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GuEdelon - Living history
Historic monuments and archaeological sites are by nature static. So how energizing it is to find Guédelon, a site teaming with activity and life, to the west of Auxerre.
Above and below you can see the progress of the construction in 2016 as the quality of the craftsmanship comes to the fore. The project is on target. After the quarrymen, stonemasons and carpenters some of the decorative features are being put in place such as frescoes inspired by the church in Moutiers nearby.
An ideal educational visit for school children, people of all ages will find plenty to interest and fascinate too. You hear visitors discussing the intricacies of the pulley systems used to hoist the stone blocks, the wood formers for the vaulted roofs, and the construction of the bridge made from 57 oak trees, which will also act as a drawbridge.
The project began in 1997, the dream of Michel Guyot, owner of the Château at St. Fargeau nearby. He wanted an experimental site, where we could learn a lot about past methods. His concept has been brought to fruition by the director, Maryline Martin, who has gathered together her team of experts and crafts people. So, the project has evolved from an historical and scientific one into also a human one. The team has become a dedicated band many of whom are making this their vocation, caring deeply about the authenticity.
The Guédelon quarry was chosen for its natural resources, the stone, wood and earth needed for construction. As Jacques Moulin, architect-in-chief says, ‘it is the first time that we can see how ‘Mr Middle Ages’ would have worked…’ The castle consists of four towers with an inner courtyard and living quarters. You can stand in the tower and imagine aiming your bow and arrow through the narrow slits in the walls to ward off attackers.
Dressed in medieval costume (bar the footwear), the craftsmen ply their trades around the edges of the building site. There are carpenters, masons, weavers, potters and stone hewers, not forgetting the blacksmiths who make and repair all the tools. They are 35 in all, plus volunteers on the site, guiding visitors around. It is a friendly, relaxed atmosphere, but charged with activity.
Transporting the construction materials
And for the tourist, there are plenty of facilities to make the day memorable. You can wander at leisure taking note of the colour coding for the safe and non safe areas of the building site. The visitors don’t seem to get in the way of the work, they are part of the whole concept of Guédelon, adding life and vitality.
You can get in the spirit of the times at the Tavern which offers tempting medieval fare. Taste ‘hypocras’ a mead drink, sample ‘Le Forgeron’ a plate of smoked sausage and gizzard topped with scrambled eggs. There are extensive picnic areas too, and also a well stocked shop on the site with educational and fun items. The visit comes highly recommended and will appeal to anyone over the age of five.
Guédelon is open daily from March 14 – Nov
1 all day from 10.00 – 18.00 (closing time varies slightly according
to season and last entry time one hour before closing)
During July and August there will be guided tours in English every afternoon at 14.00.
For groups, this can be arranged at any time given prior notice.
Note: The site is on the D955 between St-Sauveur en Puisaye and St-Armand en Puisaye. From experience, we advise staying on the main roads – you can waste a lot of time in the hinterland!
For an inside look at the skills and techniques used in building the castle, the BBC2 series Secrets of a Castle with historian Ruth Goodman and archaeologists Peter Ginn and Tom Pinfold is now available on DVD and comes highly recommended.
Burgundy by Request - Guided tours to places of historic interest and wineries