A box-machicolation of the Tal-Wejter Tower, in Birkirkara, Malta
|Location||Europe and MENA|
|Material||Stone, sometimes wood|
A machicolation (French: mâchicoulis, German: maschikuli, Italian: piombatoio, Spanish: matacán) 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 structres is called a box-machicolation.
|This section needs expansion with: explanations for the inclusion of other European terma in the introduction: German: maschikuli, Italian: piombatoio. 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]
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 Arab fortifications in the Middle East, where they are usually found on defensive walls. The original Arabian design was rather small, and similar to the domestic wooden balcony known as mashrabiya.
However, different from the domestic balcony, for defense purposes the Arabian 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.
After the Knights were given rule over Malta, machilocations 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.
- For example, Scottish baronial architecture from the 16th century onwards; and Neo-Gothic buildings of the 19th and 20th centuries.
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Media related to Machicolations at Wikimedia Commons