In Guédelon forest, in a once disused quarry, using medieval technology, woodcutters, quarrymen, carpenters, stonemasons, blacksmiths, tilers, carters and rope makers are building a 13th-century castle from scratch...
The idea of building a fortress was born at neighbouring Saint-Fargeau castle; an archaeological team, led by Nicolas Faucherre, presented the owner, Michel Guyot, with the results of the study they had carried out into the castle's medieval origins. The survey brought to light the 13th-century castle buried within the Renaissance brick walls of Saint-Fargeau. It was this discovery which inspired the idea of bringing a medieval construction site to life in order to better understand how master-builders worked in the 13th century.
Each season, the visiting public can witness the construction team using all the techniques associated with castle-construction: wedge-and-feather sandstone quarrying, lime-mortar making, rubble-stone masonry, vault construction, hewing beams, assembling roof timbers etc.
On site, there is also have a working forge, carters and their horses, a dyers' workshop, a paint shop, a tiler-maker and wood-fired tile kiln, a woodturner, and ropemaker.
Guédelon is carrying out experimental archaeology on a vast scale. Florian Renucci is the project’s master mason. He works in collaboration with a scientific committee made up of archaeologists, historians, researchers and castellologists, including:
- Nicolas Faucherre: archaeologist, and fortification specialist;
- Anne Baud: archaeologist and building specialist;
- Frédéric Epaud: CNRS researcher, medieval timber specialist;
- Pierre Mille, xylologist, INRAP
- Christian Corvisier: architectural historian.
Guédelon contributed to the international symposium at Carcassonne in 2018 and regularly participates in seminars at Lyon II University. In September 2015, the Maison de l'Orient et de la Méditerranée held its annual symposium at the construction site: Les chantiers et les matériaux de construction de l’Antiquité à la Révolution industrielle en Occident et en Orient.
In 2012, a partnership was formed with INRAP (the French National Institute for Preventative Archaeology) and a full-scale working model of a late 12th-century watermill, found in the Jura, has been built on the mill ponds behind the castle. In 2015, with guidance from Christophe Meloche from INRAP, the team constructed an experimental lime kiln.
Guédelon is the subject of a 5-part BBC2 series (2014) and two 90-minute documentaries for the Franco-German channel, ARTE (2015 & 2018).
Throughout the season, workshops exploring medieval construction, geometry and stone carving, are organised for school parties. Guédelon is located in northern Burgundy, 2 hours south of Paris and 45 kilometres west of Auxerre.
The site has been open to the public since 1998.
Check our Review of the books about Guédelon.