As those who got battered by Hurricane Irene—or any other hurricane—can attest, having a safe zone in your home is absolutely necessary. We all need a place to hunker down and hide; a place we can climb into where we know we’ll be safe and protected.

The knights of medieval times understood that concept very well. Castles were fortified and protected so that those living within the walls could do so without fear.

 But they also knew the value of emotional safety.

I saw the clear manifestation of both when I visited Germany’s Burg Eltz (aka Eltz Castle) this summer. I fell in love with the place. It is one of the most beautiful castles in Germany and still privately owned. Since it is undergoing renovations, my pictures have scaffolding in them, so click the Burg Eltz link to see how fabulous it really is.

Burg Eltz, Germany

Scaffolding at Burg Eltz, Germany

 Surprisingly, the Castle sits in a valley, which would make it vulnerable. But according to the tour guides, the family leaders compensated by becoming expert negotiators, so the Castle was never attacked. It also helps that Burg Eltz is inaccessible in winter.

My favorite part of the castle is the Knights’ Hall. This is the largest room in the Castle and the place where the family gathered and guests were entertained.

By design, several prominent symbols sent a clear message to all who entered:

Coat of Arms –The ceiling around the Knight’s Hall is adorned with dozens of Coats-of-Arms. Anyone who stepped into the room could see at a glance who the family had alliances with. The longer the list; the greater the warning.

Jester’s masks – Under the ceiling beams, there are two jester’s masks. These symbols signified freedom of speech and meant that within the Knights’ Hall, you could safely say whatever you needed to, without fear of reprisal.

Rose of Silence – Above the exit, there is a carved Rose of Silence. It is a symbol of secrecy and discretion. Whatever happened in the Knight’s Hall, stayed in the Knights’ Hall.

I loved seeing these tangible symbols of important ideas. They reminded me to make sure that my home, family, writer’s group, and circle of friends is a safe place.

Do you have symbols, signs or mottos you use to establish safe zones? I’d love to hear what they are.