When you mention the phrase “middle ages,” most people would think about castles. After all, most people have dreamt of living in castles and being kings and queens. In fact, even to this day, the still-standing castles are very popular tourist attractions. In this article, we are going to explore when did castles lost their importance and the contributing factors that eventually lead to its decline.
What Made Castles Important?
Before we cover when and why castles lost their importance, it’s best that you have an idea why they were popular in the first place. The primary reason why a castle is built is because it provided a place to store supply and provided an easily defendable position. During the times in which castles were accessible, raids from neighboring countries or tribes were common.
With castles, it allowed the defenders to have a massive advantage. For one, invading army will need to outnumber the defending troops by a wide margin (given that the invaders had no artillery as a means of destroying the walls). Another reason why castles became popular is it symbolizes status for the kings and queens. Also, castles were also meant to dominate to landscape and intimidate would-be invaders.
For a couple of centuries, castles proved to be very good at achieving their purpose, which is why its popularity grew during the middle ages. However, a certain invention came to existence which made the idea of castles unappealing.
When Did Castles Lose Their Importance?
So what is this invention? It was gunpowder! Gunpowder was invented in China. By the 14th century, it was introduced to Europe. At the time, the application of gunpowder did not yet have a significant impact on castles.
It was only during the 15th century in which gunpowder use evolved to a point in which it became easy for cannons to destroy stone walls. Hence, it’s safe to say that the importance of castle started to decline by the end of the 15th century.
Keep in mind that the there were still castles being built up to the 16th century. The newer castles incorporated new designs to minimize the damaging impact of cannons.
However, when you start factoring in the cost of building and maintaining a castle versus how easy it is to produce gunpowder and a cannon, then it’s easy to realize that building a castle is not a very cost-effective way of defending a small territory.
Castles are the hallmarks of the middle ages. It inspired stories about kings, queens, princes, and princesses for the later generations. While it is true that castles were primarily built for non-romanticized reasons, it served a useful purpose until the time in which gunpowder and cannons were introduced, which made castles an inefficient solution to the problem they once solved.