In Puisaye, Burgundy, a team of fifty people have taken on an extraordinary feat: to build a castle using the same techniques and materials used in the Middle Ages. Now the Guédelon Castle project has inspired a five-part series on BBC2. Secrets of the Castle started this week and the first episode can be seen on i-player, with four more episodes to come on Tuesdays at 9pm.
This massive 25 year project has been described as the world’s biggest experimental archaeological site. It was conceived by founder and director, Maryline Martin, as both a living educational tool and an innovative way to create work opportunities for the long-term unemployed, offering skills and qualifications that would leave them with a trade for life.
The wood, stone, earth, sand and clay needed for the castle's construction are all to be found on the abandoned quarry site and Guédelon, unlike most other building sites, is open to the public. One of the project's principal raisons d'être is to demonstrate and explain to as many people as possible, the craftsmanship of our forebears.
To visit is to step over the threshold into the heart of a by-gone age. No harsh mechanical sounds, no engines running - just a natural environment that elevates the senses. Explore the site to the sound of metal on stone, the sawing of wood, horses' hooves on bare earth and the hammer striking the anvil - and watch all the trades associated with castle-building in the 13th Century at work. You’ll find everyone from quarrymen, stonemasons, woodcutters, carpenters and blacksmiths to tile makers, basket makers, rope makers, carters and their horses.