France Is Building a Medieval Castle Using 800-Year-Old Tools and Technology
Imagine being able to travel back in time to the 13th century without the need for any time machine! Guédelon Castle, the one-of-a-kind project nestled in a forest in Burgundy, France, offers this amazing experience. In today’s digital era, a dedicated team is constructing an entire medieval castle from the ground up, using only medieval tools and techniques to ensure these structures last. The level of detail is so extensive that the project has been ongoing since 1997!
Are you curious to know the inside story? Then, keep reading!
A French Couple Is the Leading Light Who Kickstarted the Project Back in the 1990s
A game-changing idea was born in 1995 at Saint-Fargeau Castle, a 17th-century castle in France near Guédelon. Two fortification and castle experts named Nicolas Faucherre and Christian Corvisier found medieval stone walls hidden behind the red-brick walls of Saint-Fargeau Castle. Their research revealed a drawing of the castle’s original form, concluding with the remarks, “Reconstructing Saint-Fargeau Castle would be an amazing project,” that intrigued Saint-Fargeau castle’s owner, Michel Guyot.
Michel Guyot, who is an expert in preserving historic castles, assembled a group of castle aficionados, including Maryline Martin, to discuss the project. Maryline was ecstatic with the idea, and she has been spearheading the Guédelon project ever since. And that is how the iconic project kickstarted in the winter of 1995.
They started working on the construction of the project in 1997, but it was not open to the public then. For funding, they relied on donations from the European Union. Fast forward to today, they are self-funded, thanks to tourism. The castle currently attracts more than 300,000 visitors annually, and each visitor’s entry fee ranges from 12 euros (roughly $13) to 15 euros (roughly $16). This generates about 5 million euros ($5.25 million) revenue annually, which is mainly used for employee compensation.
The Workers also Wear Medieval-Style Outfits to Keep a 13th Century Vibe Alive
Stepping inside the under-construction Guédelon Castle transports you back to the 13th century. This is not just because of the structures but also because of the workers, who are usually dressed in green, burgundy, or beige blouses that are reminiscent of the medieval era. The only modern elements in their attire are the footwear and the helmets that are necessary for construction site safety.
They currently have 70 staff members, with 40 of them exclusively working on the construction of the castle. The team is quite diverse. While some members have professional craftsmanship qualifications, others have acquired their skills through experience. Workers at Guédelon Castle are delighted to be a part of this project since it is one of the few places in the world where they can hone their skills using centuries-old methods and tools.
If you think the only job of each employee is to solely work on the project, then you are wrong. They also act as educators because they must respond to visitors’ questions and explain their work. This added educational element is one of the reasons for the project’s delayed timeline because employees constantly must stop their work to communicate with the visitors.
Every Corner of Guédelon Castle Is Carefully Constructed Using Traditional Methods and Ancient Tools
Guédelon castle workers follow a specific process to select architectural models to build a comprehensive and up-to-date database. Researchers get their information from pictures in old books and stained-glass windows. They also look for information from old castle contracts for building castles in the Middle Ages. They visit castles from the same time period and with similar architectural designs.
For example, researchers have looked into castles like Dourdan, Ratilly, Yèvre-le-Châtel, Druyes-les-Belles-Fontaines, and Ratilly. But the research does not stop here. They also use information from modern sources like reports from meetings/academic papers related to archeology and records of archaeological excavations.
Considering the meticulous nature of the research, it is quite evident that the team would also be very particular about the tools they use in construction. Their work is so historically accurate that even the plants they grow in the garden date back to the medieval era. Skilled workers do every aspect of the construction by hand.
For example, they cut stones into precise, geometrical shapes using old hammers instead of modern pneumatic tools. When it comes to painting, they use minerals discovered on the castle grounds to make 15 different paint colors, such as ochers, clays, soils, charcoal, and lime. These are only a few instances of the Guédelon Castle team’s diligent and dedicated work.
So far, six turrets, an inner castle, a protective wall, and even a chapel have been constructed completely. The builders are fully aware that it might take 10, 20, or perhaps even 30 years to finish the project. However, this doesn’t bother the workers at all. Their primary focus is on the wisdom and experience they acquire while building the castle rather than rushing to finish the project.
Would you like to visit this historically accurate castle?
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