Bamboozle archeologists of the future with this one weird trick!
June 18, 2022 12:16 PM   Subscribe

Friends build real castle from scratch with simple tools only

Guédelon Castle: in 1997, in a forest two hours south of Paris, a team of master-builders and enthusiasts began building a medieval castle using only the technology and materials of the Middle Ages.

25 years later, the great tower stands at 15 meters (49 feet), and the chapel with its cross-ribbed vault, are finished and plenty of amenities have been added like water cisterns, bread ovens, stone hand mills, and an onsite water mill.
posted by ilikemefi (21 comments total) 28 users marked this as a favorite
That's pretty crazy. Also pretty cool.
posted by Windopaene at 12:22 PM on June 18

I love it when people just nerd so hard about their random passions and do these insane projects. I wonder how much it cost to do this.
posted by supermedusa at 12:37 PM on June 18 [4 favorites]

I think this is at least the second or third time I've seen a story about this project, over the years. They've made a lot of progress on it!
posted by Bee'sWing at 12:40 PM on June 18 [7 favorites]

Yeah, I've also seen this project previously and it's cool to see the progress they've made since maybe the mid-2010's. In the documentary I saw they'd just barely started on the chapel interior and roof and I think were still finishing the exterior walls; I also don't recall seeing any of the tourism in evidence here.

I'm generally not much of a history buff, but for some reason I'm fascinated by the whole medieval European castle-building process and the sort of lives people led in them.
posted by Greg_Ace at 1:13 PM on June 18 [1 favorite]

About 20 minutes into the video, you learn that the people repairing Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris came to this project to learn some woodworking skills — how cool is that?
posted by Bee'sWing at 1:20 PM on June 18 [19 favorites]

For my fellow devoted Ruth Goodman fans, this the project from Secrets of the Castle!
posted by mochapickle at 1:26 PM on June 18 [11 favorites]

Neat video! Also led me down a bit of a rabbithole.

The creator of this also tried (unsuccessfully) to duplicate the project in North America under the unlikely-sounding name of Ozark Medieval Fortress. I admire the audacity of his plan to give Arkansas a locally-built 13th-century French castle of its own.

There's also an incipient village-sized project in along the same vein in Germany called Campus Galli, and another one named Duncannon in Scotland linked at the bottom of that page.
posted by Earthtopus at 1:30 PM on June 18 [4 favorites]

This project is amazing. There's also a 5 episode documentary show about it called Secrets of the Castle (currently available to stream on Amazon Prime).

I want more of everything about this project. In the aforementioned documentary they refer to the project as being ‘experimental archaeology’, which I also want to learn more about.
posted by thedward at 1:31 PM on June 18 [2 favorites]

Re: 'experimental archeology': It's the brainchild of a rich French person who loves historical restoration and low-tech megaprojects and attempts to start and run them as self-sustaining tourism destinations. (this is not a slight, I can easily imagine getting more than my money's worth from a tour of a place like this, and I can think of far worse megaprojects for the eccentric rich)
posted by Earthtopus at 1:41 PM on June 18 [5 favorites]

Secrets of the Castle

That looks familiar, that may be the one I was thinking of in my last comment.
posted by Greg_Ace at 2:00 PM on June 18

The Secrets of the Castle team have done a number of series like Victorian Farm and Tudor Monestary Farm.

I've been watching the progress on Guédelon for years now. I told my husband I wanted to apply as a worker but also that there's no way I could leave him for a month with the cats.
posted by fiercekitten at 6:12 PM on June 18

Ye Olde Habitat for Humanity, huh?
posted by Monochrome at 6:19 PM on June 18 [10 favorites]

I looked up the volunteer/job application years ago but the working language of the site is French. Alas, not a language I have.
posted by janell at 7:38 PM on June 18

Merde! Tant pis.
posted by Greg_Ace at 7:59 PM on June 18

Alas, not a language I have.

Never too late to learn! Michel Guyot, the spark striker of the project, has written a book on the subject. In French.
posted by BWA at 6:07 AM on June 19

"Bamboozle archeologists of the future"
Not likely.
Air pollution is different now than then.
Nano particles are everywhere.
posted by davebarnes at 7:43 AM on June 19 [1 favorite]

This is why I think my father (and myself) liked the ancient mysteries must have been aliens books. Engineers just thinking and thinking I could do that thing. It's obvious that it's possible because it's there, they did it..... How? It's a problem solving exercise that's fun to think about.

Coral Castle - Wikipedia

French is on my list of languages that I sorta know but forgot but think I would pick up quickly again. Three years of high school French ages ago, Too many accents, too much gender, too many irregular verb conjugations, a bit of a PITA
posted by zengargoyle at 10:07 AM on June 19

For the dedicated, there is a series of French language (subtitled English) videos called "le Feux de Guedelon".
posted by BWA at 10:26 AM on June 19

Ye Olde Habitat for Humanity, huh? Jimmy Carter would’ve been in his twenties back then.
posted by condour75 at 12:08 PM on June 19

I'd like to give a shout out to Kirsten Dirksen. I've been watching her videos through the COVID shutdown and beyond. If you have an interest in alternative housing, you'll be rewarded. She and her family travel the world looking at cool homes, and they don't do a bunch of editorial commenting. They just ask questions.
posted by Carmody'sPrize at 12:30 PM on June 20 [3 favorites]

This is my jam. 25 years ago, just when Project Guédelon was starting we bought a ruined farmlet in the middle of Ireland. All the lintels and sills of all sheds round the farm-yard were made of solid granite up to 2.5m = 9ft long. If you look carefully, you can see regular indentations along each edge where wedges had been driven in to separate the lintel from the living rock. Up on the hill behind the house, if you look carefully, you can see the same wedge-marks on boulders which have been left behind - lighter by a lintel or two. In one of the sheds I found a very rusty tool head that was a cross between a sledge-hammer and a pick-axe. Two years ago, I was visiting an elderly local historian in town and, with some ceremony, he presented me with a virtually unused "stone-pick" identical in design to the mysterious rusty tool (weighs about 4kg = 9 lb). He explained that this is the tool of choice for making the holes which will accept the splitting wedges. You don't have to go back 500 years to find examples of hard-work / hand-work: 50 will do.
posted by BobTheScientist at 8:59 AM on June 21 [1 favorite]

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