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Hohenzollern Castle, a typical example of a hilltop castle

Château de Montségur on a hilltop

A hilltop castle is a type of hill castle that was built on the summit of a hill or mountain. The chief advantage of such a strategically selected site was its inaccessibility. The steep flanks of the hill made assaults on the castle difficult or, depending on the terrain, even impossible. In addition, it often commanded excellent fields of view and fire over the surrounding countryside. The sheer height of the castle above the local area could also protect the occupants of the castle from bombardment. In addition, the prominent location of such a castle enhanced its status as a residence.

Nevertheless hilltop castles presented their logistic difficulties. Without sufficiently strong pumps, water supply could be problematic if there was no well in the vicinity. The transport of food, working animals and other goods was also made more difficult by the location and the adverse weather usually found on hilltops made living conditions in such a castle less comfortable.

Another problem was the isolation of such castles. The withdrawal of armed foot soldiers into the castle was hampered by the terrain; all the more so for cavalry. Its control over the surrounding region was therefore not always adequate.[1]

The Cathars used a number of inaccessible hilltop castles as refuges, such as Château de Montségur which stands on the summit of a steep rocky mountain.

Like other hill castles, hilltop castles lost their significance during the course of the Middle Ages. The rise of towns as economic and political centres reduced the value of such castles for trade and governance.[2]


  1., accessed on 9 June 2009
  2., accessed on 9 June 2009

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