Far over the misty mountains cold
To dungeons deep and caverns old
We must away ere break of day
To seek the pale enchanted gold.
The dwarves of yore made mighty spells,
While hammers fell like ringing bells
In places deep, where dark things sleep,
In hollow halls beneath the fells.
For ancient king and elvish lord
There many a gleaming golden hoard
They shaped and wrought, and light they caught
To hide in gems on hilt of sword.
On silver necklaces they strung
The flowering stars, on crowns they hung
The dragon-fire, in twisted wire
They meshed the light of moon and sun.
Far over the misty mountains cold
To dungeons deep and caverns old
We must away, ere break of day,
To claim our long-forgotten gold.
Goblets they carved there for themselves
And harps of gold; where no man delves
There lay they long, and many a song
Was sung unheard by men or elves.
The pines were roaring on the height
The winds were moaning in the night.
The fire was red, it flaming spread;
The trees like torches blazed with light.
The bells were ringing in the dale
And men looked up with faces pale;
Then dragon’s ire more fierce that fire
Laid low their towers and houses frail.
The mountain smoked beneath the moon;
The dwarves, they heard the tramp of doom.
They fled their hall to dying hall
Beneath his feet, beneath the moon.
Far over the misty mountains grim
To dungeons deep and caverns dim
We must away, ere break of day,
To win our harps and gold from him!
The word "dungeon" comes from Old French donjon (also spelled dongeon), which in its earliest usage meant a keep, the main tower of a castle. The first recorded instance of the word in English was near the beginning of the 14th century when it held the same meaning as donjon. Though it is uncertain, both dungeon and donjon are thought to derive from the Middle Latin word dominio, meaning "lord" or "master".
In French the term donjon still refers to a "keep", and the term oubliette is a more appropriate translation of English "dungeon". Donjon is therefore a false friend to "dungeon" (for instance, the game "Dungeons and Dragons" is titled "Donjons et Dragons" in its French editions.
An oubliette (from the French oubliette, literally "forgotten place") was a form of dungeon which was accessible only from a hatch in a high ceiling. The word comes from the same root as the French oublier, "to forget", as it was used for those prisoners the captors wished to forget.
The earliest use of oubliette in French dates back to 1374, but its earliest adoption in English is Walter Scott's Ivanhoe in 1819: "The place was utterly dark—the oubliette, as I suppose, of their accursed convent.
Few Norman keeps in English castles originally contained prisons, though they were more common in Scotland. Imprisonment was not a usual punishment in the Middle Ages, so most prisoners were kept pending trial or awaiting a penalty, or for political reasons. Noble prisoners would not generally be held in dungeons, but would live in some comfort in castle apartments.
The Tower of London is famous as a prison for political detainees, and Pontefract Castle at various times held Thomas of Lancaster (1322), Richard II (1400),Earl Rivers (1483), Scrope, Archbishop of York (1405), James I of Scotland (1405–1424) and Charles, Duke of Orléans (1417–1430). Purpose-built prison chambers in castles became more common after the 12th century, when they were built into gatehousesor mural towers. Some castles had larger provision for prisoners, such as the prison tower atCaernarvon Castle.
The identification of dungeons and rooms used to hold prisoners is not always a straightforward task. Alnwick Castle and Cockermouth Castle, both near England's border with Scotland, had chambers in their gatehouses which have often been interpreted as oubliettes.
However, this has been challenged. These underground rooms (accessed by a door in the ceiling) were built without latrines, and since the gatehouses at Alnwick and Cockermouth provided accommodation it is unlikely that the rooms would have been used to hold prisoners. An alternative explanation was proposed, suggesting that these were strong-rooms where valuables were stored.
from Dictionary of French Architecture from 11th to 16th Century (1854–1868), byEugène Viollet-le-Duc; the commentary speculates that this may in fact have been built for storage of ice.
Although many real dungeons are simply a single plain room with a heavy door or with access only from a hatchway or trapdoor in the floor of the room above, the use of dungeons for torture, along with their association to common human fears of being trapped underground, have made dungeons a powerful metaphor in a variety of contexts.
Dungeons, in the plural, have come to be associated with underground complexes of cells and torture chambers. As a result, the number of true dungeons in castles is often exaggerated to interest tourists. Many chambers described as dungeons or oubliettes were in fact storerooms, water-cisterns or even latrines.
An example of what might be popularly termed an "oubliette" is the particularly claustrophobic cell in the dungeon of Warwick Castle's Caesar's Tower, in central England. The access hatch consists of an iron grille. Even turning around (or moving at all) would be nearly impossible in this tiny chamber.
What Was the Purpose Of the Castle Dungeon?
Most castles built during the early Medieval period didn't truly have dungeons. Why not? Well, in Medieval times, it wasn't a particularly common punishment to keep someone imprisoned in a confined space.
Often, one baron would kidnap the children of another baron, and hold the poor kids hostage at his home or his castle. However, the unfortunate children would be free to roam the castle - but wouldn't be able to leave it.
Medieval castles did have an area called the don-jon - a term which comes from French. But back in Medieval times, the don-jon was the name for the Great Keep, or the main tower of the castle.
A wooden skull, placed to spook tourists in Prague Castle. Credit: Adam Jones CC-BY-SA-2.0
Originally, the Great Keep was the most secure part of the castle - and, in Early Medieval times, nobles tended to live in the Keep, as it reflected their importance.
However, as time progressed, the nobles began to live in more comfortable and luxurious areas of the castle - in bedrooms designed for warmth and luxury.
However, the Great Keep remained as the most secure place at the heart of the castle. Valuable items - such as jewels, money and also important prisoners - began to be stored in this secured tower.
"Edward I's new castles had prisons, to keep the rebellious Welsh at bay"
In later Medieval times, the concept of taking political prisoners became much more common. When Edward I was trying to subdue the frequent rebellions in North Wales, he saw the value of capturing and imprisoning the biggest trouble-makers.
Therefore, his new castles of the late 1200s - including Caernarfon, for example - contained new prisons to keep the rebellious Welsh at bay.
Initially, these prisons were in towers - these were considered to be the strongest parts of the castle, and the areas which could be best-defended if a prisoner wanted to escape. Eventually, these new prisons began to be called 'castle dungeons', which was an English adaptation of the old French words of 'don-jon'.
Remember that 'don-jon', in Medieval times, just meant a secured tower, or Great Leep.
The dungeons of Dunajec Castle, in Poland. Credit: DaLee CC-BY-2.0
During the later Medieval period, castles became grander and more ornate - designed more for entertaining, and as luxurious residences of nobles.
As castles changed, these 'don-jons' - prisons - began to be located in the least desirable (but still secure!) areas of the castle, where people certainly didn't want their bedrooms or apartments. This meant the cold, wet and dark storerooms or castle basements became these new castle dungeons.
It's strange, isn't it, that dungeons moved from within the highest castle towers, down into the lowest castle cellars.
Amazing 17th Century mansion that was the setting for horror film starring Daniel Radcliffe
It was the setting of a Daniel Ratcliffe horror film, but there's nothing scary about this expansive cottage.
Cotterstock Hall, which is in the village of Cotterstock, Northamptonshire, is being marketed with a guide price of £2,150,000, having recently being reduced from £2.5million.
After a nationwide search in 2012, the seven-bedroom property was selected as the location for horror film, The Woman in Black.
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The 365-year-old Cotterstock Hall, which is in the village of Cotterstock, in Northamptonshire, has an asking price of of £2,150,000.
One of the hall's beautifully appointed and spacious reception rooms, which features wooden floors and intricate detailing on the ceiling
Radcliffe stars as widowed lawyer Arthur Kipps in the movie which is based on a Susan Hill novel of the same name.
Cotterstock Hall, drapped in fake ivy and with faux cobwebs darkening its windows, is the setting for the horror and is known as Eel Marsh House.
The historically listed property, which has a date stone of 1658, is also linked to poet John Dryden.
The writer, a close friend of Elmes Stewart, sheriff of the county, who lived there in 1693, spent the last two years of his life at the cottage.
The Grade I listed hall is constructed of limestone under a Collyweston roof and has a date stone of 1658
The spacious dining room has more than enough room for the whole family; gets bathed in light from two large windows, and features a huge carved fireplace
The main bedroom, which features an en suite, has plenty of room for sleeping, relaxing and lounging and has paneled walls and large windows
One of the seven bedrooms at Cotterstock Hall, which looks fit for a princess with a carved wood canopy bed and soft pink furnishings
The house is spacious and airy throughout, with large windows bathing the rooms with light and giving the wooden floors a natural glow
Set on just over four acres, the Grade I listed hall, is constructed of limestone under a collyweston roof, and has been the subject of a careful restoration.
The hall has large proportioned reception rooms; a dining room, morning room, library, study and cloakroom.
The main bedroom has an ensuite and the cellar features five rooms and wine bins.
A bench seat by the window of this expansive reception room offers a perfect place to sit and look out over the four acres of manicured gardens
The house features a cosy, carpeted, library which has beautiful ceilings and gets plenty of natural light from two large windows which feature bench seating
The attic was home to the poet John Dryden who spent the last two years of his life there, and features original 17th-century wood paneling
One of several reception rooms at the property which is painted in a muted mint colour and has almost floor to ceilings windows and wooden floors
The property features many original features including this carved wooden staircase; a window half-way up provides a perfect spot to look out over the grounds
The property became Eel Marsh House in the horror movie, The Woman in Black, which stared Daniel Radcliffe as Arthur Kipps
The property is set on over four acres of land and features manicured gardens and hedges and a small pond
Cotterstock Hall is surrounded by mature trees and plants and comes with a number of stone outbuildings and garaging
The hall has several original features, including a wooden staircase and carved fireplaces. The wainscoted attic also boasts its original 17th-century panelling.
The property has beautifully manicured gardens and comes with a range of stone outbuildings and garaging.
In a number of crypts, catacombs, chapels, and memorials around the world, human skeletons are arranged for public view. Some of these compositions are designed for remembrance of loss and atrocities past; others are composed artistically to inspire worshipers and bring to mind thoughts of an afterlife and the temporary nature of this life. Gathered here are a few images of these ossuaries, from Europe, Asia, and Africa.
Skulls and bones in an ossuary with the remains of more than 50,000 people on October 19, 2012 under the Church of St. James in Brno, Czech Republic. Lost for some 200 years, the ossuary was discovered in 2001 during construction work under the Church of St James.(Michal Cizek/AFP/Getty Images)
Visitors enter the Sedlec Ossuary, a small Chapel beneath the Cemetery Church of All Saints in Sedlec, a suburb of Kutna Hora, Czech Republic, about 75 km east of Prague, on January 14, 2007. Although the ossuary dates back to the 14th century, its current decoration is made of some 40,000 human remains from the 18th century. (Michal Cizek/AFP/Getty Images) #
Inside the Sedlec Ossuary, a candelabra composed of skills and bones. (CC-BY 4.0/Wikipedia contributor Interfase) #
Part of the Coat of arms of the House of Schwarzenberg, in Sedlec Ossuary. (CC-BY 4.0/Wikipedia contributor Diether) #
Closer view of the bone-candelabra in the Sedlec Ossuary, in Sedlec. (Michal Cizek/AFP/Getty Images) #
Skulls are positioned at a village cemetery in Kuban near Trunyan, Bali, Indonesia, on March 21, 2007. Unlike the Balinese people, the people of Trunyan do not cremate or bury their dead but lay them out in bamboo cages to decompose. (Dimas Ardian/Getty Images) #
Skulls are positioned at a village cemetery in Kuban near Trunyan, Bali, Indonesia, on March 21, 2007. Trunyan ancient village is inhabited by people who call themselves "Bali Aga" or original Balinese who have maintained many of the old Balinese customs.(Dimas Ardian/Getty Images) #
Skulls and bones inside a shrine of the Santa Maria's church at the small village of Wamba, near Valladolid, Spain, on April 5, 2009. According to investigators, somewhere between the 15th and 17th centuries, the need for room in the surrounding cemetery prompted the opening of the oldest tombs and placing the bones in the ossuary. (AP Photo/Daniel Ochoa de Olza) #
Skulls and bones, stacked in the Catacombs beneath Paris, France, on October 14, 2014. The Paris Catacombs recently opened to night-time tours, in addition to existing daytime trips. The subterranean tunnels, stretching 2 kilometers (1.2 miles), cradle the bones of some 6 million Parisians from centuries past and once gave refuge to smugglers. (AP Photo/Francois Mori) #
A pilgrim takes a snapshot of skulls and bones displayed inside the Santa Maria's church at the small village of Wamba, Spain, on April 5, 2009. (AP Photo/Daniel Ochoa de Olza) #
Human skulls preserved are exhibited at the Genocide memorial in Nyamata, inside Catholic church where thousands were slaughtered during the 1994 genocide in Rwanda. (Simon Maina/AFP/Getty Images) #
Victims' skulls are displayed on glass shelves inside one of the crypts at the Nyamata Catholic Church genocide memorial ahead of the 20th anniversary of the country's genocide April 4, 2014 in Nyamata, Rwanda. The memorial crypt contains the remains of over 45,000 genocide victims, the majority of them Tutsi, including those who were massacred inside the church itself.(Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images) #