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.
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.