If you’re interested in medieval life, you don’t need a time machine to travel back in time. Guedelon Fortress in Burgundy, France, is a one-of-a-kind initiative in which volunteers and researchers are constructing an original 13th century castle using exclusively medieval techniques and materials.
Michel Guyot and Maryline Martin began work on the Guedelon Castle project in 1997, and it has been steadily approaching completion ever since. It now employs over 55 people and is a major tourist destination, attracting over 300,000 visitors every year.
There is even a period-accurate backstory attached to the medieval castle that guides the design and construction. In the annals of Guedelon, works began in 1228. Each year that passes is a year in ancient times, too, so we were now in 1248. “The rule of the reenactment is that only what we know from documents that existed at the time is allowed,” says Sarah Preston, an English guide. “Funnily enough, we found that even though we knew we were accurate, somehow the castle lacked soul. So we invented a character – the owner – who would have likes and dislikes, wanting this and not wanting that.”
Seigneur Guilbert is a middle-ranking feudal lord, who was granted the right to build his beautiful castle because he sided with the crown during a rebellion in 1226.
“At one point, we noticed the stonemasons were cutting the tower stones too precisely, which would not have been suitable. It would have implied he had a lot of money and, as a result, a small army in the castle, which was not the case.” The completion of this amazing tourist destination is scheduled around 1253 – approximately 2023 in today’s globe.
In France, people are building a castle from the 13th century using only medieval building techniques and materials
Michel Guyot and Maryline Martin started Guedelon Castle project in 1997, and its completion is expected around 2023
Here, stonemasons are working on bricks and keystones
Workers transport stones by cart
Special cranes are built to take heavier rocks to higher levels of the building site
In the annals of Guedelon, works began in 1228. Each year that passes is a year in historical time too, so we are now in 1248
“The rule is that only what we know from documents that existed at the time is allowed”
They’re paying extreme attention to detail for the interior as well. Here’s a shot of the timber work inside the castle bedroom.
Another view of the castle bedroom and its decorated walls
Even the transport around the site is medieval: people use site carts and horse-drawn carriages to move around.
Workers are also re-building servants’ homes and buildings used for daily life.
A look at some of the woodwork in the castle’s halls.
Some of the building techniques had to be re-discovered or improvised, such as the exact combination of materials for the mortar.
Those who want to do more than just visit the castle can also pitch in and work for a few days — about 650 people each year volunteer to do so.
Here’s a British engineering student Cloe, from Northampton, walking in a winch drum at the construction site.
And another volunteer playing with geese.
A man works at the construction site.
Clement Guerard, a blacksmith at the site since 1999, poses in his workshop
Man grinds flour in a gristmill
The location was chosen because most of the building materials are nearby. There is rock for the walls and towers, big oak trees for wood and close access to water and sand.
This is how it looked like in the early stages of the project
And a glimpse of the building plan for the castle shows how it will look completed.
This is how Guedelon Castle looks now.
Be sure to watch the video to find out more secrets of this chateau.
Lawrence Freeburn says
Wonderful project.I love France, so much variety, such a beautiful country. I have bee fortunate to visit Europe 11 times, most visits included touring Paris and different parts of France. One favorite trip was in 2010 with my adult children. I would enjoy another trip, but at 76 air travel is not easy. I would certainly enjoy seeing your castle site. Vive La France Lawrence Freeburn Seattle,USA
Michel Sastre says
We, my Wife and I, have been visiting Guédelon since 1999, early in the project. It is a wonderful, educational site. Among the 300 000 visitors are about 60 000 children brought by teachers to learn in real time on a real site. There is also, not to be neglected, a period `restaurant` serving period foods from period recipes. It is quite a sight for, at around 5 pm, the workers, in their period clothing, get into their modern cars in the separate parking lot.