France

Back to Medieval Times in Guedelon

Have you ever wondered how it’s like to build a castle in olden days? Wonder no more as you can witness how that’s done in Guedelon.

If you find yourself in North Burgundy, you should spend some time in this unfinished castle to see the ancient construction methods and tools craftsmen and builders employ. Guedelon is a work in progress, following a design that was created in the 12th and 13th centuries. There are no shortcuts; everything is built according to how it would have been back in the Medieval days. Even the workers are dressed according to that period!

photo of ancient windmil mechanism
How the windmill works
guy explaining how a windmill and grindstone works
The windmill powers a mill which grinds grains into flour

French entrepreneur Michael Guyot embarked on this historic experiment by purchasing the land in 1979, where the Chateau de Saint-Fargeau once stood. In 1995 medieval foundations were discovered on site and this lead to the conceptualization of Guedelon Castle. After raising money to get the project started and choosing a site suitable for such undertaking, construction commenced in 1997.

an old fashioned oven
Old-fashioned oven

Every detail is painstakingly made without using any kind of modern tool or method. Take these wooden shingles and bricks for example. They are all made individually in spite of the fact that tens of thousands of them are needed not just to build the castle but also the workshops all over the area.

a low roofed shed covered in wooden shingles
2 men preparing wooden shingles
girl inside hut where there are stacks of oven bricks

The land supplies the construction materials needed. Resources had to be nearby because in the olden days transporting them from longer distances would require more money, time and effort. A large forest provides timber and a nearby pond supplies water. An abandoned quarry provides Guedelon with the stone it needs for construction.

girl in the middle of tree-lined path
a small shed filled with white stone blocks
Men carving blocks out of stone

To be self-sustaining, they also planted a garden and raised some animals.

small garden of trees and herbs
girl petting brown horse

No modern technology is used here. They stay faithful to the techniques of the time.

old fashioned carriage wheels in garden
white horse pulling up a carriage with 2 men in it

Exploring the interiors is also interesting even if they’re not completely finished yet. It provides insight into everyday life in a Medieval castle.

girl walking a corridor at the side of castle
girl looking at table with dry bread on it
Nothing but dry, hard bread for lunch today
medieval fireplace with cooking tools hanging
This is where they make bread
Room with hand painted walls
They make the paint on site
medieval toilet made of wood
The toilet. Whatever you let out goes right out to the moat
two faces coming out of cartoon cutouts
Not exactly a Medieval feature but definitely fun

Utility is not the only thing that matters here; aesthetics is also given priority. Paints are made from natural materials to adorn the various parts of Guedelon.

girl in front of spools of thread that are naturally pigmented
clay dishes containing natural pigments inside hut

If you want to learn more about certain techniques, workshops and demonstrations are also done here. Also, you can always talk to the workers and ask them questions about their jobs while they are doing it.

Kids learning how to carve stone
small outdoor ampitheater made of wooden benches

Last but never the least, food. You can pack some sandwiches to eat at the picnic area or buy from the store within the premises. There’s quite a selection of delicious choices. I ate like I was out working all day!

wooden board with cheeses jam and walnuts on top
An assortment of cheeses with some jam and nuts
wooden board with cold cuts butter and bread on top
Cold cuts, bread, and butter (of course)
girl sitting at table with cheeses and cold cuts in and cider in front of her
A feast fit for a princess!

You can easily spend a day just walking around in Guedelon. You wouldn’t even have to imagine what the past looked like because it’s already there, being recreated as you wander. Who knew going back in time was so much fun? In Guedelon, it sure is.

a boy and a girl in front of an unfinished medieval castle

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