18 Fascinating Satellite Photos Of Famous Castles

Voting Rules
Vote up the images that give you a new perspective on royal estates.

Castles were built to withstand not only the elements but also enemy sieges and the occasional fury of hungry commoners, so it's no surprise that many of them survived into the present day. Most of these have transitioned from royal residences into tourist attractions, and it's easy to understand why. Palaces, citadels, fortresses, and just really big chateaus hold an undeniable attraction to modern eyes.

The world's largest castles are fairy tales made real, physical evidence of an era far removed from the now. Seen from below, they inspire awe. Seen from above, with the latest in satellite technology, it becomes clearer how they've shaped the land around them. Check out these satellite pics of castles, and vote up the ones that give you a new perspective on the past.

Photo: Google Earth

  • 1
    507 VOTES

    Castel del Monte, Italy

    Built by Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II in the 13th century, Castel del Monte is notable for its octagonal shape, and is said to represent the humanist and mathematical interests of the monarch. According to one writer, "The octagonal plan represents the intermediate figure between the square (the symbol of the earth) and the circle, representing the infinite sky."

    Meanwhile, UNESCO calls the castle a "successful blend of elements from classical antiquity, the Islamic Orient, and north European Cistercian Gothic." The architect is unknown, but the main elements of its construction are limestone, white marble, and coral breccia. 

    507 votes
  • Exhibiting a mix of Gothic and Romanesque architectural styles, the Trakai Island Castle dates back to the later 14th century. The original fortress was constructed of brick on one of the islands of Lithuania's Galvė Lake. It was largely destroyed in the 17th century, but early restoration efforts in the 19th century helped keep it from total ruin.

    Further restoration of the castle was continued throughout the 20th century, and its apperance today is considered authentic to its 15th century state.

    470 votes
  • Burg Eltz is not only a historical site but also inhabited by the same family that was first deeded the castle in 1157 AD. Located in Wierschem, Germany, the Eltz family has lived on the estate for more than 860 years.

    A survivor of the Thirty Years' War, possessing 80 rooms, and said to be haunted by ghostly medieval knights, Burg Eltz looks much like it did in the 16th century. 

    1,259 votes
  • Beijing's imperial palace was first occupied by the court of the Ming dynasty in 1420. The 178-acre compound is now a museum for China's art and history. 

    The palace was known as the "Forbidden City" because most Chinese subjects were once forbidden to enter the complex. Even members of the government and imperial family enjoyed only limited access.

    According to the Encyclopedia Britannica

    The architecture of the walled complex adheres rigidly to the traditional Chinese geomantic practice of feng shui. The orientation of the Forbidden City, and for that matter all of Beijing, follows a north-south line. Within the compound, all the most important buildings, especially those along the main axis, face south to honor the Sun. 

    888 votes
  • 5
    1,054 VOTES

    Mont Saint-Michel, France

    Though not properly a castle, Mont-Saint-Michel resisted sieges during the Hundred Years' War and the French Wars of Religion, and is a unique medieval remnant whose walls and towers provide an even more unique vista from above. Technically an abbey and village, the Romanesque and Gothic structure is completely surrounded by the waters of Mont-Saint-Michel Bay during high tide. 

    Constructed between the 11th and 16th centuries, the Benedictine abbey is known as the "Wonder of the West," and has been a site of pilgrimage for a thousand years. Houses in the village date to the 15th century, though most are now hotels and shops.

    1,054 votes
  • Originally the site of Louis XIII's hunting lodge, the monarch's son, Louis XIV, would eventually transform it into the new home of the French court. Louis oversaw the construction of a lavish palace containing pressurized fountains, about 350 apartments, and architectural works of art like the Hall of Mirrors.

    Perhaps Danish writer Louise Boisen Schmidt said it best:

    To the public imagination, Versailles is the epitome of opulence. It represents an age in French history of both France's rise as a fashion and power center as well as the dramatic — and bloody — decline of the monarchy.

    1,958 votes