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The city ​​wall of Bellinzona crowned with dovetail pinnacles

The pinnacle (from Old High German  zin 'rod') is a brick attachment on a parapet . In its original function, the approximately head-high pinnacle was used to provide cover against enemy long-range weapons for a defender standing behind it on a battlement path or a defense platform . The gaps lying between the battlements (also known as battlements window or -scharten hereinafter) extend on the inside up to the height of a parapet down and allow access to the defenders of the shooting range. They were sometimes closed with wooden shutters, the so-called Schartenladen . Crenellated windows were always at least as wide that an archer or crossbowman could lean over them without restriction, while the width of an individual crenellated varied between 0.76 and 2.35 meters and its height was between one and two meters. If a wall is covered with battlements along its entire length, it is called a battlements .

Battlements were often used on fortifications such as city ​​walls or castles in ancient times and the Middle Ages . In Middle High German they were also referred to as Wintberge . However, they were not only defensive components, but also carriers of meaning and stately symbols. For a long time, the battlements of a fortification were seen as a sign of the high social position of the castle owners, visible from afar, because they were allowed to defend their seat. Therefore, battlements can also be found as elements in coats of arms , namely as battlements or in a wall crown .


Battlements of the Alcazaba in Almería

The original shape of the battlements consisted of cuboid masonry with almost equally wide spaces. The top of the battlements and the bottom of the notches were initially basically horizontal. Originally, the space in between was much larger, as one not only shot through them with a crossbow and bow, but also threw throwing material down at the attackers. The invention of the machiculis at the foot of the parapet made it possible to build narrow loopholes, which were often also located in the battlements themselves.

In the course of the 13th century ( High Middle Ages ), the battlements and the bottom of the notches began to be built drained. That is, they pointed downwards at an angle or were covered inwards and outwards. However, since the 12th century, the battlements and thus also the battlements were covered with a wooden protective roof or designed as a gallery in order to give the defenders protection from above. The battlements thus lost their importance over the centuries that followed. The design of the loopholes and machicolations increased in parallel in diversity.

Battlements and machicolations later became popular decorations in architecture from the early modern period to the neo-Gothic of the 19th century , when they were hardly of any military importance . Often these pinnacles were much smaller than the medieval originals.


The rectangular wide battlement was commonly used in Roman architecture used during stages battlements already on ancient Assyrian find representations and thus an older shape. The round arch pinnacle (also called arch pinnacle for short) is one of the decorative pinnacles that have come into fashion in modern times, just like the carnies arch pinnacle. On the other hand, classic rectangular battlements, dovetail battlements and the keel arched battlements, which are particularly common in the Arab world, are among the components with an actual defensive function that were common in the Middle Ages. The crenellations in the shape of a sawtooth are in turn a design that was used for purely decorative purposes. When a pinnacle by a saddle , pent or tent roof has been completed, it is called with a roof parapet. Such roof-shaped terminations are called tin lids .

However, the assumption that the shape of the battlements could once have said something about the owner of the complex is wrong. Allegedly, the Ghibellines, loyal to the emperor, preferred dovetail-shaped battlements in medieval Italy, while the supporters of the Pope - the Guelphs - are said to have been more fond of rectangular battlements . However, the shape of the dovetail pinnacle is much older than the Guelfish-Ghibelline dispute, and there are structures on which both Guelph and Ghibellin pinnacles occur.

The architecture of Western Islam , which was partly influenced by Byzantium in its early days , often shows stepped or stepped battlements, while the battlements typical of fortifications in the Persian-Indian region are shield-shaped and placed very close to one another and are often ornamented .


  • Michael Losse , Reinhard Friedrich: battlements. In: Horst Wolfgang Böhme , Reinhard Friedrich, Barbara Schock-Werner (Hrsg.): Dictionary of castles, palaces and fortresses . Philipp Reclam, Stuttgart 2004, ISBN 3-15-010547-1 , p. 271, doi: 10.11588 / arthistoricum.535 .
  • Herbert de Caboga: The castle in the Middle Ages. History and forms . Ullstein, Frankfurt / Main [a. a.] 1982, ISBN 3-548-36068-8 , pp. 47-51.
  • Johann Nepomuk Cori: Construction and establishment of the German castles in the Middle Ages . 2nd Edition. Städtebilder-Verlag, Darmstadt 1899, pp. 35–36 ( digitized version ).
  • Christofer Herrmann: The pinnacle. About the career of an architectural element. Shown using examples from the Order of Prussia. In: Gerhard Eimer, Ernst Gierlich (Hrsg.): Real defensibility or martial effect. On the practical function and symbolic character of defense elements of profane and sacred buildings in the Teutonic Order of Prussia and in the Baltic Sea region (= art-historical work of the Cultural Foundation of German Expellees. Volume 3). Science and politics, Cologne 2000, ISBN 3-8046-8868-3 , pp. 77-90 ( digitized version ).
  • Otto Piper : Castle studies . Weltbild, Augsburg 1994, ISBN 3-89350-554-7 , pp. 321, 329-331.

Web links

Wiktionary: Zinne  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Commons : battlements  - collection of images, videos and audio files

References and comments

  1. Information according to O. Piper: Burgenkunde , p. 329. Herbert de Caboga gives the average width of a pinnacle with 0.70 to 2 meters and its average height with one to 1.40 meters.
  2. See Otto Piper: Burgenkunde , p. 329.