Medieval Castles Were Built with Clockwise Spiral Staircases for a Reason

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If you’re a medieval history buff and like watching TV shows based on the times (and who doesn’t?), you’re probably used to seeing the spiral stone stairs leading up through the castle to distressed damsels, hidden jewels, the king’s chambers and the like. These stairs are awesome settings for all the sword fights and other close combat clashes that make up a big part of the nail-biting drama.

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But, did you ever notice how in the shows and movies the stairs mostly went clockwise?

In old castles, most every staircase was built to go clockwise. Here’s why: it put the enemy at a huge disadvantage when they tried to climb them.

Most soldiers were right-handed, which meant they had to get around the inner wall to fully extend their weapons. This exposed them to the defenders as they were descending the stairs.

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For defenders, a clockwise set of stairs gave them an incredible advantage. As they ran down the stairs to contend with intruders, they were able to swing their swords in the wide open space along the outer wall, while using the inner wall to shield themselves.

Defenders had a natural advantage anyway because they knew their own staircases and where the uneven spots were. Plus, it’s always easier to fling yourself down stairs onto your enemies exclaiming, “Long live the king!” then to fling yourself upwards.

Meanwhile, the (presumed) marauders, already tired from their long march, inevitably get out of breath as they climb.

At any rate, next time you’re planning to invade the castle across town, pick up any left-handers you see. They’ll come in handy.