The Wayfarer (mnfaure) wrote,
The Wayfarer

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Here by Glimpses Known - Guédelon pt 2

Part 1 of this "glimpse" here.  Not that I'm going in any kind of logical order, but that's where the first photos are.

I should have begun with a bit of historical context perhaps, not the history of Guédelon, but the history of France where this "archaeological experiment" slots in. However, that means recalling things that the guide told us, and since I always seem to find myself trying to write these posts near midnight, my mental prowess is not at its peak. Alas. (FYI, I began this post three--four? make that at least five six with LJ's current problems--days ago; that's how hard it is for me to find the time to get it written up.)

So, begging pardon if I misremember something:

Guédelon is an example of the architectural style Philip II Augustus instated and imposed on his vassals, the principle characteristics being (from the Guédelon website):

1) a polygonal ground plan {Me:  If memory serves, of some 1000+ "philippien" castles, only 4 were/are perfect squares. I’m sure the number of overall castles was much higher, but I prefer to err on the modest side};

2) high stone curtain walls, often built on battered plinths;

3) a dry ditch {Me: According to our guide, a "moat" with water in it was not that common during this period, water actually being easier to cross than a dry ditch filled with traps or briars, not to mention that copious amounts of water were not available everywhere and rerouting rivers, etc. to fill the moats was costly.  Water-filled moats later came into fashion as a way for lords to flaunt their wealth};

4) round flanking towers pierced with arrow loops, the positions of which are staggered on each floor of the tower {Me: Each tower always had arrowslits--see photo below--that allowed archers to fire along the walls it flanked, or "flanking fire."  Woe to those who tried to scale said walls};

5) one corner tower, the great tower or tour maîtresse, higher and larger than the rest, acts as the donjon {Me: The donjon is the first tower to be built. That way the people have a place to take refuge in in case of attack};

6) a chatelet with twin drum towers protecting the gate.

The efficacity of Philip's design is most tellingly illustrated by this map showing France before and after his conquests:

Image via Wikipedia
Red = England's toe foot- and handhold / Green and blue = French, with blue denoting the crown's lands, specifically / Yellow = Church domains

Not only did the architectural style help regain land and defend against English attacks, it quelled the French nobles' desire to annex their neighbors' castles.  Knowing one's enemy's home has the same insurmountable traps and tricks as one's own is apparently a terrific deterrent.

During our first visit to Guédelon in 2004, our tour was much different due to the state of progress, which has since evolved, so we spent more time learning about the defenses. Our guide took us through the postern and pointed out the traps and tricks employed to keep an attacker from success: a step forcing an attacker to lift his foot when going through a doorway while a low lintel made him duck his head; holes in the ceiling that things could be dropped through; holes in the sides where swords or spears could pierce or slow those trying to make it through the narrow passage; or staircases that "turn" the wrong way, meaning a man could not fight and climb at the same time because, the left hand being of the Devil, an attacker would only be using his right hand...

An arrowslit or arrow loop from inside the tower:

The walls are 2.5 to 3 meters thick, and the mortar is still drying inside; in fact, the mortar is still drying in castles built while Philip II Augustus was alive because it takes a centuries for air to reach the middle of such a thick wall. That allows the walls time to settle, contrary to concrete, which dries too fast, and that is a wonderful thing to prevent your walls from cracking and your stones from tumbling down.

No detail is neglected at Guédelon, not even the "toilet." When you lift the wooden slat there, you see that the hole drilled through the stone drops down along the castle wall. Yet another reason you don't want to be in that dry ditch, attacking the castle.

Hollywood and fiction are talking bullocks, said our guide, when they show enemies quickly conquering a castle.*

* From Wikipedia: Scholars debate the scope of the word castle, but usually consider it to be the private fortified residence of a lord or noble. This is distinct from a palace, which is not fortified, from a fortress, which was not always a residence for nobility, and from a fortified town, which was a public defence – though there are many similarities between these types of construction. Usage of the term has varied over time and has been applied to structures as diverse as hill forts and country houses.
Tags: glimpses: france, guéledon, pics

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