Medieval Castles



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- Medeival Castles

Here is an article on Medieval Castles.

Caernarfon Castle, Wales.

A castle (from the Latin castellum) is a structure that medieval castle is fortified for defense against an enemy and generally serves as a military headquarters dominating medival castles the surrounding countryside[1]. The term is most often applied to a small medeval castles self-contained fortress, usually of the Middle Ages. The term castle, however, has medievel castles a history of scholarly debate surrounding its exact meaning. It is usually regarded medievalcastles as being distinct from the general term fortress in that it describes a building medieval castes which serves as a residence and commands a specific territory.

Despite this, madieval castles "castle" sometimes denotes a citadel (such as the castles of Badajoz and Burgos) or small detached medieval castls forts d'arrêt in medieval casles modern times and, traditionally, in Britain it has also been used to refer to prehistoric earthworks Medeival Castles (e.g. Maiden Castle).


  • 1 Definition
    • 1.1 Terminology
    • 1.2 Purpose
  • 2 Design
    • 2.1 Construction
  • 3 History
    • 3.1 Early Medieal Castles Meideval Castles medieval castles castles
    • 3.2 Wooden castles
    • 3.3 Stone structures
    • 3.4 Concentric medieval english castles pictures and linear castles
    • 3.5 Response to advent of gunpowder
  • 4 Famous medieval castles europe castles
  • 5 Gallery
  • 6 See also
  • 7 Footnotes
  • 8 Sources
  • 9 External medieval castles pictures castles in medieval times links


Castle (pronounced "Casshole") comes from the Latin word castellum meaning "fortress". This is a diminutive of european medieval castles the word castrum, which means "fortified place". The word drawings of medieval castles "castle" (castel) was introduced into English shortly before the Norman Conquest to denote medieval irish castles this new type of fortress, then new to England, brought in by the Norman knights whom Edward medieval english castles the Confessor medieval time castles had sent for to defend Herefordshire against the inroads of the Welsh.


In Spain, costumes queen princess king kids castles medieval a fortified dwelling on a height for the administering authority retains its Moorish french medieval castles name of alcázar, whilst shiro also figure prominently in Japanese history, where the feudal daimyō inhabited info + medieval castles them.

A French castle is a château-fort, for in French a simple château connotes a grand country house at the landscape of medieval castles center of an estate. When European castles were opened up and expanded into famous medieval castles pleasure dwellings and power houses from the medieval castles coloring page late 15th century, their "castle" designations, relics of the feudal age, often remained attached to medieval castles in california the dwelling, resulting in many un-castlelike castles and châteaux.

In Germany there are two names for medieval knights and castles what would be called a castle in English, Burg and people of medieval castles Schloss. A Burg is a medieval structure of military significance, while a information on medieval castles Schloss was built after the Middle Ages as a palace and not for defensive medieval castles and what the parts are named purposes. However, these are not usually palaces in the medieval castles hall French style, but instead are styled on medieval mountain castles and fairytale notions, and from medieval castles structure all appearances are often castles to an English speaker.

Caer is the medieval japanese castles Welsh term for a fort or a castle, seen in the place names picture of castles in medieval europe Caernarfon and Caerphilly. Irish dún and Scots Gaelic dùn are used to refer to early forts (see dun), websites about castles and village life in medieval times although Scots Gaelic uses the term caisteal for a castle.


Castles were www european medieval castles design com built not only as a defensive measure and offensive weapon, but also as a home. easy medieval castles history Castles were made by their owners for specific information on type of curtains used in medieval castles purposes, or evolved new purposes over time:

  • Firstly, castles medieval castles for sale were places of protection from an invading enemy, a place of retreat. This is the purpose behind such stereotypically castleish features as portcullises, battlements, medieval castles in france and drawbridges.
  • Secondly, castles were offensive weapons, built in otherwise hostile territories from medieval europe castles which to control surrounding lands, as forward pictures of medieval england castles camps. In particular, during the High Middle Ages, castles were often built for territorial who live in the medieval castles expansion and regional control. A castle was blueprints medieval castles a stronghold from which a lord could control surrounding territory.
  • Lastly, castles evolved into residences for the monarch (king or queen) or lord who built castles of medieval europe them. This can best be seen castles of the medieval ages in castles such as Bodiam Castle in East Sussex, whose defensive appearance was probably built merely to impress; history of medieval castles inside the castle is geared towards family living.

These three medieval architecture cathedrals castles information purposes distinguish the castle from other fortresses — which are usually medieval castles history purely defensive (like citadels and city walls) or purely offensive (a military camp) — or edifices that are entirely residential medieval castles map in nature, like palaces.


Trakai Island Castle, Lithuania

Most castles, medieval gothic castles from the earliest times, followed certain standards of design and construction. Central to the castle was political systems of medieval castles the keep, or donjon, the main commanding tower. Many early castles and architecture castles medieval certain later ones were nothing more than simple towers. The tower houses of Britain and Ireland are an architecture of a medieval castles example of this type. castles and medieval times Most, however, required outer walls of some sort. The tower was contained within the castles in ireland from medieval times walls or attached to the walls. There was often more than one set of castles of medieval period walls, creating inner and outer courts, the latter called a bailey. Later castles were built on a concentric plan, castles parts medieval where two heavily towered walls formed two rings around the keep.


Castle building directions on how to build a medieval time castles was a very common task as boundaries were pushed and french medieval sign for castles territory conquered. The walls would most commonly german medieval castles go up first, in order to protect workers during the construction of haunted medieval castles the castle proper. Castles could take many years to complete, medieval cartoon castles although the time needed depended greatly from type, location, resources, time period, medieval castles and england construction materials, etc. For example, a castle built on top of a hill medieval castles easy to draw would generally take much longer to build than a castle located on terrain medieval castles in europe that was easier to build upon. While a Norman motte and baily castle could be constructed in a year or less, medieval castles in germany a large stone castle could take decades. medieval castles ruins pictures Castles may have also been partially constructed in one generation and medieval castles virtual tours later generations filled in and added on.

As time passed, stronger castles were built.

During the Middle Ages, a stronger need medieval castles wicket for security emerged, leading to the building of concentric castles. Concentric castles took much longer to medieval fantasy castles pictures complete but they provided many lines of defence. Normally the outer medieval french castles wall would be finished first and then the rest; to protect the workers and pictures of big medieval castles the people already inhabitating the castle. The most famous example of concentric purpose of medieval castles castle is the Krak des Chevaliers in the Holy Land, provided with no less than three wall lines. the history of the medieval castles The L-plan also emerged in types of medieval castles the Middle Ages; this design allowed defenders to fire upon invaders of the neighbouring wing. Examples of this design which have survived why were castles significant in medieval europe society to the second millennium are Muchalls Castle and Neidpath Castle. Also, towards the rise in stone castles, many wooden motte and bailey castles would have the wall on the motte covered with a stone barrier, rather than build an entire new castle.

Castel Sant'Angelo in Rome is the best known example of ancient architecture turned into a castle. The current external structure is a Renaissance reconstruction.


Note: Typically, histories of castles utilise the timeline which was seen in the European development of castles. Elsewhere (notably in the Islamic world, China and Japan) the development followed different paths. Because of the proliferation of European castles, this article will follow a European timeline.

Early castles

From as early as late Neolithic times, people built hill forts to protect themselves. Many earthworks survive today, along with evidence of the use of palisades to accompany the ditches.

The Romans commonly encountered hill forts (called oppida) built by their enemies. Their own fortifications were more elaborate, and varied from the temporary earthworks thrown up by armies on the move, to stone constructions, notably the milecastles of Hadrians Wall.

The Roman engineer Vitruvius was the first to note the three-fold advantages of round defensive towers; more efficient use of stone, improved defence against battering rams and improved field of fire. It was not until the 13th century that these advantages were rediscovered.

Roman fortifications, or, when possible or needed, other edifices, were often turned into castles or similar structures during the early Middle Ages. A famous example is that of the Hadrian's Mausoleum in Rome, which is known to have been used as a fortress as early as 537, during the Gothic War. Other Late antiquity-early Middle Ages castles are known in Brescia and Trento in Italy, Saint-Blaise in Provence and Büraburg and Glauberg in Hesse, the latter probably built by the Alemanni. In Spain, king Liuvigild founded a powerful fortress called Reccopolis in 578, and also the 7th century fortress of Puig Rome, near Girona, has been excavated. At Selinunte, in Sicily, the Byzantines turned two ancient temples into a simple fortress (7th-8th centuries): several centuries earlier, emperor Justinian I is known to have promoted a large program of castle building.

Some cities later emerged from castles founded in this period: a notable example

Wooden castles

Main article: Encastellation

The earliest recorded structures universally acknowledged by historians as 'castles' were built of earth and wood in Northern France in probably the late tenth century or early eleventh century.

Hundreds of motte-and-baileys are known from north-western France, from whence they spread into Germany. When William the Conqueror invaded and conquered England, he brought with him the practice of building a castle to protect and hold the land. They were an instrinsic element of his strategy of conquest and the original castle he built at Pevensey was brought across as a prefabrication, a detail revealed by the Bayeux Tapestry. Wooden castles were built up until the 12th century.

The essential feature of this type was a circular mound of earth, natural or artificial, 5-10 meters high, surrounded by a dry ditch and flattened at the top. Around the crest of its summit was placed a timber palisade. This moated mound was styled in French motte (in Latin, mota), a word still common in French place-names. In addition to the mound, there was usually appended to it one (or, sometimes, two) bailey or basse court of semilunar or horseshoe shape, so that the mound stood on the line of the enceinte. The latter housed the domestic quarters, stables, stores, a forge and a well. Examples of early motte-and-bailey castle have been excavated at Husterknupp in Germany and Goltho in England: in both cases the motte seems to be a later addition to an already existing wooden settlement, surrounded by a wood palisade.

This type of castle is clearly depicted at the time of the Conquest in the Bayeux Tapestry, and was then familiar on the mainland of western Europe. A description of this earlier castle is given in the life of John, bishop of Terouanne (Ada Sanctorum, quoted by GT Clark, Medieval Mil. Architecture): "The rich and the noble of that region being much given to feuds and bloodshed, fortify themselves ... and by these strongholds subdue their equals and oppress their inferiors. They heap up a mound as high as they are able, and dig round it as broad a ditch as they can ... Round the summit of the mound they construct a palisade of timber to act as a wall. Inside the palisade they erect a house, or rather a citadel, which looks down on the whole neighbourhood". St John, bishop of Terouanne, died in 1130, and this castle of Merchem, built by a lord of the town many years before, may be taken as typical of the practice of the 11th century.

The castle of Fougères, known from the 10th century.

Construction of new castles is attested from the Carolingian era, but their construction seems to have been related mainly to the defence of frontiers and of the main statal properties: the right to built such a structure was in fact a royal privilege. things, however, seemd to change from the late 9th century, probably under the pressure of new menaces of Vikings, Magyars and Saracens, but also due to the general unsafeness and the inner strifes consequence of the crumbling of the Carolingian Empire. As early as 864 Charles the Bald issued an edict ordering the destruction of all the private structures erected without his permission. The sources describe the frequent fortification also of cities, monasteries, ports and rural settlements in this period. In 906 a diacon in Verona asked to Berengar I of Italy the permission to built a castle in Nogara "due to the heathens ravages". The pagans, however, were not the sole menace leading to edification of castles: in 920 the bishop of Adria received the permission to erect a fortress in Rovigo to "save the people either from the heathens and from evil Christians"[1] Henry I built a series of fortresses to protect the frontier west to the Rhine: a notable example is that of Werla, in Saxony, erected in 926 as a defence against the Magyars. This consisted in a circular wooden wall, already existing in the 9th century, which the king had surrounded by a stone wall with two gates.

Factions struggling for powers in the lack of the supreme authority were in need of military fortresses, but also of a visible show of their growing power over the surrounding population. In the wake of the Norman Conquest of England, Norman kings and their barons constructed a plethora of castles to impress, control, and conquer the native population. During the eleventh-century Investiture Controversy in Germany and the resulting decline of the royal power, castle-building exploded as local warlords staked claims to formerly royal prerogatives in their petty states. This proliferation of castles, which made them iconic of the Middle Ages, is called encastellation. Around the year 1100 there were in Europe thousands of castles, belonging to bishops, abbots, marquesses, counts, often small size structures erected by petty lords to mark their new conquest of a small, though prestigious (and sometimes ephimeral) power. The construction and restoration of these structure, as well as the maintenance of the garrisons, was a task of the population, which in exchange obtained the possibility to took shelter within the walls in case of peril. According to Christopher Gravette, "the castle was not just a fortress, it was also the residence of its lord".[2].

Stone structures

Although a minority, stone fortifications have been also built during the whole early Middle Ages. Sometimes Roman walls and ruins were re-used. Two of the most ancient surviving examples are the towers at Doué-la-Fontaine (c. 900) and Langeais (late 10th-earyl 11th centuries) in northern France. Castles could also be built as a mix of timber and stone. Often a stone wall replaced the timber palisade of the existing structures, producing what is known as the shell-keep, the type met with in the extant castles of Berkeley, Alnwick and Windsor in England. In southern Europe stone castles became predominant from the mid-11th century, spred by the Norman conquests; the same occurred in the Holy Land through the Crusades, although Islamic influence was also present there. In Germany, the equivalent of the keep was called Bergfried.

The Normans introduced also two other types of castle. The one was adopted where they found a natural rock stronghold which only needed adaptation, as at Clifford, Ludlow, the Peak and Exeter, to produce a citadel; the other was a type wholly distinct, the high rectangular tower of masonry, of which the Tower of London is the best-known example, though that of Colchester was probably constructed in the 11th century also. But the latter type belongs rather to the more settled conditions of the 12th century when haste was not a necessity, and in the first half of which the fine extant keeps of Hedingham and Rochester were erected. These towers were originally surrounded by palisades, usually on earthen ramparts, which were replaced later by stone walls. The whole fortress thus formed was styled a castle, but sometimes more precisely "tower and castle", the former being the citadel, and the latter the walled enclosure, which preserved more strictly the meaning of the Roman castellum.

Reliance was placed by the engineers of that time simply and solely on the inherent strength of the structure, the walls of which defied the battering ram, and could only be undermined at the cost of much time and labour, while the narrow apertures were constructed to exclude arrows or flaming brands.

The Alcazar of Segovia in Spain.

In the 11th century fortification architecture was also prominent, and probably superior to its Western equivalent, in Islamic countries. Fortress there, when possible, took advantage of the terrain characteristics, and the walls were intervalled by flanking towers with, sometimes, a detached towers (albarrana). During the Spanish Reconquista, a keep (torre del homenaje, Tower of the homage) was added by the Christians when they captured these castles, as it happened for the castle of Banos in 1212.

Concentric and linear castles

At this stage the crusades, and the consequent opportunities afforded to western engineers of studying the massive constructions of the Byzantine empire, revolutionized the art of castlebuilding, which henceforward follows recognized principles. The Byzantines did not build large stand-alone fortresses, but their largest cities, especially on the traditionally dangerous Eastern frontier, had enormous fortifications. The First Crusade took (more by treachery than assault) the very well fortified city of Antioch, and many other Byzantine fortifications that had fallen into Muslim hands. The crusaders were used to castles, and also needed to defend key points in their new territory. They were also extremely short of fighting men, whilst they had generally good supplies of labour and cash for construction. Their enormous castles, many in isolated strategic spots, and designed to be normally very thinly garrisoned, were the result. Of these Krak des Chevaliers was the largest.

Many castles were built in the Holy Land by the crusaders of the 12th century, and it has been shown (Oman, Art of War: the Middle Ages, p. c20) that the designers realized, first, that a second line of defences should be built within the main enceinte, and a third line or keep inside the second line; and secondly, that a wall must be flanked by projecting towers. From the Byzantine engineers, through the crusaders, we derive, therefore, the cardinal principle of the mutual defence of all the parts of a fortress.

The donjon of western Europe was regarded as the fortress, the outer walls as accessory defences; in the East each envelope was a fortress in itself, and the keep became merely the last refuge of the garrison, used only when all else had been captured. Indeed the keep, in several crusader castles, is no more than a tower, larger than the rest, built into the enceinte and serving with the rest for its flanking defence, while the fortress was made strongest on the most exposed front. The idea of the flanking towers (which were of a type very different from the slight projections of the shell-keep and rectangular tower) soon penetrated to Europe, and Alnwick Castle (1140-1150) shows the influence of the new system.

Castel del Monte.

In Richard Cœur de Lion's fortress of Château-Gaillard Les Andelys, the innermost ward was protected by an elaborate system of strong appended defences, which included a strong fte-de-pont covering the Seine bridge (see Clark, i. 384, and Oman, p. 533). The castle stood upon high ground and consisted of three distinct enceintes or wards besides the keep, which was in this case merely a strong tower forming part of the innermost ward. The donjon was rarely defended until the very end and it gradually lost in importance as the outer "wards" grew stronger. Frederick II's Castel del Monte in Puglia has no keep at all: rising on a strategic alture, it consist of a octagonal structure with eigth polygonal, massive towers.

Round instead of rectangular towers were now becoming usual, the finest examples of their employment as keeps being at Conisborough in England and at Falaise and Coucy in France. Against the relatively feeble siege artillery of the 13th century a well built fortress was almost proof, but the mines and the battering ram of the attack were more formidable, and it was realized that corners in the stonework of the fortress were more vulnerable than a uniform curved surface. Château Gaillard fell to Philip Augustus in 1204 after a strenuous defence, and the success of the assailants was largely due to the wise and skilful employment of mines. An angle of the noble keep of Rochester was undermined and brought down by King John of England in 1215.

The next development was the extension of the principle of successive lines of defence to form what is called the "concentric" castle, in which each ward was placed wholly within another which enveloped it; places thus built on a flat site (e.g. Caerphilly Castle) became for the first time more formidable than strongholds perched upon rocks and hills such as Château Gaillard, where the more exposed parts indeed possessed many successive lines of defence, but at other points, for want of room, it was impossible to build more than one or, at most, two walls. In these cases, the fall of the inner ward by surprise, escalade, vive force, or even by ordinary siege (as was sometimes feasible), entailed the fall of the whole castle. The adoption of the concentric system precluded any such mischance, and thus, even though siege engines improved during the 13th and 14th centuries, the defence, by the massive strength of the concentric castle in some cases, by natural inaccessibility of position in others, maintained itself superior to the attack during the latter Middle Ages.

Castle of the Teutonic Knights in Gniew, Poland.

Construction of castles in this period was often connected to the necessity to establish a strong central power against local fragmentation, or in newly conquered lands: examples are the large buildings programs of Edward I of England in Wales, Philip I August of France, the Ezzelino IV da Romano and the Scaligers in northern Italy, Frederick II and Charles I of Anjou in southern Italy (often reusing former Norman or even Byzantine and Lombard structures), King Denis I in Portugal, and notably the Teutonic Knights in their conquest of Pagan lands in Prussia and Poland. In Germany, stone structures appeared in Hesse, Thuringia, Alsace and Saxony, commissioned by the powerful local aristocracy. Structures in northern Germany were usually simpler, often taking advantage of water streams.

Response to advent of gunpowder

The advent of gunpoweder in the Middle Ages warfare meant a shifting of importance of the castle from a pure military role to that of pure lord residence. From Renaissance onward, frequently their role started to merge with of a representance palace, as in the notable example of the Castello Estense of Ferrara in Italy, the castles of Valderrobres and Manzanares el Real in Spain or the series of highly decorated castles built (or rebuilt) in France along the Loire starting from the 15th century.

Existing castles which retained military importance were updated to cope with new siege technologies. One example is the English fortress of Bodiam, built from 1385, provided with apposite slit to allow firing from arquibuses. Until the siegecraft had consisted of throwing machines as trebuchets and similar, the first aim in the construction of castle walls was a search of verticality and thickness. The impregnable castle of Friesack was reduced in two days by the elector Frederick I with "Heavy Peg" (Faule Grete) and other guns hired and borrowed (February 1414). In Germany, Franz von Sickingen's stronghold of Landstuhl, formerly impregnable on its heights, was ruined in one day by the artillery of Philip of Hesse (1523). But the effectiveness of the gunpowder weapons was showed in all its extent by the victorious [[siege of Constantinople (1453)|conquest of Constantinople of 1453, which shocked the entire Christianity. Famous architects of the Late Middle Ages and Renaissance were called to plan countermeasure: architects who were also famous fortifications engineers included Guillén Sagrera, Giuliano da Sangallo the Younger, Francesco di Giorgio Martini, Baldassarre Peruzzi and Leonardo himself. Viollet-le-Duc, in his Annals of a Fortress , gives a full and interesting account of the repeated renovations of the fortress on his imaginary site in the valley of the Doubs, the construction by Charles the Bold of artillery towers at the angles of the castle, the protection of the masonry by earthen outworks, boulevards and demi-boulevards, and, in the 17th century, the final service of the medieval walls and towers as a pure enceinte de sfireti.

The Castle of Sarzanello in Liguria, northern Italy, is a masterwork of early Renaissance castles.

The general adoption of cannon led therefore to a disappearing (or to a loss of importance) of majestic towers and merlons. Walls of new fortresses were thicker and angulated, towers became lower and stouter. Examples of the late type of castle-fortress are that in Sarzanello (Italy), that built by Henry VIII of England in Deal and the Imperial Castle of Nurnberg.

In the end, the introduction of gunpowder led to a disappearing of traditional castles, in the meaning of a building detaining both military and political power roles. This transition began in the 14th century and was fully underway by the 15th. In the 16th century the feudal fastness had become an anachronism. Here and there we find old castles serving in secondary roles, as forts d'arret or block-houses in mountain passes and defiles, and in some few cases, as at Dover, they formed the nucleus of purely military places of arms. Normally castles, when they were not let to fell into ruins, became peaceful mansions, or were merged in the fortifications of the town which has grown up around it. In the Viollet-le-Duc's Annals of a Fortress the site of the feudal castle is occupied by the citadel of the walled town, for once again, with the development of the middle class and of commerce and industry, the art of the engineer came to be displayed chiefly in the fortification of cities. The baronial "castle" assumes pan passu the form of a mansion, retaining indeed for long some capacity for defence, but in the end losing all military characteristics save a few which survived as ornaments.

The idea of a castle: Neuschwanstein, the 19th-century folly of Ludwig II of Bavaria.

Famous castles

Main article: List of castles
  • Castrum Danorum in Tallinn
  • Turku Castle
  • Moscow Kremlin
  • Edinburgh Castle
  • Wawel Castle
  • Prague Castle
  • Tower of London
  • Windsor Castle
  • Dover Castle
  • Bran Castle
  • Manzanares el Real, near Madrid
  • Castello Sforzesco, in Milan
  • Castello Estense, in Ferrara
  • Castel Sant'Angelo in Rome
  • Castel Nuovo, in Naples


See also

Wikimedia Commons has media related to:
  • Castle-guard
  • List of castles
  • Encastellation
  • Castellan
  • Defensive wall
  • Fortress
  • Medieval fortification
  • Medieval warfare
  • Motte-and-bailey
  • Alcázar (Spanish castles)
  • Shiro (Japanese castles)
  • Gusuku (Okinawan castles)
  • Kremlin (Russian castles)


  1. ^ Medioevo #114, pag. 56
  2. ^ Medieval Siege Warfare, p. 4


  • This article incorporates text from the Encyclopædia Britannica Eleventh Edition, a publication now in the public domain.
  • Allen Brown, R. (1970). English Castles. Chancellor Press. ISBN 0-907486-06-1. 
  • Bianchi, Vito (July-October 2006). "I Castelli". Medioevo 114-117.
  • Cathcart King, D. J. (1983). Castellarium Anglicanum: An Index and Bibliography of the Castles in England, Wales and the Islands (2 vols). Kraus International Publications. ISBN 0-527-50110-7. 
  • Cathcart King, D. J. (1991). The Castle in England and Wales: An Interpretative History. Routledge. ISBN 0-415-00350-4. 
  • Gravett, Christopher (1990). Medieval Siege Warfare. Oxford: Osprey Publishing. ISBN 0-85045-947-8. 
  • Higham, R.; Barker, P. (1992). Timber Castles. B. T. Batsford Ltd. ISBN 0-7134-2189-4. 
  • Johnson, M. (2002). Behind the Castle Gate: From Medieval to Renaissance. Routledge. ISBN 0-415-26100-7. 
  • Kenyon, J. (1991). Medieval Fortifications. Leicester University Press. ISBN 0-7185-1392-4. 
  • Pounds, N. J. G. (1994). The Medieval Castle in England and Wales: A Social and Political History. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-45828-5. 
  • Thompson, M. W. (1987). The Decline of the Castle. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 1-85422-608-8. 
  • Thompson, M. W. (1991). The Rise of the Castle. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-37544-4. 

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