The construction of Guédelon about 100 miles southeast of Paris has already been underway for 15 years, yet workers are proud about how long it’s taking. That’s because you don’t build a medieval castle in a day using 13th-century techniques only.
The project, begun in 1997, is the brainchild—or, as it was said at the time, the idée folle—of Michel Guyot, an architectural historian who restored the nearby Château de St.-Fargeau. In the process he discovered the remains of a castle that predated the elegant 17th manor. Fascinated by the building they suggested, he decided to recreate it in the forest a dozen miles from St.-Fargeau, enlisting experts who studied illuminated manuscripts, stained-glass windows and extant medieval structures to devise a fully authentic design.
With Guédelon now on the rise, no one’s calling Guyot crazy and the point of the exercise grows ever more apparent. Like one of those illustrated children’s books by David Macaulay—”Cathedral,” “Castle,“ “City,“ “Pyramid”—it is aimed at answering a question everyone asks when visiting remarkable edifices from the Middle Ages: How did workers do it without trucks, bulldozers and power tools?