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Castles as European Phenomena

Towards an international approach to medieval castles in Europe. Contributions to an international and interdisciplinary workshop in Kiel, February 2016


Edited By Stefan Magnussen and Daniel Kossack

Castle research witnessed a revival in recent years, and new theoretical and methodological approaches have massively changed our perception of medieval castles. But despite the fact that this renaissance is observable all over Europe, research is still mostly subject to regional perspectives. In 2016, a workshop was hosted at Kiel University, Germany, in order to address these recent developments and stimulate international scientific discourse. It was especially designed to provide a platform for young scholars. With its 11 contributions, the volume provides a vivid picture of current castle research in different areas of Europe, from Italy to Latvia and the Levant to Denmark.

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The Burgenbauregal – A Specter in Historical and Archaeological Research on Castles*


Rainer Atzbach

Abstract: A famous concept of castle research is the assumption of the Burgenbauregal, a royal prerogative of castle building. This chapter discusses this phenomenon using the example of the Regnum Teutonicum. It reviews both written and archaeological sources from the 9th until the 13th century. Findings suggest that there is no evidence for the existence of such a royal prerogative of castle building between the 9th and the 13th century AD within the written sources. Accordingly, it is more likely a product of historiography and, thus, no longer a useful concept for discussing the history of castle building in the Regnum Teutonicum.

A specter is haunting Europe, the specter of the so-called Burgenbauregal, i.e. the royal prerogative of castle building. The Burgenbauregal is the assumption that in former times, especially during the early Middle Ages, there was royal privilege that allowed only the king to construct a castle or at least to give permission to do so. The castle is without any doubt the most important representation of the ruling class during the Middle Ages. It represents a claim of power in the same way as the monasteries or other sacred buildings; in some cases, it could be argued to be an even better mean of representation of power. The building supports several functions of domination: Apart from providing secure housing for the occupying family, or their retainers, the fortification was a permanent threat of violence, due to the general possibility of being used...

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