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GATE, an opening into any enclosure for entrance or exit, capable of being closed by a barrier at will. The word is of wide application, embracing not only the defensive entrance ways into a fortified place, with which this article mainly deals, or the imposing architectural features which form the main entrances to palaces, colleges, monastic buildings, &c., but also the common five-barred barrier which closes an opening into a field. The most general distinction that can be made between “door” and “gate” is that of size, the greater entrance into a court containing other buildings being the “gate,” the smaller entrances opening directly into the particular buildings the “doors,” or that of construction, the whole entrance way being a “gate” or gateway, the barrier which closes it a “door.” A further distinction is drawn by applying “door” to the solid barriers or “valves” of wood, metal, &c., made in panels and fitted to a framework, and “gate” to an openwork structure, whether of metal or wood (see further Door and Metal-work). The ultimate origin of the word is obscure; the early forms appear with a palatalized initial letter, still surviving in such dialectical forms as “yate,” or in Scots “yett.” It is probably connected with the root of “get,” in the sense either of “means of access” or of “holding,” “receptacle”; cf. Dutch gat, hole. There may be a connexion, however, with “gate,” now usually spelled “gait,” a manner of walking,1 but originally a way, passage; cf. Ger. Gasse, narrow street, lane.

The entrance through the enclosing walls of a city or fortification has been from the earliest times a place of the utmost importance, considered architecturally, socially or from the point of view of the military engineer. In the East the “gate” was and still is in many Mahommedan countries the central place of civic life. Here was the seat of justice and of audience, the most important market-place, the spot where men gathered to receive and exchange news. The references in the Bible to the gates of the city in all these varied aspects are innumerable (cf. Gen. xix. 1; Deut. xxv. 7; Ruth iv. 1; 2 Sam. xix. 8; 2 Kings vii. 1). Later the seat of justice and of government is transferred to the gate of the palace of the king (cf. Dan. ii. 49, and Esther ii. 19), and this use is preserved to-day in the official title of the seat of government of the Turkish empire at Constantinople, the “Sublime Porte,” a translation of the Turkish Bab Aliy (bab, gate, and aliy, high). A full account with many modern instances of Eastern customs will be found in Sir Charles Warren’s article “Gate” in 528 Hastings’s Dict. of Bible. For the “pylon,” the typical gate of Egyptian architecture, see Architecture.

The gates into a walled town or other fortified place were necessarily in early times the chief points on which the attack concentrated, and the features, common throughout the ages, of flanking or surmounting towers and of galleries over the entrance way, are found in the Assyrian gate at Khorsabad (cf. 2 Chron. xxvi. 9; 2 Sam. xviii. 24). With the coming of peaceful times to a city or the removal of the fear of sudden attack, the gateways would take a form adapted more for ready exit and entrance than for defence, though the possibility of defending them was not forgotten. Such city gates often had separate openings for entrance and exit, and again for foot passengers and for vehicles. The Gallo-Roman gate at Autun has four entrances, two just wide enough to admit carriages, and two narrow alleys for foot passengers. A fine example of a Roman city gate, dating from the time of Constantine, is at Trèves. It is four storeys high, with ornamental windows, and decorated with columns on each storey. The two outer wings project beyond the central part, the two entrance ways are 14 ft. wide, and could be closed by doors and a portcullis. The chambers in the storeys above were used for the purposes of civil administration. In more modern times city gateways have often followed the type of the Roman triumphal arch, with a single wide opening and purely ornamental superstructure. On the other hand, the defensive gate formed by an archway entering as it were through a tower has been constantly followed as a type of entrance to buildings of an entirely peaceful character. A fine example of such a gateway, originally built for defence, is at Battle Abbey; this was built by Abbot Retlynge in 1338, when Edward III. granted a licence to fortify and crenellate the abbey. Such gateways are typical of Tudor palaces, as at St James’s or at Hampton Court, and are the most common form in the colleges of Oxford and Cambridge. The Tom Gate at Christ Church, Oxford, with its surmounted domed bell tower, or the cupola resting on columns at Queen’s College, Oxford, are further examples of the gate architecturally considered.

The changes the fortified gateway has undergone in construction and the varying relative importance it has held in the scheme of defence follow the lines of development taken by the history of Fortification and Siegecraft (q.v.). The following is a short sketch of the main stages in its history. A good example of the Roman fortified city gate still remains at Pompeii. Here there is one passage way for vehicles, 14 ft. wide; this is open to the sky. The two footways on either side are arched, with openings in the centre on to the central way. The doors of the gate are on the city side, but a portcullis (cataracta) closed it on the country side. The gateways of the Roman permanent camps (castra stativa) were four in number, the porta praetoria and Decumana at either end, with principalis dextra and sinistra on the side (see also Camp). At Pevensey (Anderida) a small postern on the north side of the Roman walls was laid bare in 1906-1907, in which the passage curves in the thickness of the wall, and from a width admitting two men abreast narrows so that one alone could block it. Flanking towers or bastions guarded the main entrances, while in front were built outworks, of palisades, &c., to protect it; these were known as procastra or antemuralia, and the entrances to these were placed so that they could be flanked from the main walls.

In the defence of a fortified place the gate had not only to be protected from sudden surprise, but also had to undergo protracted attacks concentrated upon it during a siege. Thus until the coming of gunpowder, the ingenuity of military engineers was exhausted in accumulating the most complicated defences round the gateways, and the strength of a fortified place could be estimated by the fewness of its gates. Viollet-le-Duc (Dict. de l’arch. du moyen âge, s.v. Porte) takes the Narbonne and Aude gates (E. and W.) of Carcassonne as typical instances of this complication. The following brief account of the Narbonne Gate (fig. 1), one of the principal parts of the work on the fortifications begun by Philip the Bold in 1285, will give some idea of the varied means of defence, which may be found individually if not always in such collective abundance in the fortified gateways of the middle ages. Two massive towers flanked the actual entrance and were linked across by an iron chain; over the entrance (E) was a machicolation, further added to in time of war by a hoarding of timber; and an outer portcullis fell in front of the heavy iron-lined doors. On to the passage way between the first and second doors opened a square machicolation (G) from which the defenders in the upper chambers of the gate could attack an enemy that had succeeded in breaking through the first entrance or had been trapped by the falling of the first portcullis. Another machicolation (I) opened from the roof in front of the second portcullis and second door. So much for the gate itself; but before an attack could reach that point, the following defences had to be passed: an immense circular barbican (A) protected the entrance across the moat and through the outer enceinte of the city. This entrance was flanked by a masked return of the wall (C), while palisades (P) still further hampered the assailant in his passage across the “lists” to the foot of the gate towers. Here sappers would find themselves exposed to a fire from the loopholes and from the machicolated hoardings above them, while the projecting horns with which the face of the towers terminated forced them to uncover themselves to a flanking fire from the indents in the main curtain on either side of the towers.

Fig. 1.—Plan of the Narbonne Gate of the city of Carcassonne.

The later history of the gateway is merged in that of modern fortification. The more elaborate the gate defences the greater was the inducement for the besieger to attack the walls, and improvements in methods of siegecraft ultimately compelled the defender to develop the enceinte from its medieval form of a ring wall with flanking towers to the 17th century form of bastions, curtains, tenailles and ravelins, all intimately connected in one general scheme of defence. By Vauban’s time there is little to distinguish the position and defences of the gateways from the rest of the fortifications surrounding a town. A road from the country usually entered one of the ravelins, sinking into the glacis, crossing the ditch of the ravelin and piercing the parapet almost at right angles to its proper direction (see fig. 2, which also shows a typical arrangement of minor communications such as ramps and staircases). From the interior of the ravelin it passed across the main ditch to a gate in the curtain of the enceinte. The road was in fact artificially made to wind in such a way that it was kept under fire from the defences throughout, while the part of it inside the works was bent so as to place a covering mass between the enemy’s fire and troops using the road for a sortie. Thus the gate itself was merely a barrier against a coup de main and to keep out unauthorized persons. In conditions precluding the making of a breach in the walls, i.e. in surprises and assaults de vive force, the gateway and accompanying drawbridge continue to play their part in the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries, but they seldom or never appear as the objectives of a siege en règle. In Vauban’s works, and those of most other engineers, there was generally a postern giving access to the floor of the main ditch, in the centre of the curtain escarp. The gates of Vauban’s and later fortresses are strong heavy wooden 529 doors, and the gateways more or less ornamental archways, exactly as in many private mansions of castellar form. In modern fortresses the gate of a detached fort or an enceinte de sureté is intended purely as a defence against an unexpected rush. The usual method is to have two gates, the outer one a lattice or portcullis of iron bars and the inner one a plate of half-inch steel armour, backed by wood and loopholed. The defenders of the gate can by this arrangement fire from the inner loopholes through the outer gate upon the approaches, and also keep the enemy under fire whilst he is trying to force the outer gate itself. The ditches are crossed either by drawbridges or by ramps leading the road down to the floor of the ditch.

Fig. 2.—Plan of Gate Arrangements of an 18th Century Fortress.

The “gate” as a barrier to be removed and as an entrance to be passed is of constant occurrence in figurative language and in symbolical usage. The gates of the temple of Janus (q.v.) at Rome stood open in war and closed in peace. The pylon of ancient Egypt had a symbolical meaning in the Book of the Dead, and religious significance attaches to the torii, one of the outward signs of the Shinto religion in Japan, the Buddhist toran, and to the Chinese pai-loo, the honorific gateways erected to ancestors. The gates of heaven and hell, the gates of death and darkness, the wide and narrow gates that lead to destruction and life (Matt. vii. 13 and 14), are familiar metaphorical phrases in the Bible. In Greek and Roman legend dreams pass through gates of transparent horn if true, if deceptive and false through opaque gates of ivory (Hom. Od. xix. 560 sq.; Virg. Aen. vi. 893).

(C. We.)

1 The spelling “gait” is confined to this meaning—the only literary one surviving. In the form “gate” it appears dialectally in this sense and in such particular meanings as a right to run cattle on common or private ground or as a passage way in mines. The principal survival is in names of streets in the north and midlands of England and in Scotland, e.g. Briggate at Leeds, Wheeler Gate and Castle Gate at Nottingham, Gallow Tree Gate at Leicester, and Canongate and Cowgate at Edinburgh.

Transcriber's note: A few typographical errors have been corrected. They appear in the text like this, and the explanation will appear when the mouse pointer is moved over the marked passage. Sections in Greek will yield a transliteration when the pointer is moved over them, and words using diacritic characters in the Latin Extended Additional block, which may not display in some fonts or browsers, will display an unaccented version.

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