Were castles whitewashed on the exterior/interior?

Feb 2019
33
Denmark
It's an archaeological fact that many castles were whitewashed in the middle ages, but what I want to know is if this applies to all castles - not just some?
At least, the majority?

If not, would the majority of interior castle walls most certainly have been whitewashed (if not the exterior)?

I've come across a lot of digital reconstructions of castles and city fortifications, and most of them are not whitewashed - neither the exterior nor interior.
Why?
 

Dan Howard

Ad Honorem
Aug 2014
4,742
Australia
The castles you have seen on the internet are but a tiny representative of all the ones that were used historically. Castles have been in use all over the world for thousands of years by countless cultures. What makes you think that they have anything at all in common let alone this method of decoration? Buildings were constructed and decorated according to the materials that were available in the local area and local custom. Nobody is going to whitewash a castle if there isn't a plentiful supply of lime.
 
Last edited:

Ichon

Ad Honorem
Mar 2013
3,675
I think whitewashing was fairly common but by no means universal. There are too many examples of specific types of stone or the type of timbering atop the walls that do not align with white washing.

It is very easy to say some places were whitewashed and some weren't but I really doubt we will ever be able to get a good idea of the percentages.

It seems western Europe for some time was fond of whitewashing but there is the idea gaining more ground that just as many of the Italian masters that made white sculptures thinking they were replicating the ancient Greek and Roman art styles, in fact, the ancient world was full of colour and most sculptures and facades were painted. Later European castles 1400s+ seem whitewashed less often and we have more written sources saying the style was directly influenced by older structures where the whitewash had faded.
 
Sep 2017
753
United States
many of the Italian masters that made white sculptures thinking they were replicating the ancient Greek and Roman art styles, in fact, the ancient world was full of colour and most sculptures and facades were painted.]/QUOTE]

I've always found this fascinating, since it is so easy to imagine pristine, monochrome arts and architecture in the ancient world when it was probable that it had all kinds of color. Painted Roman statues, for instance, give off such a different vibe than the grey/white ones do.
 
Feb 2019
33
Denmark
Later European castles 1400s+ seem whitewashed less often and we have more written sources saying the style was directly influenced by older structures where the whitewash had faded.
Thanks. Do you have some sources where I can read more about this claim that castles in the 1400s+ seem whitewashed less often?
 

Todd Feinman

Ad Honorem
Oct 2013
6,497
Planet Nine, Oregon
Whitewashing was done in preparation for decorative painting, just as ground or gesso is applied to a panel. You can also use it t o plug up drafty cracks. Tapestries were also used. Perhaps only tye great room would have the lime plaster and decoration. Other buildings had whitewashed interiors too.
 

Ichon

Ad Honorem
Mar 2013
3,675
Whitewashing was done in preparation for decorative painting, just as ground or gesso is applied to a panel. You can also use it t o plug up drafty cracks. Tapestries were also used. Perhaps only tye great room would have the lime plaster and decoration. Other buildings had whitewashed interiors too.
I think the OP was referring to the outside of structures as there is kind of a popular debate on how many exteriors were whitewashed. Plastering the interior was definitely a thing as some point but it is interesting that most of the debate I have followed is about the exteriors- plenty of books talk about cold, drafty, and damp castles- was the damp a reason not to plaster the interior or is that just conjecture and castles could be made quite snug?
 

paranoid marvin

Ad Honorem
Aug 2015
2,359
uk
Youv'e spent an incredible amount of money on your new fortress; you want it to look good. A castle was not only a place of refuge and protection, it was a pyschological statement to anyone who saw it to leave them in no doubt as to who was in charge. Painting it in white would make it stand out even more as an imposing bastion.

Having said that, certainly not all castles were whitewashed. Caernarfon for example has intricate stonework on the outer walls; it is unlikely that such time and detail (and no doubt money) would have been wasted by then covering it in whitewash.
 
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