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Guédelon, The Lost Castle That's Taking 25 Years to Rebuilt

Ancient History | November 2, 2016

The re-construction of this lost 13th century castle began in 1997 using only the techniques and materials used in the Middle Ages, its completion date is estimated some time in the 2020s...

It all began in 1979 when Michel Guyot bought a derelict castle, called Chateau Saint Fargeau, for a mere few thousand Francs.

During the extensive restoration process, an archeological team hired to survey the property discovered the remains of a medieval castle buried within its red brick walls (pictured below).

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It was this discovery that inspired Michel to re-create the lost medieval castle from scratch, just like they did in the good old days!
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Thirteen kilometers away from the Chateau Saint Fargeau, Michel found the perfect site for the new castle - a land located next to an abandoned stone quarry in a large forest, with a pond close by. The location presented all the resources he and his team would need to successfully time travel back to the Middle Ages and begin building Guédelon.

Here is a flashback to what the site looked like pretty much on ‘Day One’ in the late 1990s.

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Progress…

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But it wasn’t enough just to use medieval construction techniques, materials and tools. Builders and craftsmen has also to take on the period costumes, diet and lifestyle. There's also a “horses-only” policy used for transportation around the site.

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Authenticity at Guédelon is a big priority.

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Why? It all boils down to a rare practice called “experimental archaeology”, which is pretty much the only way to truly understand and investigate how things were done back then.

And this is certainly the world’s biggest archeological experiment ever attempted.

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It’s a hands-on approach of rediscovering old forgotten skills and learning exactly how to use them rather than merely relying on theories.

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At Guédelon, there is a team of over 50 people committed to these old near-extinct trades, including quarrymen, stonemasons, woodcutters, carpenters, blacksmiths, tile makers, basket makers, rope makers, carters (and horses), all working together year after year to complete the castle.

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The team is of course employing techniques that they’re already specialised in, but also learning and re-discovering new things to add to the history books as they persevere on this epic journey into the past.

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Here is the team preparing the keystone to be mounted on the vaulted ceiling of the castle’s tower…

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The finished product ↓

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The project has created 55 jobs and during high season the site employs youths facing difficulties, helping them through on-the-job professional training and awarding some with stonemasonry certifications.

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Since day one, Guedélon has also been open to the public for guided visits and educational tours and there’s even a medieval restaurant to welcome guests.

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Slowly but surely is a bit of an understatement here, but Guedélon is coming closer to completion…

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Visit the Guedélon website for more information. You can follow the project's progress until completion, a long-term but rewarding commitment.

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