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How to Build a Castle

How did our forbears raise their castles without modern machinery? This ambitious project is helping us find out
DR JANINA RAMIREZ X2, DENIS GLIKSMAN X1, CLÉMENT GUÉRARD X3, JULIAN HUMPHRYS X1, CHRYSTEL GANDON X1

THE STORY OF GUÉDELON

Deep in the heart of France, near a once-disused quarry in northern Burgundy, a team of craftspeople have taken on a remarkable challenge: they’re building a medieval castle from scratch and they’re using – as far as is possible to recreate – the equipment, materials and methods of the time.

Visit a medieval castle or cathedral and the same questions come to mind. How was it constructed? Where did the materials come from, which tools were used and how were such heavy loads were hoisted? The Guédelon castle project aims to answer these questions by giving the people working on it - quarrymen, stonemasons, woodcutters, carpenter-joiners, blacksmiths, tile makers, carters and rope makers – the chance to develop their skills and test their theories. It’s a massive exercise in hands-on experimental archaeology.

The imaginary start date for the construction is set at 1228, two years into the reign of King Louis IX of France, the future Saint Louis. The builder of the castle is ‘Guilbert’, a fictional, low-ranking local lord who is the vassal of Jean de Toucy, an actual baron of the time. Having been granted ‘licence to crenellate’ – in other words, permission to build a fortified residence – Guilbert has set about building himself the small castle of Guédelon.

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Find the complete article and many more in this issue of BBC History Revealed Magazine - July 2018
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About BBC History Revealed Magazine

In this month's issue… Everything you ever wanted to know about castles The complete story of the greatest emblem of the medieval age: how they evolved from simple forts into impregnable bastions, how they were built without modern machinery and how you could break into one. Plus: the Women's Liberation Movement; the peasant who became Japan's second great unifier; top 10 ancient board games; the football match that sparked a war; and a graphic guide to London Zoo's most famous residents.