(as at Dover) or even a third. Most functions were served by buildings in the bailey. Dover’s daunting keep—the largest in England—was almost 100 feet (30 meters) square and 95 feet (29 meters) high; in places its walls were 21 feet (6.5 meters) thick. It was defended by an inner curtain wall with fourteen projecting “mural towers”—the first in England—which allowed archers to shoot toward any point at the base. The outer curtain wall at Dover was nearly 1 mile (1.6 kilometers) in circumference, with 20 similar towers. Each wall was interrupted only by fortified gatehouses with barbicans. When gunpowder was introduced into the country in the fourteenth century, cannon were developed that could shoot missiles 3 miles (5 kilometers). Given the thickness of its walls, that was of little consequence to Dover Castle. It has been involved in almost every conflict since the Middle Ages. Small wonder it has been called England’s greatest castle.

Changes to artillery were not the main reason for the demise of castles; rather, the feudal system gave place to centralized government and the power of the monarch. In Tudor times, the design of castles was to alter dramatically. As a royal castle, with an eye on the Spanish, Dover was heavily fortified with cannon in the reign of Elizabeth I. It continued to function well beyond that: it was “modernized” during the Napoleonic Wars. Caves were excavated to hide troops waiting in ambush should the French invade. The towers were truncated—some say vandalized—to serve as gun platforms. The caves were again used as headquarters of the Dover Patrol in World War I and as bomb shelters and a hospital in World War II. The castle remained in the hands of the British army until 1958; five years later it was put in the custody of the Department of the Environment (now English Heritage) as a national monument. Conservation work continues.

See also

Deal Castle; The Krak of the Knights

Further reading

Brown, Reginald Allen. 1974. Dover Castle, Kent. London: H.M.S.O.

Coad, Jonathan. 1995. Book of Dover Castle and the Defences of Dover. London: Batsford.

Durham Cathedral


Durham Cathedral, built principally between 1093 and 1133 to house the relics of the Northumbrian evangelist St. Cuthbert of Lindisfarne and the Venerable Bede, is the finest example of Early Norman architecture in England. Its significance in the development of Western architecture lies in the use of rib-and-panel vaulting, the pointed arch, and flying buttresses in the gallery roofs—all prophetic of the elegant structural system that we now know as the Gothic.

The cathedral stands in a hairpin bend of the River Wear in County Durham. William I (the Conqueror) selected the naturally defensive site, and by 1072 a castle was commenced on the neck of the steep-sided peninsula to defend the northern region of Norman Britain against the Scots. In 1091 an earlier Saxon church was demolished, and two years later work commenced upon the great building dedicated to Christ and the Virgin Mary. It was to form part of the Benedictine monastery that had been started about a decade before, and the whole precinct soon became the seat of the powerful feudal prince-bishops of Durham. Early in the twelfth century the peninsula was encircled by a wall, much of which survives.

Serious attempts to build “in the Roman manner,” with semicircular stone arches, vaults, and domes—its architecture has been categorized as Romanesque—date from the second half of the eleventh century. The earliest examples saw barrel (or wagon) vaults used in such churches as Santiago de Compostela, Spain (begun 1078), and St. Sernin, Toulouse (begun 1080). These roofs exerted continuous sideways thrust on the side walls, creating the need to build those walls thicker (to prevent overturning); windows were small, in case they diminished the strength of the walls. Sometimes the walls were braced with arches above their piers. Experiments were also made with the Roman cross or groin vault, in which the church was divided into square bays, each of which was covered with a ceiling made by intersecting two barrel vaults at right angles. Although the groin vault transmitted the loads to the walls at equidistant points (thus allowing for thinner side walls with more and larger openings, braced at intervals with massive piers), most of the stress in the vault itself was at its weakest part: the groin. The system can be seen in parts of Durham and in Speyer Cathedral, Germany (originally 1030–1065).