Medieval Buildings and their types

As with modern buildings, medieval buildings serve different functions. Each of those functions in many ways define the architecture of the building, the materials used, the maintenance required and of course the time that it takes for them to be built.

Generally medieval buildings are separated into

  • Private Buildings
  • Public Buildings
  • Business Buildings
  • Industrial/Manufacturing Buildings
  • Military Buildings
  • Religious Buildings
  • Infrastructure Buildings

Private medieval buildings

Private buildings mostly consist of several types of housing ranging from a wattle and daub hut to a glorious stone villa. Private homes can vary widely but due to the amount of people normally served by them the maintenance cost remains fairly low. The construction time and cost of these buildings is primarily defined by their size and the materials that they are built from.

Industrial Medieval Buildings | A water mill in Normandy that utilizes a gated weir to control water flow.

Industrial Medieval Buildings | A water mill in Normandy that utilizes a gated weir to control water flow.

Public medieval buildings

Public buildings include structures like baths, parks, halls, gardens, market squares, piers, Granaries etc. Public buildings are built for endurance so the quality of materials that are constructed tends to be much higher than the average private building. In addition to that, these buildings are made to server a large amount of people, possibly, everyday which means that constructing the building in a way that the maintenance costs will be low is paramount.

Business medieval buildings

Business medieval buildings include shops, warehouses and service buildings like inns, stables etc. When it comes to their construction, In many ways these buildings are considered to be very close to public buildings with the difference that they are privately owned and as that their quality varies depending on the available assets of the owner. For example a tradesman might be selling jewels and need to be well protected within a stone structure that will make it harder to criminals to steal his wares but a cabbage farmer only needs a wooden stool in a market square.

Industrial and Manufacturing medieval buildings

Industrial and Manufacturing medieval buildings include, Forges, Mills, Bakeries, Workshops, Smithies, Carpenters, Masons etc. These buildings possess special features which raise their cost and need to be in general more sturdy than a shop in order to accommodate their needs. For example Mills need to have a reinforced structure in order to be able to support the weight of a water-mill or a the sails of a wind mill. and a Mason’s workshop uses much sturdier wood in order to frame the structure since moving and storing slabs of stone can be strenuous to a building which is not built to do so.

Military buildings

Almost in their entirety are build primarily from stone and most of them actually use various techniques to reinforce the walls of their buildings in order to make them less susceptible to enemy attacks. Having said that Wooden military buildings do exist but even those are reinforced one way of another. Since military buildings are constructed knowing that damage to them is imminent, the ability to be repaired quickly and effectively is quite important. This means that due to their modular design military buildings not only take much longer time due to their construction material but are also extremely intricate in their spartan simplicity to build.

Castle Keeps were sturdy medieval buildings that still stand the test of time, some for over 800 years. They were built to defend again invaders and the passing of the seasons

Castle Keeps were sturdy medieval buildings that still stand the test of time, some for over 800 years. They were built to defend against invaders and the passing of the seasons

Religious buildings

Religious medieval buildings need to inspire awe and to make their visitors feel they are in contact with the divine. Due to that Religious building apart from inheriting the properties of public buildings in terms of their quality they also employ a variety of intricate architectural tricks to create a sense of grandeur. in addition to that these buildings, in most cases, are heavily ornate with statues, painting, frescos, wood and stone carvings and details of precious metal and stones which make them extremely expensive to build. Most of religious buildings are built in several stages that dress and/or expand the building throughout their life time.

Infrastructure buildings

Medieval infrastructure buildings need to last for as long time as possible. It is also important that their design is utilitarian. aqueducts,  sewers, reservoirs, customs buildings, public warehouses, transportation network buildings, bridges, entertainment buildings (theatres, great halls) and education buildings (grammar schools, universities and seminaries fall under this category. In contrary to Religious buildings most of these structures were built in one stage and their opening constituted a good reason for celebration. In many cases the construction of buildings of that type was enough to revitalise the economy of the whole region. As with public buildings, medieval and greco-roman classical age buildings had to accommodate a large amount of people and thus, requiring a low cost maintenance was factored in during their construction. This meant that more expensive materials and better craftsmanship was required.


We hope you’ve enjoyed this article. We will soon be talking about building materials and how these were used

If you have any questions please let us know!

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About Dimitris Romeo Havlidis

My name is Dimitris Romeo. I am a dyslexic one-eyed, web architect, developer and designer with a passion for photography, User Experience and telling stories.I spend my free time taking photos, watching tv series, cooking and watering my plants.I love lemon tarts, audiobooks, top hats, fantasy and science fiction in all its forms.

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