2022 – France – Day 5

Monday August 29th

We traveled by bus from Paris to Guédelon. A group of archaeologists are building (not rebuilding) a French castle at that site using the tools and materials that were in use in the 13th century. Construction has been in progress for 20+ years. They make everything themselves– tools, baskets, rope, paint, mortar… Everything. They have a few rules about worker safety– something that medieval societies weren’t terribly concerned about. But otherwise everything is done exactly as workers in a 13th century French village would have done them.

Craftsmen travel to Guédelon from all over the world to learn the requisite skills. When Notre Dame caught fire, the skills and knowledge acquired at Guédelon and other such sites helped determine how the cathedral should be restored. We had a wonderful tour guide who has been working on the site for years. She described how they learned to quarry the rocks they’ve used, how they build vaulted ceilings, how they make the mortar they use… She seemed to know every detail about every aspect of the project.

The exterior of Guédelon; the woman in the foreground was our Guédelon tour guide:

The castle’s main gate– eventually it will have a portcullis:

The Great Hall of the castle:

A slit through which archers could fire arrows at enemy troops outside the walls of the castle without fear of being targeted by them:

The interior of the castle’s chapel:

The main courtyard of the castle as viewed from one of the ramparts. The Great Hall occupies the second story of the building in the center:

Next we drove to Bourges. The center of town has houses some of which date back to a time after a fire of 1487 that burned down most of the residential buildings. Jackie was still suffering from her allergies, so she stayed in our room while I went on a walking tour of the oldest part of the city. One of the towers of the town’s main cathedral (the one on the left when viewed from the front) collapsed shortly after it was built, so it was rebuilt. This is proof that medieval church builders were using rules of thumb that weren’t always reliable.

Several of the statues on the front of the cathedral were destroyed during the religious wars, so those currently in place were taken from other cathedrals. The strained glass windows have been restored and they are lovely. Most are 13th century, though a few are more recent. One window dates to a time after the invention of the printing press, so it actually has writing in French (not Latin).

Walking around in the old section of Bourges really does feel like living in a medieval city. The surrounding sectors of the city are fully modern, of course.

The exterior of the cathedral of Bourges. The bell tower on the left is the one that collapsed shortly after the building was completed:

The interior of the Bourges cathedral as seen looking from the rear toward the altar:

The cathedral’s altar. I assume that in medieval times they would have lowered the entire candelabra to light all those candles:

The cathedral’s organ, itself a work of art, just above the main entrance and below the gorgeous rose window:

One of many stained glass windows in the cathedral. There are several different styles of stained glass as some windows were rebuilt in later centuries.

The Bourges cathedral seen from the rear, and showing off the flying buttresses:

One of many houses from the old section of Bourges– it truly looks like a medieval city, except for the car in the street: