Weird History

Facts About Medieval Castles That Made Us Say 'Really?'

List Rules
Vote up the most impressive facts about these medieval castles.

To modern eyes, it can be difficult to look at a medieval castle and imagine anyone living there who doesn't ride dragons or pray to a weirwood tree. However, those imposing citadels seen on vacation or glimpsed on television were once home to an assortment of folks, from high lords and ladies to their knights, servants, and animals. 

Below is a collection of medieval castle facts that may help bring that history to life. As shared by Redditors, these are the nitty gritty details about castles you probably didn't learn in school. Enjoy these little known facts about medieval castles, and vote up the ones you never knew before.

  • 1
    493 VOTES

    An Ancient Roman Lighthouse Resides On The Grounds Of Dover Castle

    From Redditor u/mckramer:

    TIL an ancient Roman lighthouse still stands in England, at Dover Castle.

    Source

    [Editor's Note: The pharos was built in the early 2nd century AD. According to Google Arts & Culture, "Not only is the Dover pharos the most complete standing Roman building in England, it's also one of only three lighthouses to survive from the whole of the former Roman empire."]

  • From Redditor u/dark1878:

    TIL that Eltz Castle in Germany has been owned and occupied by the Eltz family for over 850 years.

    Source

    [Editor's Note: The land was given to Rudolf von Eltz in 1157 by the Emperor Frederick I Barbarossa. Today, in addition to being a tourist destination, the castle remains a private residence for three branches of the Eltz family: the Rodendorfs, the Rubenachs, and the Kempeniches.]

  • 3
    236 VOTES

    The Series Of Events That Led To King John Signing The 'Magna Carta' Began With A Knight Climbing Up His Personal Toilet Chute

    From Redditor u/Badgeringlion:

    TIL a medieval French soldier climbed up a toilet into a besieged castle to let his army in. King John of England had specifically requested that toilet be installed for personal use during church services. The castle’s fall led to English loss of Normandy and the signing of the Magna Carta.

    Source

    [Editor's Note: King Philip of France lay siege to Château Gaillard beginning in August 1203. After breaching the first castle wall, his forces were stopped cold by the second. However, "a flaw in the design of the castle was discovered. They found an unguarded toilet chute that lead right into a chapel within the second wall. French forces entered the chute and took over this middle section of the fortification." Following this, the French breached the third wall and King John's knights surrendered. John, already unpopular, was humiliated by this defeat and subsequently forced to sign the Magna Carta by angry English nobles.]

  • 4
    321 VOTES

    In Medieval Castles, Nice Clothes Were Kept In The Toilet Chamber, Where Ammonia Fumes Were Thought To Ward Off Fleas

    From Redditor u/down_vote_magnet:

    TIL in medieval times clothes were stored close to the toilet shaft, as the ammonia fumes would [eliminate] any fleas.

    Source

    [Editor's Note: The "garderrobe" was basically a medieval bathroom, though it was also used to keep clothes for the nobility. (Peasants just used chamberpots.) These chambers were built overlooking castle walls, where waste would slide down into a pit, body of water, or moat. While the source above notes that the ammonia from human waste was thought to protect against fleas (literally "guard your robes"), it's not mentioned if this was actually effective. Every source mentions it would have smelled awful.]