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Medieval European Architecture

Europe has a long and bloody history.

From the Second World War, with countless tragedies committed because one man imposing his will. To the much more historical Battle of Trafalgar, where men drowned and met their ends in vicious naval battles.

But when the mind wanders to histories in Europe, something that near-inevitably comes to mind would be the stone brick giants, the white and black builds, or the mud and thatch constructs of the medieval times.

While certainly testament to the warlike mentality of the time, each and every one of these also tells a story. Each detail would be undoubtedly influenced by the individual’s unique preferences. The simple choice of location and material effects the overall result of a build, as well as environmental factors. Are you building on loose ground? Use rocks for a foundation, or drive branches deep into the soil to keep your home from crumbling away. If you were in a water-rich area? The perfect place to take Sod from to build a fast and easy home.

Even the shape of the build would affect the required effort, and when time or resources were scarce, the most efficient methods would require quite an artistic mind in order to find the most effective solution.

But aesthetics definitely played a part into construction once the settlements advanced to using lumber. Carvings and shaping wood in specific ways could be seen as good luck, and houses built using wattle and daub would combine the visual aspect with the pragmatic.

A personal favourite feature of mine is the method of using stone to act as both the walls of the first floor to a home, and doubling this as the foundation for the main living area, housed on the upper floor of the building. The true art of this comes into play when you examine the exact mechanics of this. The ceiling of the stone walls would be made of lumber logs positioned width-wise across the space. If these had been the exact length of the space required, the weight of their position would have bent them and caused the shortening length to pull down the standing walls. The ingenious solution? Make the beams longer. The weight of the beam beyond the wall’s top would prevent bending. Also, any upper floor would consequentially have more floorspace, and any building of the walls and roof would only reinforce the strength of the previous structures.

These aspects continued to be implemented in stonework, even once there was no practical use for it.

Castles were the ultimate mark of prestige amongst the nobility and the larger the castle, the more wealth the nobility of the area had. The walls were designed both to defend, and to be appealing to those who resided within. Many of the defensive features were replicated with the homes, even if they were in a non-functional fashion. Upper walls would still hold the same feature of “Jettying” that the wooden features did, simply because it was appealing to look at, even at the expense of effort on behalf of builders and the funding of the employer. These are incredibly interesting aspects of culture, and many of the consequences of these earlier cultures are still felt today. I wholeheartedly recommend looking into this matter.

My point in this case is that art is a core part of being human. Some choices can be decided purely on our survivalist methods, or purely pragmatic, but these choices will always be influenced in some way by our own personalities and preferences. Be it consciously or not, we will always integrate art into our lives whenever possible.