We headed down for a weekend visit with friends in Ravière. On the way, between Burgundy and the Loire Valley lies the region of Guédelon (gay-de-lone), “a land full of tastes, color, culture and literature, history and memories.” We had visited Saint-Amand-en-Puisaye and the pottery museum a few years ago. This time, I found there is more to this region for families and even adults without children than I never knew existed.
A place my husband always wanted to visit was the building site of Guédelon. Often when visiting fortified castles, they have been standing since the thirteenth century in various shades of disrepair or renovation. If you have never seen a fortified castle being built from the ground up with all the historical materials made on site, Guédelon is a monument in the making.
Did you know that mortar from the thirteenth century does not resemble the same mortar used in the twentieth century? Our guide, one of the builders, said an expert made an observation early on in the building process. The expert noticed the ingredients for the mortar being used was incorrect. They took samplings, dissected the mortar contents from a period chateau of similar quality. They had to redo the walls.
Did you know that a fortified residence usually housed only twenty people: a lord and his family, servants, guards and their families? And the whole family slept in a tower (Tour maîtresse)? Everything had to be constructed with available materials of the region; and that is what is happening here.
In a former quarry, Guédelon, a thirteenth century fortified castle is being built from the ground up. The first stone was laid in 1998. Michel Guyot, owner and restorer of Saint Fargeau Castle in Yonne, is the man behind this “idée folle” (wild idea).
(Set the YouTube video settings to 720p/HD) The work is expected to continue on the fortress until 2026. You are asked to imagine the world is in 1229. It is the Middle Ages and our nobleman is Guilbert, a low-ranking nobleman; a vassal to Jean de Toucy, who is a vassal to the King of France, Louis IX, during a period of peace and stability. In 1229, hundreds of workers built a fortified château within eight years. Due to inflation and the salaries, the thirty-five novices, masons and other workers will take about twenty six or more years to complete this château. The show will go on …..
Visit their website if you or your children have any interest in castle building to watch the recreation using construction techniques of the 1200s. The site changes every day. If you visited five years ago, you wouldn’t recognize the site. What we saw on this visit will be completely surpassed at our next visit. The first year Guédelon opened, they had 25,000 visitors. As of 2013, over 300,000 visitors a year are buying tickets. Entry fees and gift shop purchases are financing the salaries for fifty to seventy employees (of whom at least thirty-five work on the building site) and the construction.
Guédelon is about two and a half hours from Paris. Some books in English about Guédelon are available in the gift shop. It is the départment of Yonne in northwest Burgundy between the villages of Saint-Saveur-en-Puisay and Saint-Amand-en-Puisaye (an area rich in sandstone clay making it a pottery “argile gréseuse” center).
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