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Press release 2014

Press release 2014

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A castle in the making

© Guedelon

© Guedelon

Deep in secluded woodland, an abandoned quarry reveals a landscape seemingly untouched for a thousand years.

Out of this wood and stone,  quarrymen, stonemasons, woodcutters, carpenters, blacksmiths, tile makers, basket makers, rope makers, carters and their horses are working together to construct a castle, using 13th-century building techniques.

Guédelon: the ultimate in grand design

© Guedelon

© Guedelon

Throughout the changing seasons, Guédelon's workers rise to this extraordinary challenge. The curtain walls, the postern, the fixed bridge, the rib-vaulted guard rooms, the groin-vaulted cellar, the roof timbers, and the lord’s chamber have all been built in front of thethousands of visitors who have flocked from across the globe to see the only construction site of its kind.

 

In 2014, the chapel will be built on the Chapel Tower’s 1st floor and the carpenters will build a wooden section of wall-walk to skirt around this place of worship.

On the Great Tower, the team will continue building the 2nd-floor octagonal chamber.

In the North Range, paving tiles will be laid on the floor of the Great Hall.

Guédelon: illuminating the Middle Ages

© Guedelon

© Guedelon

 

It is impossible to visit castles and cathedrals of the Middle Ages without wondering how these buildings were constructed, where the materials came from, how they were transported, which tools were used or how such heavy loads were hoisted.

 

Guédelon sheds light on these mysteries of the medieval world.

Guédelon: learning from experience

© Guedelon

© Guedelon

At a time when environmental protection is of such concern, Guédelon provides practical lessons in sustainable building. This pioneering construction site offers information skills such as making wattle and daub, building rubble walling, using lime-based mortar, firing terracotta roof tiles, cleaving oak shingles, making flax and hemp ropes. Inspired by the past, this building site is also very much of relevance to the 21st century.

 

Guédelon: an act of folly

© Guedelon

© Guedelon

Michel Guyot, owner and restorer of Saint Fargeau castle, first had the idea of building a 13th-century style fortress following the discovery that the 15th-century red bricks of his castle obscured the stone walls of a much older stronghold. 

 

His dream was to build a castle just as it would have been in the Middle Ages; an idea which some found mildly amusing and others dismissed as outright folly. 

 

© Guedelon

© Guedelon

However, Maryline Martin, now the site’s managing director, was inspired by the exciting potential of creating a medieval construction site which could also  regenerate the local community!

It took several months to bring together and mobilise all the various different partners: architects, archaeologists and financial backers.  The site - in the heart of Guédelon forest - was found; a site which offered not only all the resources required for building a castle - a stone quarry, an oak forest and a water supply - but in sufficient quantities to satisfy the demands of this gigantic site. The first team started work and on June 20th 1997 the first stone was laid.

 

Guédelon: a shared passion

© Guedelon

© Guedelon

Today, Guédelon employs some 50 people, of whom 35 work on the building site itself. Some were already qualified, but others have acquired their skills on site; however, at Guédelon, the ability to communicate with the visiting public is just as important as mastering a craft.  Each year, around 700 people choose to play an active role in the venture.  From a wide range of backgrounds – skilled craftsman, castle enthusiasts, complete novices eager to learn, or work-experience students - they all come in order to learn more about the building techniques used on site.  For a period of several days, they step into the shoes of a medieval builder.

 

© Karine Thénadey

© Karine Thénadey

The site is overseen by the master mason: Florian Renucci. He is responsible for the day-to-day running of the site and, along with the project's managers, ensures that the work carried out is historically, architecturally and archaeologically accurate.

Guédelon: experimental archaeology in action

© Clément Guérard

© Clément Guérard

Our task is to recreate the construction techniques and the logistical organisation of an early 13th-century building site. We base much of our work on medieval financial records, illustrations on illuminated manuscripts, cathedral stained-glass windows and the evidence of contemporary chroniclers. These sources provide us with an insight into the tools used and the building techniques employed. However, in order to ensure that our working practice matches, as closely as possible, that of the 13th-century, the project's founders and the master mason, insist upon the need to closely examine a number of existing castles. 

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      

© Guedelon

© Guedelon

These 13th-century castles are the last reliable witnesses left to us by history. Once examined, photographed and measured, their evidence avoids us committing unnecessary errors which would later need correcting. This way of working has allowed us to reveal some of the medieval castle builders' fascinating secrets.

 

Ratilly (89), La Motte-Josserand, Dourdan and Yèvre-le-Châtel are among the castles which serve as models. 

Guédelon: living history

© Guedelon

© Guedelon

Every day, the site attempts to resolve many questions still unanswered by historians and archaeologists. The serious nature of the project demands the involvement of the academic world, and our work is monitored by both archaeologists and historians. Their involvement is of mutual benefit; they provide the project with invaluable information, while in turn, they have the unique opportunity to observe a team of builders at work on a medieval building site. They can study the skills needed, how tools are handled, and how the site is organised.

© F. Folcher

© F. Folcher

The advisory scientific committee is comprised of:

 

Anne Baud, archaeologist and lecturer at Lyon 2 University.

Jacques Moulin, head architect at Monuments Historiques, designer of the original Guédelon castle plans.

Nicolas Reveyron, art historian and lecturer at Lyon 2 University.

Frédéric Epaud, archaeologist and CNRS researcher at Tours, specialist in medieval roof timbers.

Christian Corvisier, historien de l'architecture.

Guédelon: passing on knowledge

© Guedelon

© Guedelon

Unlike any other present-day building site, members of the public are actively encouraged to observe the work in progress. The workers' role is to demonstrate and explain, to a diverse audience, traditional skills. Stone quarrying, the building of vaulted ceilings, the blacksmiths' work and the assembling of roof timbers, the making of clay tiles are just some of the activities that visitors can witness at first hand during a visit to Guédelon. The workers are always on hand to talk about their craft and the progress of the castle.

Guédelon: where history comes to life

© Guedelon

© Guedelon

Each year, 60,000 school children visit Guédelon on a fieldtrip. The site is an excellent educational resource, bringing to life the history of the Middle Ages.  Guided tours are tailored to the school curriculum and to specific age-ranges: activity trails for primary school children and interactive guided tours for secondary school children.  Pupils of all ages have the opportunity to follow in the footsteps of medieval stonemasons by taking part in a stonecarving workshop or discover the secrets of the medieval master-builders at the geometry workshop.

© Guedelon

© Guedelon

In the heart of an area of outstanding natural beauty, this ever-changing site can be visited time and time again.  Many of our visitors are intensely loyal and regularly return to follow the construction's progress. In 2013, Guédelon welcomed about 300,000 visitors, including a large number of overseas visitors. Guided tours are available in French, English, German and Dutch. In just a few short years, Guédelon has become one of France's major tourist attractions.  Employing 70 people, this venture, thanks to ticket sales and gift shop alone, is entirely self-financing.

2012 programme of events

© Guédelon

© Guédelon

2012 programme of events

 

 

On the great tower: the team will be complete the lord’s chamber on the 1st floor of the great tower. They will finish building the fireplace and then begin work on the next level.

 

 

In the eastern corner tower: a domed vault will be built over the ground floor guard room.

 

 

 

© Guedelon

© Guedelon

On the western curtain wall:work on this section of the curtain wall will continue.

 

On the north range: the antechamber will be completed with the first mural paintings and the laying of the first paving tiles.

Throughout the season, witness demonstrations of iron-ore smelting, firings of the tile kiln, and demonstrations of medieval cuisine. (Dates available at http://www.guedelon.fr under the heading site up-dates or follow us on http://www.facebook.com/Guedelon

Practical information

© Guédelon

© Guédelon

How to find us

 

Guédelon is situated in the départment of Yonne, in the north-west of Burgundy, between the villages of Saint-Saveur-en-Puisaye and Saint-Amand-en-Puisaye.

We are 2 hours from Paris, 1hour 45 minutes from Orleans, 2 hours from Dijon, 1 hour 20 minutes from Bourges.

Guédelon, D955, 89520, Treigny, France

 

Opening times

Guédelon is open from 17th March to 4th November 2014.

For more information

© Guedelon

© Guedelon

Books about Guédelon

A Castle in the Making

Maryline Martin and Florian Renucci, Ouest France

Guédelon, Fanatics for a Fortress

Philippe Minard, Aubanel

How to Build a Castle - the story so far

Collective work, Guédelon

For more information about titles available exclusively in French, please see the French version of our website.

 

                                                                               

 

 

Unguided or guided tours (French, English, German and Dutch speaking guides available)

Beginners' stonecarving workshops available for adults and children.

 

Individuals: no pre-booking necessary; bookings for guided visits and workshops can be made on arrival at the ticket office. (Dates and opening times are available on our website.)

 

Groups (+20 people) : pre-booking required. To make your booking please call 03 86 45 66 66 or go to our website: guedelon@guedelon.fr

 

 

                                                        

                                                                              

Release March 2012: a DVD of the building of the cross-ribbed vault

 

World exclusive images of the bringing under load of the cross-ribbed vault above the lord's chamber in 2011.

Press contacts

Maryline Martin, Director General

+33.3.86.45.69.81

maryline.martin@guedelon.fr

 

Delphine Bourselot  

+33.3.86.45.69.79

delphine.bourselot@guedelon.fr

 

For enquires in English

Sarah Preston  

                                                           +33.3.86.45.69.80

                                                           sarah.preston@guedelon.fr

 

All photos © Guédelon. To obtain photos of Guédelon, please contact Delphine Bourselot. 

 

 

Download: Guédelon press release 2012 (PDF - 1135 Ko)

 

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