Half tower in the town walls of Freiburg im Üechtland
The Porte d'Orange in Carpentras, a town gate built as a half tower

A half tower (sometimes half-tower), open tower,[1] or open-gorged tower[2] (German: Schalenturm, Halbschalenturm or Schanzturm) is a fortified stone tower in an external wall or castle enceinte that is open, or only lightly constructed, at the rear. Towers of this type were used, for example, in city walls. City gates can also be incorporated into a type of half tower.


Unlike closed towers, which were fully enclosed by walls, half towers were open on the inside, typically the side facing the city or the inner bailey of a castle. On this side, a wooden railing on individual floors stopped people or objects from falling off. Sometimes the open side was sealed with wooden planking or weaker timber framed walls. Towers that are fully open at the top and rear are open towers, whilst those only open on the lower floors (i.e., the top floor is walled and roofed) are partially open towers.[1]

Most half towers were semi-circular in plan, but some were rectangular.


Semi-circular half towers

City or town wall towers

Rectangular half towers

Town wall towers in


  1. ^ a b Kaufmann, J.E. and Kaufmann, H.W. (2001). The Medieval Fortress. Castles, Forts and Walled Cities of the Middle Ages, Da Capo, Cambridge, MA, p. 27. ISBN 978-0-306-81358-0.
  2. ^ Hull, Lise. Understanding the Castle Ruins of England and Wales: How to Interpret the History and Meaning of Masonry and Earthworks. London: MacFarland, 2009. p. 137. ISBN 978-0-7864-3457-2.