A French Castle Built of Stone and Dreams
By STEVEN ERLANGER
TREIGNY, France — Maryline Martin, like a lot of little French girls, was besotted with the Middle Ages, with castles and maidens and knights. She worked for Pier 1 Imports for a while, then came back to this part of Burgundy and thought she would grow mushrooms. She worked instead in an agency trying to find work for the jobless, but the fakery and cynicism involved outraged her, she said.
“I decided to do something for them instead, in this very small part of the world,” Ms. Martin said.
So of course she decided to build a replica of a medieval chateau of the mid-13th century, using the techniques of the time: iron tools and no electricity.
In partnership with Michel Guyot, a neighbor who restored the nearby Château de St.-Fargeau, she bought an abandoned red sandstone quarry and the woods around it, which contained the oak trees, clay, sand and water (found, she said, by diviners) that would be needed for construction. The first stone was cut and laid in 1997, and now the shape of the castle is taking form, with its round towers, great hall and ribbed, vaulted arches.
The walls are now high enough that stones are raised using a pulley system driven by a man walking in a large wooden wheel, like a hamster in a treadmill. Plans call for a new wheel soon, in which two men can walk.
The castle, called Guédelon, named after the surrounding forest, is now a self-sustaining concern. There are 67 employees, an annual budget of around $3.25 million and about 315,000 visitors a year, including 80,000 schoolchildren, to this fairly remote site two hours from Paris. The regular entrance fee is 9 euros, and the profitable tavern is leased to a private company.