In the small village of Guédelon in the départment of Yonne in Burgundy, between the towns of Saint-Sauveur-en-Puisaye and Saint-Amand-en-Puisaye an extraordinary project is underway. A medieval chateau is being constructed using 800 year old methods and tools – it is the biggest archaeological project of its kind in the world and it is extraordinary.
The Castle of Guédelon is a “follie”, the idea of local French chateau restorer and owner Michel Guyot. He and his brother Jacques have a passion for historic buildings and cut their teeth restoring an abandoned and almost derelict chateau with huge success. The work inspired in him a passion to learn more about building a castle from scratch. So where do you start when you want to build a 13th Century chateau just as it would have been done 800 years ago? “Materially” says Sarah Preston the Press officer for Guedelon “the first challenge was raising enough funds to get the project off the ground. Funding a suitable site was crucial, as well as finding the raw materials required in the construction. We were fortunate to find an abandoned quarry, which as well as having the largest deposit of sandstone in the area, was also surrounded by oak forests, and had rich supplies of sand and clay”.
From those humble beginnings in 1997 has grown a most magnificent undertaking. One that has seen several hundred volunteers join the paid members of staff over the years. They are united by their passion for this huge adventure, the chance to learn about old techniques of building and living, in a way that’s never been tried before now.
“It will take our team at least 25 years to complete the castle. This is considerably longer than it would have taken in the early 13th century. We will easily take twice as long as our medieval counterparts because we don’t have the experience that they had. We have had to learn so much, like how to quarry by hand, make lime-mortar, even how to hoist loads. We’ll also take longer because we are open to the public and spend at least half of our time talking to visitors and explaining our work.”
It is an absolutely immense project, an inspirational undertaking and an awesome story – read it here: The Chateau de Guedelon – a Window to the Past