Crenellation (or crenelation, also known as castellation) is the name for the distinctive pattern that frames the tops of the walls of many medieval castles, often called battlements. Crenellation most commonly takes the form of multiple, regular, rectangular spaces cut out of the top of the wall to allow defenders spaces to shoot arrows from and other spaces to hide behind full cover.

The technical name for an opening in crenellations is embrasure or crenel (or crenelle), while the raised portions of the wall between them are called merlons. Crenellations would have been used originally on defensive walls built around a settlement (with or without a castle), but the modern experience of them is mainly their appearance on the towers and turrets of castles and mock-castles. They can also be seen in large numbers on the Great Wall of China.

License to crenellate

A license to crenelate was supposedly a grant that gave permission for a building to be fortified. This may have started in the Carolingian Empire as a way to control castle building to prevent local lords from becoming over mighty or too strong but, in feudal society, the license was used both by king and baron as a symbol of their status. With "few exceptions at times of turbulence, the king's right as overlord to license was a right to grant, not to refuse, permission to crenelate" (Coulson 1982, 71) and "In reality, no feudal or sub-feudal ruler could either in law or in practice deny to his vassal the protection by self-help fortifying which he, as lord, had failed to provide." (Coulson 1982, 97) It was not in reality necessary to obtain a license to crenelate to erect a fortified building. There was "very slight chance of interference by royal officials even in so intensively governed a realm as England, but a license was prestigious and could be had for the asking." (Coulson 1982, 70). Fortifications were not restricted by law, but the cost of building and, particularly, of providing a garrison restricted true military castles to a very limited number anyway.


*Coulson, C., 1982, 'Hierarchism in Conventual Crenellation' "Medieval Archaeology" Vol. 26 pp69-100

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • crenellation — Crenelation Cren el*a tion ( ? sh?n), n. The act of crenelating, or the state of being crenelated; an indentation or an embrasure. [Written also {crenellation}.] [1913 Webster] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • crenellation — also crenelation noun Date: 1849 1. battlement 2. any of the embrasures alternating with merlons in a battlement see battlement illustration …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • crenellation — noun /ˌkɹɛn.əlˈeɪ.ʃən,ˌkɹɛn.ɪˈleɪ.ʃən,ˌkɹɛn.əˈleɪ.ʃən/ a) A pattern along the top of a parapet (fortified wall), most often in the form of multiple, regular, rectangular spaces in the top of the wall, through which arrows or other weaponry may be …   Wiktionary

  • crenellation — cren·el·la·tion …   English syllables

  • crenellation — /krɛnəˈleɪʃən/ (say krenuh layshuhn) noun 1. the act of crenellating. 2. the state of being crenellated. 3. a battlement. 4. a notch; indentation. Also, US, crenelation …   Australian English dictionary

  • crenellation — noun 1. a rampart built around the top of a castle with regular gaps for firing arrows or guns • Syn: ↑battlement, ↑crenelation • Derivationally related forms: ↑crenellate, ↑crenelate (for: ↑crenelation) …   Useful english dictionary

  • crenelation — noun 1. a rampart built around the top of a castle with regular gaps for firing arrows or guns • Syn: ↑battlement, ↑crenellation • Derivationally related forms: ↑crenellate (for: ↑crenellation), ↑crenelate …   Useful english dictionary

  • Emblem of Malaysia — infobox coat of arms name = National Emblem/Coat of Arms of Malaysia Jata Negara ms icon image width = 250 year adopted = 1948 for the Federation of Malaya. middle = middle width = middle caption = armiger = shield = Equal divisions of four… …   Wikipedia

  • Coat of Arms of Malaysia — Jata Negara (Malay) Details Armiger …   Wikipedia

  • Battlement — Castellated redirects here. For the hardware item, see castellated nut. 9th cent. BC relief of an Assyrian attack on a walled town with battlements …   Wikipedia

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