“Why are there models of the wooden fortress and the stone castle along the trail at the Ozark Medieval Fortress?” Adults as well as children enjoy seeing a model of something they are interested in, but the reason for the large models of fortresses along the trail is because we talk about the history of the wooden fortress, motte and bailey and Medieval stone castles. The French founding partners of the Ozark Medieval Fortress call our site an “edutraction”, so a lot of effort has gone into making it easy for people to visualize Medieval history. The castle itself is so big, sometimes it is easy to lose perspective. I think it is especially helpful for even the smallest child to look down on the stone castle model and be able to visualize the entire project.
I like to point out that there are four aspects of Medieval castle building visible in the stone model. First, the transition from the early Middle Ages (Dark Ages) to the high Middle Ages (the year 1000) is not marked by a battle, but rather, the return to building with stone. The earliest stone castle keep in Europe was built at that time in France. Second, they used cement, but it was Roman cementorium which was water, sand and lime without modern hardeners. That cement was porous and could “breathe”, and so control joints were not necessary to keep the wall from cracking. Modern cement has to have these control joints or the cement will expand from the heat of the sun and crack. The Medieval cement was not as hard and was very slow to dry but permitted them to build the wide, long castle walls. Third, the returning Crusaders came back to Europe with a renewed appreciation for the strength of round towers. This was not a new idea. The Romans built a fortress at Cologne, Germany to guard the Rhine crossing in 300 A.D. using round towers. The Crusaders saw the value of these round towers and they now became the standard. Round towers do not have a corner that can be battered and loosened. The stones are in a naturally strong arc that resists battering. Finally, the model shows the shift in the donjon, or keep, from the center of the bailey to the outer wall. They realized the lord’s tower was just as defensible in the outer wall as in the center of the courtyard. This move meant they no longer had to walk through the muck and weather to get from the sleeping quarters to the Great Hall where they ate and entertained. It may sound simple, because we take it for granted that our rooms are all connected under one roof, but to them it made a big difference to daily life and comfort.
Beyond the educational value of these models, I like the chance to visualize the completed castle with the gate houses, battlements and towers. It’s fun to picture the knights and horses, serfs and merchants all going about their daily lives in a Medieval castle.