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Staircase Engineering.


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Posted (edited)

 

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The reason why most staircases in medieval castles were built to be extremely narrow and spiraling in a clockwise direction is:

Since medieval castles were built mainly as fortifications, staircases were designed to make it extremely difficult for enemy combatants to fight their way up.

Since most soldiers were right-handed, they would need to round each curve of the inner wall before attempting to strike, inevitably exposing themselves in the process. The clockwise spiral staircase also allowed the defenders to use the inner wall as a partial shield and easily allow them to swing their weapon without being hindered by the curvature of the outer wall.

The stairs were also intentionally poorly lit and built to be uneven, making it even more difficult for the attackers to gain any sort of balance or momentum during their fight up to capture the castle.

 

 

Edited by Sedalia Dave
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  • Sedalia Dave changed the title to Staircase Engineering.

i really never gave this a lot of thought but now im going to look into it a bit just for my own edification , , i designed a lot of buildings with various staircases and more than one spiral came into play , i always figured the defense would be good coverage from above - i thought a tub of hot oil would do the trick - particularly if you lit it off 

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Except about 30% were built with counter-clockwise.   Some,  including in the Tower of London complex have both  in the same  building.   

 

The wall to the right of the guy coming down will inhibit his swing. 

 

The guy coming up can go Roman,  have his sword along side of his shield, and thrust up at the guy coming down.   Or chop overhand at his feet.   

 

 

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A nice example from Errol Flynn's Robin Hood.

 

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You can see as he is going up the stairs the castle wall is blocking his right arm. The defender, coming down the stairs, can swing his right arm out into space if necessary. So these stairs are going counterclockwise up the wall of the Tower.

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Posted (edited)

I always bought into the theory that castle staircases were built clockwise ascending to advantage the defense, but then started rooting around a few years ago. Now I'm not so certain:

 

Medieval Mythology - Fighting on spiral staircases

 

Myth of the Spiral Stair

 

Fake History Hunter

 

ETA: Add into that the fact that many (most?) of the stairs are interior and narrow — attacker and defender are both limited in their swing. 

Edited by Ozark Huckleberry
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Spend enough time doing anything competitive and physical you get to learn offhand also. Switch to lefty for the win

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57 minutes ago, Texas Joker said:

Switch to lefty for the win

Not always.

 

In college I was taking two PEs at the same time. I was learning both tennis and handball. On the tennis court one day we were doing doubles, and I was at the net. The ball came on my left side, and instead of doing a backhand with my racket, I instinctively reached out with my left hand and slapped it back.

 

"Switch to lefty for the win"

 

Not that time.  :P

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When I had Architectural history for the Medieval period my Professor took a different approach. Instead of this castle is X and was built in Y. Rather he showed us why things were built the way they were. Including houses and cities. Best of the 3 history classes I had to take.

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