When we were invited to be part of living history at Guedelon Castle I didn’t really know what to expect, I mean, when someone tells you, you are going to visit a living working castle, which is being built from scratch, with medieval methods. You think that sounds great, yes, I would love to visit. The boys will love it! A working museum, we have visited a few of those and really enjoyed them.
But the reality is a very different thing, Guedelon is incredible, unlike any living museum I have ever visited. Because but for the little matter of time, this place is real. Not manufactured to show to the public. Every single stone, rope, door, tower and hinge is crafted using medieval techniques. The stone is mined from the quarry, sand dug from site and moved by horse. It is all made here at Guedelon and its remarkable, no more than that, its breathtaking.
When we arrived we met up with the wonderful Guedelon team and the lovely Ting and her family to spend a incredible day finding out what life building a medieval castle was really like.
Guedelon is the brainchild of Michel Guyot who discovered a medieval castle hidden within the walls of the very beautiful Saint-Fargeau Castle. He wanted to re-create the castle but in its own grounds, create it in a glory of its very own. He called on the help of Maryline Martin to build a team to make the dream become a reality.
They decided from the start to not just create the castle as a replica. Building with modern techniques would be pointless. And went forward with the vision of re-creating the castle using only medieval techniques. Once you visit Guedelon you realise this is no quick process, construction started in 1997 and is projected to be a 25-year project.
The project relies on a full-time team and volunteers, all equally passionate about the project and travel from all over the world to be part of history in the making. The attention to detail and authenticity is just amazing. Every brush, tool, stone is manufactured on site. And the craftsmanship is mind-blowing, I know I have so many photos on this post, but all of this outstandingly beautiful work was created by hand.
As a result Guedelon has developed into the most beautiful little medieval village with a blacksmiths, stables, tilers, carpenters, rope makers, stonemasons, a tool foundry, iron works and colour house, yes even the paints are made from natural resources. It is crazy but wonderful. The beauty is you can come along and get involved; we took part in the stone-carving workshop, which the boys loved. In fact they all got a little competitive about carving the best stone.
We did a guided tour with an English-speaking guide and I would thoroughly recommend it, our tour guide Hein works in the quarry at Guedelon when he is not working as a guide and his passion for the project was just infectious. He was not just doing this as a job, he believes in Guedelon and knows the site inside out.
Hein was able to tell us the history from the ground up, how every part of the castle was made and constructed. What lessons they have learnt along the way. And what measures they took to correct any dating errors to ensure the authentic and the integrity of the build is always maintained.
I feel had we not taken part in the tour we would have still loved Guedelon, but taking part in the tour meant we came away not just understanding the concept but also feeling it. Which is weird to say, but the passion of this project is catching. I think that is because it is not just about the build, it is about the people. Guedelon has a heart and soul and you can feel that in every inch of the project, you leave knowing you want to return and see the progress.
That is the beauty of Guedelon, it’s a work in progress, and every visit will be different. There will always be a new wing, tower, and tiled floor to marvel at. I just know next time we visit we will be excited to see the progress the changes.
Hopefully see Guedelon in the sunshine. But quite honestly the torrential rain did not alter our enjoyment of our day at Guedelon. We wrapped up, donned our wellies and enjoyed Guedelon in the rain. Because being an authentic build means experiencing it in all weathers.
I could tell you about each and every section, about the stones, the progress of the build but honestly? You really want to experience it for yourself, because I would not do it justice like the incredible Guedelon guides would.
What I can say is that Burgundy is the most beautiful region of which Guedelon is a part, there is so much to see and do. It is the perfect place to spend a week, taking in the atmosphere, meeting the people and feeling the passion of the region to make this project work. It really is like no other place we ever visited.
Pin for later