This Really, Really, Really Old House

I’m a fan of those reality shows where people volunteer to live as their ancestors would have, 100, 150, 400, or even 2000 years ago. In most cases the victims participants simply move into existing replica houses, stocked with food, tools, and supplies (and sometimes servants), and go from there. At most they have to build a little log cabin and break sod (not to minimize those accomplishments).

But something on an entirely different scale is happening in Guédelon, France. They are building, from scratch, a “militarily perfect” medieval fortress, using traditional techniques (including quarrying the stone by hand). As a girl who grew up watching This Old House (before it became “This New Mansion with Granite Countertops and a Multimedia Room”) and The Woodwright’s Shop religiously, this sounds like heaven to me (though the pacifist in me would prefer to build a monastery).

As in the 13th century, this is a long-term project—twenty years, to be exact (or as exact as one can be in such cases). Plenty of time to go over and get in on it, as thousands of volunteers do every summer. The core group of workers are paid, and the entire project is self-sustaining, paid for by the hundreds of thousands of visitors every year. Apparently there are few women there to spin and weave clothing for all those masons and carpenters, so if you like the smell of mordant in the morning, they could probably use your help. And let’s hope the guys who built the trebuchet don’t find out about this!

I wonder if they need scribes…

Guédelon, Chantier Médiéval

Guédelon, Chantier Médiéval

via mirabilis

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4 comments on “This Really, Really, Really Old House

  1. What a great project, talk about living history. I agree with you though, it would have been nice to see a monastery being built. Wouldn't it be fabulous to see something more along the lines of the Plan of St. Gall brought to life? Plenty of scriptoriums there! Thanks for wandering a bit off topic.

  2. Sylvia says:

    Hmm, I'll have to look into the Plan of St. Gall. Thanks for the tip. Apparently there is a three-volume work on it, costing a mere $450 USD. I wonder if it's too much to ask of the gods of inter-library loan?
    A much easier project would be to rebuild an Spanish mission in California. All you need for the walls is mud, straw, and sunshine! I think the general design is the same, though. Church, attached cloister, and workshops and outbuildings scattered around.

  3. Sylvia – You may be able to ILL the shorter version, called (interestingly enough) “The Plan of St. Gall in Brief”. It is a beautifully done book and worth looking for just from a book arts point of view. I found a used copy for around $30 USD (if I remember correctly). It would be lovely to see the full 3 volume set – seeing how nice the brief version is it must be wonderful. It does make the ILL librarians nervous though, doesn't it, when you ask to borrow something that valuable! Good luck – Ninth Wave

  4. Sylvia says:

    I'll try that one, thanks!

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