In this guide, we cover the medieval style as it was (broadly) used in real life. We of course realize the medieval style has been adapted, changed and mixed with various other styles throughout many fantasy worlds, whether it’s in books, movies or other art forms.
We don’t claim to have the best looking builds (far from it), but we hope these tips will help you in designing a great medieval city.
Medieval castles often had specific features in common. Most of us will have no problem imagining a medieval castle and all of its features, though translating that into minecraft could be a little tricky. Castles often have a few specific parts which are part of most castles, like a tower for example.
Castles are always build on strategic positions, like on top of a mountain or cliff, or in the middle of a large lake. By building your castle in minecraft on such a strategic position, your castle will immidiately look more authentic and often more epic.
Castles often have huge, thick walls which are both meant to withstand attacks from siege engines and prevent the enemies from simply climbing up the wall with ladders. The walls could be of any height, though they were usually about 3-6 meters (3-6 blocks) thick.
The walls were often made out of the same type of stone, which could make it look plain in minecraft, so try to add some details. Perhaps adding some small windows, or by making parts of the wall stick out every 4 blocks. Note that most castles didn’t have large windows, especially not in the sides of the wall, so try using slabs or stairs to create smaller window holes.
You can also add arches or columns to your wall, which will make it look stronger and often more epic.
Most castle wall had some form of crenelation, which are the alternate openings and stone formations at the top of the wall, through which archers can fire their arrows and hide behind. However, some walls simply had long, narrow gaps through which the arches could safely fire their arrows, without being in clear view of the enemy.
The crenelations are easy to build in minecraft, as you simply alternate between placing a block and not placing a block, though many more, often better looking versions can be created. My favourite is building an overhanging crenelations, as seen in the second and third examples above. The smallers, narrow holes are difficult to recreate, though by placing a stairs block with an upside down stairs on top of it against 2 normal blocks, the gap created will work quite well, though you can’t fire any arrows through it.
Many castles had a ward, which is basically a second wall within the city walls. The ward is often part of the castle itself, and was the place where the barracks and other important, military buildings and rooms were build. It also acted as another line of defence, in case the soldiers had to fall back.
Building a ward in minecraft isn’t too difficult, it’s basically the same as building the normal walls. However, because the castle and other buildings are often part of the ward, I tend to build those buildings first and then simply build the wall as closely around it as possible, often replace the building walls with ward walls.
Towers were often rectangular, which is perfect for minecraft. However, they can also be round, which is difficult, but possible in minecraft. If you want round towers, please refer to our seperate guide on how to build circles, right here.
Medieval towers were often made entirely out of stone, though this often looks horrible in minecraft, so you might want to use 2 types of stone and/or mossy versions to add details.
Towers also have crenelations, which can be a bit tricky to build on a round tower. However, I find that simply creating a crenelation every other block usually does the trick, especially if you make the overhanging version, as seen in the image below.
The medieval houses often used a technique called timber framing. These houses are often white and have a wooden frame around them and often some form of wooden pattern in the walls. Each higher floor often hung a little over the lower floor.
These houses are easy to create in minecraft and look amazing, especially when you make the houses enormous. You start by building the boundaries of your house using logs or wood, darker colours work best. Then you build the corners out of the same planks and devide the walls symmetrically (looks best in my opinion).
Then you fill up the walls with either snow, wool or sand. In the default texture pack, wool and sand often look best. Wool often makes the house look like new, though a sand colour isn’t uncommon in real life.
Once you’ve made the first floor like this, create the second floor just like this, but make wider than the bottom floor, so it hangs over the top of the first floor by 1 block. Repeat if you add more floors.
The roofs were usually plain triangular roofs. Wooden and cobblestone stairs are the best choice for this. Depending on the size of your house, creating an overhang often looks great, either on just 2 sides or on all sides.
Religious buildings, like churches, were often huge and were often build inside the city walls. They were usually build in the shape of a cross and had many arches, both on the inside and outside. Due to the enormous amount of details on most churches, minecraft churches often look best when you make huge versions of them, though this could be close to impossible on your own if you’re not the greatest builder.
It’s hard to teach somebody how to build a church, as everybody has different ideas about how they’re suposed to look and how an arch looks best, etc. So my best advice is to find a few pictures of 1 real chruch and use it as a reference. Try not to use more than 1 church as a reference, as it will often just complicate things.
If you need more inspiration I’d advise you to take a look at some of the builds done by FyreUK, they’ve built some incredible churches and cathedrals. Though I couldn’t make those in a million years.
Harbours were often vital for many castles, both as a means of defence as a means of trading. It also meant the castle had a water supply when it was under attack.
The harbour was often defended by towers on higher places, like cliffs or hills right next to the shore lines. I personally like (extremely) high towers, overlooking vast oceans, best, though this isn’t always an option and wasn’t very common in real life. Cannons can often be found on and around the docks, both as a defence and as a trade item. The docks were usually filled with boxes, crates and various other goods that were traded and are either going into the city or on the boats to other places.
It can be quite difficult to build ships, though we’ve got a tutorial on that right here.
Other Tips, Tricks and Recommendations
Medieval cities often had small streets, usually with 1 larger main street, so try to place the buildings quite close together. By adding hanging signs, flower baskets and other fun details, a small street could turn into a cosey place to hang out or walk through. Placing the buildings close together also adds a darker atmosphere at night, especially when you limit the amount of torches and other light sources you use. This is perfect for role playing events or just for the overall look.
Farms were often located outside the city walls, so try to build some enormous fields and a few farm houses outside of you city walls. This is a very easy way to make your castle look epic, both while watching from within the castle walls as while watching the castle from a distance.
Make seperate parts in your city which devide the rich and the poor. Poor people would live near the city walls in small, dirty streets. Use more stone or darker wooden blocks to mimic dirt and poverty. Use less glass in windows and add more mossy stone and vines on the houses. Their houses were often smaller or home to larger families. Use less cobblestone in the streets, but more gravel and dirt. Perhaps even add holes in the streets by using slabs. Try to avoid using many trees and plants, and if you do, make them look dead, old and dirty.
The rich had bigger houses and cleaner streets (though clean is relative here). Make the rich stand out by using bigger houses with glass windows, fireplaces, more lighting and more plants and trees to make the area look bright and fresh.
Medieval cities had specific professions, sometimes even specific to a city, like astrologer, apothecary and blacksmiths. These buildings were often located in the poorer sections of the cities, some were often located outside the city gates, like the stables. However, tailors and other people who provide services to the richer people would often be located in the richer parts of town.