The Guédelon project is possibly one of the most abitious architectural projects within living memory. Within our everyday lives we are constantly reminded of our ability to create impressive buildings in a variety of styles, but Guéldon is different. Set within a forest in a disused quarry in central France, for the last 15 years a dedicated team has worked steadily to construct a Thirteenth Century castle entirely using the techniques and expertise of this period. This highly ambitious undertaking is all the more impressive considering that many of the construction methods now emplyed on the site have not been used for for hundreds of years, indeed many have been revived by those working on the project and for this alone they deserve our admiration.
With over 300,000 visitors each year the building site at Guéldon is well patronised by those interested in this growing castle, however last year the project also released a 33 minute DVD - La Voute (The Vault). Modestly priced, this is a DVD I have no hesitation in recommending to castle lovers everywhere. The main focus of the presentation is an observers point of view, watching the team assemble a cross vault within the castle, from the wooden framing through to the final structure. The feature doesn't set out to provide a step by step guide of how to create a cross vault structure and it shouldn't be judged as such, instead it allows the viewer to watch as the stones are moved into place with wooden rollers and mortared into place, hold their breath as the wooden supports are removed and marvel at the skill and ingenuity of the craftsmen who have managed to accomplish such a magnificent feat. What is even more impressive, is that this is the third such vault that has been accomplished on the site, and with another scheduled for 2013 construction season which is just underway, it seems that it won't be their last.
The feature is presented entirely in French with optional English or German subtitles, but don't let this put you off, within moments the viewer is drawn into this strange pseudo 13th century world. The film is beautifully shot and presented and in addition to its main focus on the construction of the vault, it also provides the viewer with a real impression of the project as a whole. This construction is very much a team effort and the cameraderie and friendship of the team is immediately visible.
With this project now over half way through its project 25 year duration, we can only hope that more DVDs will be forthcoming from the team at Guéldon. It would be interesting to see more indepth tutorials and examinations of the differing construction methods developed at Guéldon, I would like to hope that this will not be the last medieval construction of its type attempted by this team.
I spend my days reconstructing castles using the latest technology to better understand and explain these medieval structures. The team at Guéldon have worked for many years reviving ancient skills to construct a truly unique edifice. We should wish them every success as they begin their construction this month after a long Winter's rest.