Behold a 21st-Century Medieval Castle Being Built with Only Tools & Materials from the Middle Ages

Con­struc­tion sites are hives of spe­cial­ized activ­i­ty, but there’s no par­tic­u­lar train­ing need­ed to fer­ry 500 lbs of stone sev­er­al sto­ries to the masons wait­ing above. All you need is the sta­mi­na for a few steep flights and a medieval tread­wheel crane or “squir­rel cage.”

The tech­nol­o­gy, which uses sim­ple geom­e­try and human exer­tion to hoist heavy loads, dates to ancient Roman times.

Retired in the Vic­to­ri­an era, it has been res­ur­rect­ed and is being put to good use on the site of a for­mer sand­stone quar­ry two hours south of Paris, where the cas­tle of an imag­i­nary, low rank­ing 13th-cen­tu­ry noble­man began tak­ing shape in 1997.

There’s no typo in that time­line.

Château de Guéde­lon is an immer­sive edu­ca­tion­al project, an open air exper­i­men­tal arche­ol­o­gy lab, and a high­ly unusu­al work­ing con­struc­tion site.

With a project time­line of 35 years, some 40 quar­rypeo­ple, stone­ma­sons, wood­cut­ters, car­pen­ters, tilers, black­smiths, rope mak­ers and carters can expect anoth­er ten years on the job.

That’s longer than a medieval con­struc­tion crew would have tak­en, but unlike their 21st-cen­tu­ry coun­ter­parts, they did­n’t have to take fre­quent breaks to explain their labors to the vis­it­ing pub­lic.

A team of arche­ol­o­gists, art his­to­ri­ans and castel­lol­o­gists strive for authen­tic­i­ty, eschew­ing elec­tric­i­ty and any vehi­cle that does­n’t have hooves.

Research mate­ri­als include illu­mi­nat­ed man­u­scripts, stained glass win­dows, finan­cial records, and exist­ing cas­tles.

The 1425-year-old Can­ter­bury Cathe­dral has a non-repro­duc­tion tread­mill crane stored in its rafters, as well as a levers and pul­leys activ­i­ty sheet for young vis­i­tors that notes that oper­at­ing a “human tread­mill” was both gru­el­ing and dan­ger­ous:

Philoso­pher John Stu­art Mill wrote that they were “unequalled in the mod­ern annals of legal­ized tor­ture.”

Good call, then, on the part of Guédelon’s lead­er­ship to allow a few anachro­nisms in the name of safe­ty.

Guédelon’s tread­mill cranes, includ­ing a dou­ble drum mod­el that piv­ots 360º to deposit loads of up to 1000 lbs wher­ev­er the stone­ma­sons have need of them, have been out­fit­ted with brakes. The walk­ers inside the wood­en wheels wear hard hats, as are the over­seer and those mon­i­tor­ing the brakes and the cra­dle hold­ing the stones.

The onsite work­er-edu­ca­tors may be garbed in peri­od-appro­pri­ate loose-fit­ting nat­ur­al fibers, but rest assured that their toes are steel-rein­forced.

Château de Guéde­lon guide Sarah Pre­ston explains the rea­son­ing:

Obvi­ous­ly, we’re not try­ing to dis­cov­er how many peo­ple were killed or injured in the 13th-cen­tu­ry.

Learn more about Château de Guéde­lon, includ­ing how you can arrange a vis­it, here.

Explore the his­to­ry of tread­mill cranes here.

And see how the Château de Guéde­lon has housed Ukrain­ian refugees here.

via The Kids Should See This

Relat­ed Con­tent 

The Medieval City Plan Gen­er­a­tor: A Fun Way to Cre­ate Your Own Imag­i­nary Medieval Cities

A Medieval Book That Opens Six Dif­fer­ent Ways, Reveal­ing Six Dif­fer­ent Books in One

Behold the Medieval Wound Man: The Poor Soul Who Illus­trat­ed the Injuries a Per­son Might Receive Through War, Acci­dent or Dis­ease

- Ayun Hal­l­i­day is the Chief Pri­ma­tol­o­gist of the East Vil­lage Inky zine and author, most recent­ly, of Cre­ative, Not Famous: The Small Pota­to Man­i­festo. Fol­low her @AyunHalliday.

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