Machicolation

Machicolation

[muh-chik-uh-ley-shuhn]
A machicolation is a floor opening between the supporting corbels of a battlement, through which stones and lethally hot liquids and substances could be dropped on attackers at the base of a defensive wall. The design was developed in the Middle Ages when the Norman crusaders returned. A machicolated battlement projects outwards from the supporting wall in order to facilitate this. 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 of stone battlements, as well the fireproof properties.

The word derives from the Old French word machicoller, derived from Old Provençal machacol, and ultimately from Latin *maccāre (to crush) + collum (the neck). A variant of machicolations set in the ceiling of a passage was also colloquially known as murder-holes.

Post-medieval use

Machicolation was later used for decorative effect with spaces between the corbels but without the openings, and subsequently became a characteristic of the many non-military buildings, for example, Scottish baronial style, and Gothic Revival architecture of the 19th and 20th Centuries.

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