A box-machicolation of the Tal-Wejter Tower, in Birkirkara, Malta
|Location||Europe, Middle East and North Africa|
|Material||Stone, sometimes wood|
A machicolation (French: mâchicoulis) is a floor opening between the supporting corbels of a battlement, through which stones or other material, such as boiling water or boiling cooking oil, could be dropped on attackers at the base of a defensive wall. A smaller version found on smaller structures is called a box-machicolation. A similar feature often found in fortified buildings is called a murder hole, although these are generally located above entry ways instead. Machicolation includes meutrières – murder holes - in the ceilings of entrance passages as well as overhanging structures on buttresses or brackets at the top of walls. The equivalent but not identical device built in timber is known as hourds. Machicolation survived from the mid- twelfth century to the beginning of the sixteenth.
This section needs expansion with: explanations for the inclusion of other European terma in the introduction: German: maschikuli. You can help by adding to it. (May 2017)
The word derives from the Old French word machecol, mentioned in Medieval Latin as machecollum, probably from Old French machier 'crush', 'wound' and col 'neck'. Machicolate is only recorded in the 18th century in English, but a verb machicollāre is attested in Anglo-Latin.[page needed]
Both the Spanish and Portuguese words denoting this structure (matacán and mata-cães, respectively), are similarly composed from "matar canes" meaning roughly "killing dogs", the latter word being a slur referring to infidels.[page needed]
In Italy and countries which were influenced by the Italian language, such as Malta, it was known as piombatoio.
Similar to a machicolation is a smaller version which opens similar to an enclosed balcony, generally from a tower rather than a larger structure. This is called a box-machicolation.
Description and use
The design of a machicoulis, commonly described as a drop box, originates from the Middle East, where they are usually found on defensive walls. The original Arabian design is rather small, and similar to the domestic wooden balcony known as mashrabiya.
However, different from the domestic balcony, for defense purposes the Middle-East version of the machicoulis prominently features a wide opening at the bottom. The opening allows the dropping of hot water, oil and other material intended to cause harm to the enemy below. The otherwise enclosed opening adapted from that of a closed balcony also provides cover from enemy attack while using it.
The origins are from Syria and the Crusaders brought their design to Europe. Machicolations were a common feature in many towers in Rhodes, which were built by the Knights Hospitallers. After the Knights were given rule over Malta, machicolations also became a common feature on rural buildings, until the 18th century. Buildings with machicolations include Cavalier Tower, Gauci Tower, the Captain's Tower, Birkirkara Tower and Tal-Wejter Tower.
A hoarding is a similar structure made of wood, usually temporarily constructed in the event of a siege. Advantages of machicolations over wooden hoardings include the greater strength and fire resistance of stone.
Machicolation was typically built at or near the top of walls and towers and it is precisely these areas of castles that have suffered most damage, from decay and from deliberate razing, not to mention from works over the years intended to make the wall-walk safe for residents and tourists. Machicolation was also a device that could be added to an existing structure for one reason or another during the original life of a castle.
- For example, Scottish baronial architecture from the 16th century onwards; and Neo-Gothic buildings of the 19th and 20th centuries.
- Harris, John. "Machicolation: History and Significance" (PDF). Castle Studies Group. Retrieved November 27, 2018.
- Harris, John. [Machicolation survived from the mid- twelfth century to the beginning of the sixteenth "Machicolation: History and Significance"] Check
|url=value (help). The Castle Studies Group. Retrieved November 27, 2018.
- Greimas (1987). A.-J; Dictionnaire de l’ancien français. Paris. ISBN 2-03-340-302-5.
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- Azzopardi, Joe (April 2012). "A Survey of the Maltese Muxrabijiet" (PDF). Vigilo. Valletta: Din l-Art Ħelwa (41): 26–33. ISSN 1026-132X. Archived from the original (PDF) on 15 November 2015.
- Brown (2004), p. 66.
- Mesqui, Jean (1997). Châteaux forts et fortifications en France (in French). Paris: Flammarion. p. 493. ISBN 2-08-012271-1.
- Cathcart King, David James (1988). The Castle in England and Wales: an Interpretative History. London: Croom Helm. pp. 84–87. ISBN 0-918400-08-2.
- Toy, Sidney (2006). History of Fortification from 3000 BC to AD 1700. Pen and Sword. p. 103. ISBN 9781844153589.
- The Oxford Encyclopedia of Medieval Warfare and Military Technology. 1. Oxford University Press. 2010. p. 344. ISBN 9780195334036.
- Harris, John. [Machicolation was typically built at or near the top of walls and towers and it is precisely these areas of castles that have suffered most damage, from decay and from deliberate razing, not to mention from works over the years intended to make the wall-walk safe for residents and tourists. Machicolation was also a device that could be added to an existing structure for one reason or another during the original life of a castle. "Machicolation: History and Significance"] Check
|url=value (help). Castle Studies Group. Retrieved November 28, 2018.
- Brown, R. Allen (2004) . Allen Brown's English Castles. Woodbridge: The Boydell Press. ISBN 1-84383-069-8.
- Hoad, T. F. (1986), English Etymology, Oxford University Press
- Villena, Leonardo (1988). "Sobre las defensas verticales en España: tipología y terminlogía comparadas". In Andrés Bazzana. Guerre, fortification et habitat dans le monde méditerranéen au Moyen Age: colloque. Casa de Velázquez. ISBN 978-84-86839-02-4.
Media related to Machicolations at Wikimedia Commons