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Krak des Chevaliers: a concentric castle.
Krak des Chevaliers, showing inner and outer walls.

A concentric castle (or multiple castle) is a castle within a castle, with two or more concentric rings of curtain walls and, in cases, no central keep.[1] Generally, the outermost walls are lowest and the height of the walls increases towards the middle. The walls would include towers and bastions and would usually be crenellated. Gates would usually be protected by barbicans; they are the last stage of the development of castles.

They were introduced into Europe in the 13th century[2] and were designed to increase the defensive capabilities of the castle: defenders on the higher walls towards the centre could fire arrows at the enemy over the lower outer defenses, and, should the enemy capture the outer defences, they would face another line of defence.

The Krak des Chevaliers Crusader castle in Syria, Beaumaris Castle[3] and Caerphilly Castle in Wales are excellent examples of this type of fortification with Caerphilly Castle being one of the largest concentric castles in Europe. The concept was continued in later periods, such as the early modern fortifications of Vauban, where outer defence works were protected and overlooked by others and their capture did not destroy the integrity of the inner citadel.

In terms of development, the concentric castle is the descendant of shell keeps and co-existed with linear castles, which tended to be built where geography precluded concentric rings or naturally favoured a linear approach to castle-building.But no-one knows when it was built.

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