Guédelon Castle: A Medieval Château Being Constructed in Modern-Day France

Clare Fitzgerald
Photo Credit: Christophe.Finot / Wikimedia Commons CC BY-SA 3.0
Photo Credit: Christophe.Finot / Wikimedia Commons CC BY-SA 3.0

If you drive two hours south of Paris, you’ll come across the northern Burgundy commune of Treigny. At first, you might not think anything of the community with a population of just under 800, but if you travel to the nearby woodland area, you’ll find a reason to stay a while.

Guédelon Castle is a 13th-century medieval castle that’s currently under construction in the woods near Treigny. Slated to be completed in 2023, the structure is being built using the techniques and tools that were accessible to those living in the Middle Ages. This will ensure that, while it’s technically a modern castle, it still shares the characteristics of one built during the 1200s.

The idea to build Guédelon Castle is born

Guédelon Castle under construction
Guédelon Castle, 2008. (Photo Credit: LeMorvandiau / Wikimedia Commons CC BY-SA 3.0)

The story of Guédelon Castle dates back to 1979, when French entrepreneur Michael Guyot purchased the remains of the nearby Château de Saint-Fargeau. During the restoration process, he was presented with a study that revealed that the building was atop medieval foundations.

This prompted Guyot to build a new castle, with a focus on medieval architecture. After speaking with French government officials and raising €400,000 from various sources, he was able to begin construction. Work started in 1997, kickstarting a decades-long project to bring the Middle Ages to the modern era.

Construction gets underway – and continues to this day

Stone fireplace and tools inside Guédelon Castle
Guédelon Castle, 2007. (Photo Credit: homo_sapiens / Flickr CC BY-NC 2.0)

The chief architect for the project, Jacques Moulin, designed Guédelon Castle according to those developed during the 12th and 13th centuries by Philip II, who was the King of France from 1180-1223. The idea behind it was to recreate a 13th-century castle using period techniques, materials and dress – items and resources that could only be sourced locally.

The decision was made to construct the castle in a quarry that had been abandoned in the 1950s, as it had an ample supply of stone and was close to a pond. The ceremonial first stone was laid on June 20, 1997, and just over a month later the government of Treigny gave permission for construction to commence. By 1998, the site was cleared, workshops had been erected and the perimeter was already a meter high.

To construct Guédelon Castle, a team of forty master-builders was amassed. Among those on the team include stonemasons, woodcutters, quarrymen, tilers, blacksmiths, rope makers, carters and carpenter-jointers. Together, they’ve been steadily making progress and have largely succeeded in making a modern-day medieval castle.

Guédelon Castle is a popular tourist attraction

Interior of Guédelon Castle
Guédelon Castle, 2011. (Photo Credit: Ronny Siegel / Flickr CC BY 2.0)

In 1998, Guédelon Castle opened to the public, who flocked to Treigny to witness the building of the medieval structure and learn about how people lived in the Middle Ages.

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Typically open between April and November each year, with English-language tours occurring in July and August, the castle attracts around 300,000 visitors annually. According to reports, its yearly revenue is estimated to be around €3 million.