Guédelon: Medieval Construction in Modern France

When you travel a lot, sometimes things can, inevitably, acquire a bit of samey-ness. Oh look, here’s another stately old European cathedral! There’s a grand castle with that luxurious, colorful, velvety wallpaper! And, see, over here, there’s a painting by a Renaissance master! Which isn’t to say any of those things are bad – and in fact I love them all, especially that wallpaper – just that I’ve also seen them all before. And that is precisely why Guédelon was unique: it was quite unlike any other touristy thing I’ve ever done.

Located in the Burgundy region of France, Guédelon is described as “the 21st century medieval adventure.” Its premise is simple: a group of stonemasons, quarrymen, carpenters, woodcutters, blacksmiths, and more are working together to build a castle in modern day France, but using only medieval techniques and materials. Needless to say, the process is a bit slow-going; it will take 25 years to finish Guédelon (record-keeping, as it turns out, wasn’t exactly extensive during the good old days, so Guédelon’s workers have to figure out how to do everything from scratch now).

Visitors are free to explore the castle and watch Guédelon’s builders – some of whom also double as tour guides – at work. It’s a pretty cool enterprise! And, beyond the castle itself, the premises are home to farm animals and various artisans and craftsmen, all of whom also make goods authentic to medieval times.

^ Our intrepid guide slash medieval builder extraordinaire. It was super interesting to hear his enthusiasm for the endeavor. Definitely a unique career path…

^ We grabbed lunch at Guédelon, and I have to say, it was a cut above some of the typical amusement park or museum fare that I’m used to.

^ These horses were pretty much my favorites. So beautiful!

^ Needless to say, I was a big fan of ye olde colorful arts & crafts. I’m always a sucker for colors, even muted medieval ones.

Guédelon was never on my radar before I visited France last spring, but it is definitely worth checking out. Their website promises you’ll see “experimental archaeology in action,” and while I never knew that was something I needed in my life, it’s pretty fascinating to witness.

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