Did you ever wonder how those French medieval castles were built? How did they get the materials to those remote areas? How did they achieve those magnificent results and where did they find the craftsmen? A group of builders and historians is seeking to answer those questions by constructing a new castle in the forests of Burgundy using 13th century methods and materials. The result is Guedelon Castle.
About Guedelon Castle
Begun in 1997 and expected to be finished in 2025, Guedelon is a new castle, constructed using only the engineering, tools and raw materials available during the Middle Ages. Stones and other materials are brought to the site via horse-drawn carts, not trucks, and hoisted into place via pulleys, not cranes. There are no power tools on the site, nor are there mobile phones. Measurements are made with knotted ropes instead of electronic instruments. Even the workers' dress and food mimic the 13th century.
The castle and grounds taking shape are impressive. In addition to the main castle, the site includes a working flour mill, a stable, a variety of craftsmens' huts and a timber keep, a traditional defense tower. At every turn, builders consult with historians and archeologists to see if the proposed plan or addition would have made sense during the time period.
Fun Facts About Guedelon Castle
- The sponsors of Guedelon Castle have created an entire legend around the site. It is to be the home of the fictional Gilbert de Guedelon, a low-ranking French nobleman, who lived during the time of the Hundred Years' War. (Think of the film "Lion in Winter.")
- The construction site was the subject of a BBC television special in 2014, "The Secrets of the Castle."
- More than 300,000 people visit Guedelon Castle each year.
- Fifty-five employees and more than 200 volunteers are working on building Guedelon Castle.
About Visiting Guedelon Castle
Though not yet completed, Guedelon Castle is open to visitors from mid-March through early November. Visitors can opt for either a guided or a self-guided tour. Nestled in the forest between Auxerre and Bourges, Guedelon is accessible by car via the D965 or via rail via the Cosne sur Loire station, which is about 15 miles away from the site. Admission for the 2014 season is 12 euros for adults and 10 euros for children ages 5-17. Children under age 5 are admitted free. Discounts are offered to disabled, unemployed and student visitors. Guided tours carry an additional fee.
Although Guedelon is a working construction site, there are a few facilities for visitors, including a snack pavilion, a tavern that offers hot meals, a free parking lot, a gift shop and a picnic area. The majority of the site (about 80 percent) is accessible to visitors with limited mobility.
Visiting Burgundy on a Barge Cruise
A barge cruise is an excellent way to visit the many wonders of Burgundy, including off-the-beaten-path attractions such as Guedelon Castle. Such cruises move at a leisurely pace, giving passengers an opportunity to savor the pristine countryside of one of France's most interesting and historic regions. Burgundy has not only historic sites, such as the Hotel-Dieu in Beaune and Vezelay Abbey, but acres and acres of vineyards and some of the best restaurants in France. On a barge cruise, you're never far away from the shoreline, so you can sit back and relax while enjoying the changing scenery, all without ever having to venture off of the vessel. The cruise price includes your accommodations, six night cruise, gourmet cuisine, regional wines with lunch and dinner, use of bicycles and all daily excursions and entrance fees.
This blog was brought to you by The Barge Connection, specializing in barge vacations since 1998. We offer a diverse selection of barge cruises throughout the rivers and canals of France and other parts of Europe.