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Guedelon Castle in Burgundy | Cruising in France

Cruising in France

...Travel blog about river and canal cruise vacations on luxury barges and riverboats

 

A Medieval Castle under Construction in Burgundy

Written by Pierre on January 19, 2009
Summary:

“Castles in France!” What comes to mind? A fortress in ruins in Normandy or a Renaissance chateau in the Loire valley? How about a castle being built before your eyes - the old fashioned way…

 
Guedelon in 2025Tower under constructionGuedelon castle floor plan
 
The Canal du Nivernais is a favorite for barge cruising in northern Burgundy. Among the many day-trip options in the area, Guédelon castle, near Auxerre, is one of the most unusual. (It is one of the most unusual tourist sites in the whole of France, if you ask me.) Normally, when thinking of castles in France, you picture medieval fortresses in ruin or elegant Renaissance chateaus beautifully preserved. Not in this case, however. Guédelon is a 13th-century-style castle being built as we speak. That’s right! A medieval castle under construction before your eyes. Cool! The project started in 1997 and is scheduled to be completed around 2025 or so.  The pictures above show an artist’s rendering of the finished castle, one of the towers built about half way up and a drawing of the floor plan.

What makes this project so unique is the way it is being constructed. No power tools or equipment are used. Only techniques and materials used in the Middle Ages are allowed. Every stone is cut with hammer and cold chisel; every plank is milled by a sawyer (or two); the rope maker turns hemp and sisal into ropes; the blacksmith hammers red hot iron on his anvil; heavy materials are hoisted by humans in a giant wooden squirrel cage; etc… No machines. No diesel fumes. Everything is made by hand or drawn by horses!

Making ropesBlacksmith at workStone mason building a wall

And, to recreate more completely  the illusion of living in a distant world dating back some seven centuries, the workers dress in period costumes. Their clothes are woven by on-site weavers using the wool from sheep raised on the premises. The three photos above show the rope maker, the blacksmith and the stone mason hard at work. 

The construction site, located in the middle of a forest and a stone quarry–two convenient sources of construction materials–is open to the public for visits. What fascinated me the most about Guédelon is the fact that you can easily interact with the workers while they are going about their business. They actually welcome discussing their methods with you and demonstrating age-old ways of making and building things. Obviously, kids love this type interactive display, but this grownup found his visit absolutely captivating. More pictures I took at the site: the squirrel cage and its hoisting mechanism and a draft horse waiting for his next load.

 The squirrel cageDraft horse waiting for load

2 Comments so far ↓

  1. May
    10
    11:49
    AM
    Jan Younes

    We too, find this project captivating as we begin another such project by Michel Guyrot in the United States. We are friends and love his robust energy.

  2. Aug
    12
    5:07
    PM
    Daniel L. Schroth

    Hello Guys , I am a stone man from Pittsfield New Hampshire ,USA . I have been building stonewalls , standing and retaining , and stone foundations for 22 years . I heard a program on your castle work on a public radio station a couple of days ago . My wife and I just visited your site! WOW !!! Two days per stone ,wow. We do about 15 to 20 stones a day per man , and we are considered slow , as we are maticulous with our work. But you gentlemen are a step above ! Aren’t we lucky to be able to work with stones ? Great luck and good fortune with your once in a life time opportunity ! May God hold you all in the palm of his hand. Sincerely , Dan and Nancy Schroth ,295 Clough Road ,Pittsfield N.H. USA 03263

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