In France, people have been building a 13th century castle for 20 years, using only medieval building techniques and materials.
At the beginning of the 90’s I attended two fascinating summer camps in mid-France. The first one was about building up a prehistoric village (with prehistoric techniques), the second one about (re)creating a medieval garden. Now, since this happened about 25 years ago, it’s not impossible that this unique project, whereby volunteers and researchers have been constructing an authentic 13th century castle for 20 years, is a follow up to that initiative.
Guedelon Castle in Burgundy, France, is built using only techniques and materials that were available in the Middle Ages. Michel Guyot and Maryline Martin started the project in 1997, and it has been nearing its inevitable completion ever since. Today, it has created over 55 jobs and draws more than 300,000 visitors every year.
The design and construction of the castle is guided by a period-accurate backstory. According to the annals of Guedelon, works began in 1228, so we are now in 1248. “The rule 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 being 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 castle because he sided with the crown during a rebellion in 1226.
“At one point we realized the stonemasons were cutting the stones for the towers too perfectly, which just wouldn’t have been appropriate. It would have suggested he had a lot of money and therefore a small army in the chateau, which wasn’t the case.”
Completion of this exceptional project is expected around 1253 – or 2023 in today’s world. The mills of medieval gods grind slowly.