Fixed house

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Maison forte in Camarsac , 14th century (reconstruction by Viollet-le-Duc )

As a festival house ( French forte maison , English fortified house ) is in the castle research called a conditionally bulit building with relatively thick walls, which - like the residential tower - served the noble owners to residential, defense and representation purposes. The so-called building can be part of a larger castle or stand alone. “Fixed houses” can be traced back to the 10th century at the latest. In the early modern period (16th and 17th centuries), a comparable type of house came back into use, which was used as a lightly reinforced aristocratic residence.

Fixed houses in the early and high Middle Ages

Templar House (Amorbach) , rebuilt in 1291 to its original shape

The type of construction of the permanent house can be proven from the middle of the 10th century at the latest. It was a free-standing building with a rectangular floor plan and up to three floors. The entrance was mostly on the ground floor (in contrast to the residential tower at the same time , which usually had a high entrance ). A "permanent house" was - in contrast to the houses of the common people, mostly made of clay and / or half-timbered houses - often built in stone (mostly field stones ). The defensive character is shown, among other things, by the only small window openings or slits of light on the ground floor. The upper floors could be made of log or half-timbered construction or also in stone. But there are also complete wooden and clay buildings on stone sleepers in post construction . Since the existing building fabric often does not extend beyond the foundation walls, an exact reconstruction of the early medieval “permanent houses” is often difficult.

Often they were surrounded by a moat or a dry trench or a palisade (sometimes on earthen walls ) or a field stone wall. As a result, they had a (even if mostly only modest) defensive and representative value, at least in comparison to farmhouses, which were mostly only built in wood or wood-clay and not fortified. Most of them also had a farmyard that was not or only slightly fortified (outer bailey). The early medieval "Germanic hall", a wooden building with a rectangular floor plan, which was sometimes expanded to become a stable house , from which the peasant hall house developed, can be regarded as the predecessor of the design . In contrast to other forms of representative aristocratic residential architecture, the early and high medieval Feste Haus developed from simple buildings.

The fixed houses of the 10th and 11th centuries were often part of a castle complex and formed their core, which was often supplemented in later times by renovations and additional buildings. One example is a stone house built in the Carolingian era around 900 in Doué-la-Fontaine ( Maine-et-Loire , France), which after a fire around 940 was extended to at least two storeys and then "mothballed" the previous ground floor area around 1000 , d. H. was surrounded by a heaped mound of earth ( moth ), which has now been removed from the original entrance area. Examples like this show that a later increase in storeys could result in a conversion into a residential tower , provided that the wall was strong enough. The residential tower initially differs formally from the fixed house due to its greater height. The transition between the two designs can be fluid in individual cases. This also applies to some French donjons and English keeps , which with their compact shape do not have the vertically emphasized character of a typical tower building.

In the 11th century there was a juxtaposition of the two forms of construction of the permanent house and residential tower in castle construction, both of which were also found, for example, as the main building on the moths of time. The fragmentary building stock often makes it difficult to assign it, especially since permanent houses were often added to by adding additional storeys to form towers. The Bach knights castle Kanzach may serve as an illustration , the reconstruction of a wooden residential tower built on a stone base from the 13th century, on a low moth with a moat and wicker fence as well as a farm yard that is lightly fortified by an earth wall and palisade.

From the second half of the 12th century, a new development in castle architecture began in Central Europe, in which residential and defense functions were increasingly separated from one another: the construction of the well-fortified and usually uninhabited keep emerged on one side, and on the other Palas or similar hall buildings, which differed significantly from the earlier Festes Haus with numerous larger windows, architectural decorations and higher living comfort. The combination and compact concentration of residential and military functions no longer met the demands of the noble lords of the castle at that time.


See Burgmannshof .

Noble farms

Most of the noble courts are originally medieval knight seats , mostly of the lower nobility or Burgmannen (analogy to the Burgmannenhof !), Often in the style of a fortress house attached with a moat - as a small moated castle. They were built within cities, in villages or as independent properties outside of localities. In most cases they or their owners were exempt from taxation, did not have to do any labor and were legally endowed with special rights or their own lower jurisdiction as a so-called Freihof . The owners were nobles or precious free (of which the term derives Edelhof) which - even within cities - only the jurisdiction of their own feudal lord were under.

Castle-like noble farms are said to have been built in Franconian times and were evidently very common in the early Middle Ages. The preserved "Edelhof" in Großliehaben , also known as the moated castle, with a half-timbered upper floor , a walled-in Romanesque window and partially preserved moat, is considered the oldest preserved moated castle in Thuringia. At least until the 18th century, the term “Edelhof” was also used for mansions built by the nobility in modern times.

Fortifications of medieval cities

Kühhornshof moated fortress- like fortification (around 1860, before demolition), castle-like complex with residential tower, moat and drawbridge, Frankfurt-Nordend , Hesse
Kühhornshof in 1855, Julius Hülsen after CT Reiffenstein

Many medieval towns had so-called fortified farms , well- fortified farmsteads , outside the city area. Some of these were castle-like structures that were fortified with ramparts, dry ditches or moats and a drawbridge and mostly contained a defense tower, residential tower or watch tower . The size of such complexes apparently varied from a single house with an associated round or angular guard tower to a castle-like complex that was grouped around a courtyard, consisted of several buildings, a gatehouse and a massive residential tower and was surrounded by a moat. From the 17th century until the end of the 19th century, such structures were mostly demolished, which is why they are now a barely explored area of ​​medieval fortifications. Often only the term "Wehrhof" has survived in everyday language. Or only individual buildings or the watch tower remained.

The defense yards, together with the guard towers, had several functions:

  • as signal points,
  • "Geleitburg" to protect travelers and traders,
  • Accommodation for travelers at night and in bad weather,
  • as well as customs office.

Therefore, the fortifications were located directly or in the immediate vicinity of the trade route that led to the city. The watch tower communicated directly with the guards on the city wall / the tower keeper or indirectly via other watch towers. The fortifications were sometimes part of a landwehr , a (water) ditch and / or wall system, the walls of which were often planted with thorny hedges . The Landwehr protected the cities from sudden raids on the villages belonging to the city and prevented the bypassing of the city customs offices for collecting the toll from traveling merchants. It often marked the border of the area belonging to the city. If the military courtyard was part of an urban Landwehr, it was usually located at the end of the Landwehr facing the city. Here the stream of passing travelers could be effectively controlled, protected and accommodated. The fortifications as well as individual guard towers are referred to as "castles" in the documents of many cities.

Pond houses

A pond house in the Wolfegger house book (around 1480)

When Weiherhaus (often in the diminutive as a fishpond called) is, to a small, lightly fortified aristocratic or patrician seat of a natural or man-made island in a pond or a pond mostly in the late Middle Ages was built. Access was via a footbridge with a drawbridge . There were pond houses mainly in southern Germany, in Nuremberg and its suburbs, several pond houses (of the Nuremberg patriciate ) have hardly changed. The building type of the pond house is to be distinguished from the larger and often older moated castle .

In 1521, Willibald Pirckheimer describes the knight's seat Neunhof near Nuremberg as follows: "Furthermore, on a higher hill facing north, there is a magnificent castle, built of stone blocks, adorned with many buildings, and moreover with an insurmountable moat and protective weirs fortified in an excellent way. From here on the view is so open that one can see the whole area at a glance. " So it describes a typical knight seat of the lower nobility, a tower hill castle or a pond house on a hill with a surrounding moat.

Fixed houses in the early modern era

Renaissance moated castle Klaffenbach (actually: Schloss Neukirchen), Saxony: built from 1616 with a moat, bridge and farm yard like a bailey
baroque wooden house with moat, Frankfurt-Nordend , Hesse

At the transition from the late Middle Ages to the early modern period, a new type of permanent house spread, which once again experienced a new heyday in the function of a lightly reinforced aristocratic residence in the 16th and 17th centuries. One began to reduce the older multi-part castle, to combine different buildings and to concentrate the different building functions under one roof again. For country nobles, fixed houses met the requirements for representation and (albeit weak) fortification, which certainly could not withstand a military attack with firearms, but at best could deter nocturnal robbery with little construction effort - compared to the larger castle.

This type often took up the formal language of the medieval predecessor buildings of the nobility, such as moats, towers, ornamental crenellations , decorative oriels , imitated machicolation , ring walls, corner cuboids or block paintings, with which the owners indicated their nobility . This was sometimes justified by the construction of the house, so often with the Tyrolean residences , whose new construction aimed at the sovereign legal act of tax exemption and which was often accompanied by the nobility of the builder including acceptance into the state parliament. Similarly, newly created court marks in Bavaria and Austria and knightly estates eligible for state assembly in northern Germany had to be approved by the sovereign and enrolled by the knighthood .

The stone construction is of course - unlike in the early Middle Ages - no longer a unique selling point. The fortification was often carried out through loopholes for handguns on the ground floor, a moat, as well as weir bay windows and corner towers ( tourelles or crowd watch towers ) in the roof area. In many cases, a stair tower was built to access the upper floors . The main floors were equipped with larger windows and designed for the living standards of the noble owner. The early modern fortress houses did not fulfill the function of a military fortification, but could be defended against smaller attacks and with the sometimes symbolic defense elements corresponded to the aristocratic representation. The fixed houses often have tower-like proportions through several storeys. The small castle in Kestřany, Okres Písek , Czech Republic, had a tower without windows in the basement, which was perhaps only used for defense and storage purposes. In France the corresponding buildings are called maison forte or manoir , in English-speaking countries they are called fortified manor house . They often formed the center of a country estate and then took on the function of a manor house .

Examples of fixed houses:

Göltzsch in Saxony, excavation of a 13th century moated castle
Mehlbek in Westholstein around 1576

See also


Individual evidence

  1. Horst Wolfgang Böhme et al. (Ed.): Castles in Central Europe. Darmstadt 1999, p. 257.
  2. Ulrich Schütte: The castle as a weir system, Scientific Book Society Darmstadt 1994, p. 273
  3. Horst Wolfgang Böhme et al. (Ed.): Dictionary of castles, palaces and fortresses. 2004, p. 123.
  4. Hans-Joachim Mrusek : Shape and development of feudal self-fortification in the Middle Ages. Berlin 1973, p. 125.