embrasure Flanking tower Fortified buildings (church, house) Ganerbenburg Gate tower Gabion Glacis Guard tower Gulyay-gorod Gusuku Half tower Hoarding Inner bailey Keep Kremlin (Detinets) Landesburg L-plan castle Machicolation Merlon Moat Motte-and-bailey Murder-hole Neck ditch Outer bailey Outwork Peel tower Portcullis Postern Reduit Ringwork Quadrangular castle Shell keep Shield wall Toll castle Tower castle Tower house Turret Wall tower Bailey (or ward) Watchtower Witch tower Yett

Modern history

18th century and earlier

Abwurfdach Bastion Blockhouse Breastwork Canal Caponier Casemate Cavalier Counterguard Counterscarp Couvreface Coupure Covertway Crownwork Device fort Entrenchment Flèche Gorge Hornwork Lunette Orillon Ostrog Place-of-arms Polygonal fort Presidio
(Spanish America) Punji sticks Ravelin Redan Redoubt Retrenchment Sandbag Scarp Sconce Schanze Sea fort Station Star fort Tenaille

19th century

Barbed wire Barbette Border outpost Bunker Coastal artillery Gun turret Land mine Martello tower Outpost Trench warfare Sangar Wire obstacles

20th century

Admiralty scaffolding Air raid shelter Anti-tank trench Barbed tape Blast shelter Blast wall Border barrier Buoy Bremer wall Concertina wire Defensive fighting position British "hedgehog" road block Czech hedgehog Dragon's teeth Electric fence Fallout shelter Fire support base Flak tower Hardened aircraft shelter Hesco bastion Main Line of Resistance Revetment Sentry gun Spider hole Submarine pen Tunnel warfare Underground hangar

By topography

Cave castle Hill castle Hill fort Hillside castle Hilltop castle Island castle Lowland castle Marsh castle Moated castle Promontory fort Ridge castle Rocca Rock castle Spur castle Water castle

By role

Coercion castle Counter-castle Ganerbenburg Hunting lodge Imperial castle Kaiserpfalz Landesburg Lustschloss Ordensburg Refuge castle Toll castle Urban castle

By design

Bridge castle Circular rampart Concentric castle L-plan castle Motte-and-bailey castle Quadrangular castle Ringfort Ringwork Tower castle

See als