Hello, our tour through Secrets of the Castle continues in Episode 4. Ruth, Peter, and Tom continue their work on Guedelon Castle. More castle-building secrets are being revealed through this archeological experiment. Ruth, Peter, and Tom have lived on the Guedelon site for four months and are now exploring all the skills that were used to build a castle. It was a combined effort of the community to build a castle.
Blacksmiths, quarrymen, woodsmen, carpenters, and stonemasons all came together to build a castle. The first castles were built of wood and there is a sample of an early castle on the Guedelon site. These castles consisted of a walled enclosed area and a tower. Eventually, these castles would be made of stone, especially if they were at a key strategic site. In England, stone castles were a sign that Norman Rule was here.
The workers at Guedelon are reviving the old practices in building the castle. They are proud of the job they have done at the castle. The walls are made out of a combination of rough field stones with areas of smooth cut stones to strengthen the walls and towers. There were leveling courses to help give the masons a chance to work on a flat surface. Tom helps in the quarry to get a stone that is to be used for a leveling course. He uses the techniques that the Medieval people would have used. In the Middle Ages, quarrymen would have used the natural cracks in the rock to cut stone.
Masons were well paid and well-traveled men, their skills were in high demand. They all gathered in the stonemasons' lodge. It was where the masons’ secrets were kept. Ronald Hutton joins Ruth as they tour the masons’ lodge. Ronald discusses the history of masons and freemasonry. Middle Ages masons had nothing to do with the Masonic Movement and the modern freemason movement was founded in the 16th Century and evolved from there. Ronald sums up the Middle Age masons as doing God’s work because they were the ones that built the cathedrals.
Ruth, Tom, and Peter explore the next skill needed to use build a castle: carpentry. They would have built doors and maintained the scaffolding. Scaffolding was not built from the ground up but moved up as the walls moved up. Guedelon is using modern processed wood and steel bolts for the scaffolding, but the scaffolding on the site resembles what would have been used in the castle building. There have been compromises for health and safety, however despite that the workers still work as they would have done in the Middle Ages.
Blacksmiths were also seen on the site of the castle. They made hinges for the doors and other metal implements for the castle. He keeps the tools sharp for the workers. Tom and Peter work to make a furnace to help smelt iron. Together they make a bloom of iron for the blacksmith’s use. By able to make steel they can make good tools.
The woodsmens’ skills were also used in castle building. They carefully selected trees for use in the castle. Each tree had a specific use for the castle. Tom works on getting a tree chopped down. Sarah the site administrator helps translate for the woodsman. This section demonstrates how much thought the woodsman had to do for a tree to fall safely in the forest.
To continue to see the other skills used in castle building continue to watch this episode. This is another episode that features STEM and STEAM activities for the classroom. This is a skill-heavy episode and demonstrates how everyone came together to build a castle. It also showed how much work was involved in building a castle. If you do not want to show the full episode, then show clips to a class.
You can access the YouTube video here.
Hello, our tour through Secrets of the Castle continues in Episode 3. Our time travelers Ruth, Peter, and Tom explore how a castle was decorated. When we think of castles, we just think of a barren place that is cold and drafty. However, this archeological experiment is proving otherwise. Castles could be richly and colorfully decorated. The material that early castle decorators used came from the earth. Ruth, Peter, Tom continue to explore the Medieval World.
The castles people visit now are a far cry from what they were when they were in use. They had tile floors, whitewashed, plastered, and covered with clothes. Ruth sums up the difference between castle ruins and the historical experimental castle as “an entirely different beast.” The experimenters are decorating the castle according to the period of King Louis IX of France. The experimental castle is modest, decorated for a lower-ranked noble.
Sarah, the site administrator gives Ruth, Tom, and Peter a tour of the most important rooms of the castle starting with the Great Hall. The Great Hall was the hub of castle life and it was a sight where the castle lord held court. It had to show off the lord’s wealth and status. They then make their way to the great tower where the lord and lady slept. It was the one room that had a fireplace. Peter and Tom are going to be tiling and painting some of the surfaces of the castle. Ruth makes her way to the kitchen. The kitchen is limewashed making it a bright and sunny area. The limewash keeps things clean in the kitchen.
Sarah explains that castles were often limewashed and was glad that they had the chance to experiment with how castles were decorated. The White Tower at the Tower of London got its name from being whitewashed on the outside.
Tom prepares lime mortar to put up against the wall. Rendering was put on the walls to insulate them and to prepare the walls for decorate. It was put on the wall roughly rather than in several layers. It also helps preserve the masonry underneath. They then move to make floor tiles for the site. 28,000 roof tiles were created and it took four years. An additional 80,000 tiles will be needed to cover all the roofs of the castle. Now production has shifted to floor tiles. Producing floor tiles is often laborious as the workers had to separate hard elements from the clay to make tiles. Tile making was one of the earliest industries to have regulations. These regulations included what type of clay could be used for the tile.
The toilets were a common element found in castles. They were called guard robes and clothes were kept in them to keep them bug-free. Ruth and Peter explore the history of the privy or guard robes. The squires often had to prepare the privies before their masters went in them. Often preparation included sweet-smelling herbs to help make going to the bathroom a pleasant experience. What did the Medieval people use for toilet paper? It was not leaves or moss, since you would have to deal with deforestation or have a moss plantation to keep people supplied. Ruth and Peter conclude that everyone had a flannel or shared a flannel.
To continue to learn more about how a castle was built continue to watch the episode. This episode is another fascinating look at how a castle was built. This episode would be suited to an art class, especially if a teacher was discussing how to make tiles or painting techniques. Ruth goes into a great deal on how the Medieval people made colorful paints. Again, teachers, you are only limited by your imagination when you use YouTube in your class.
You can access the YouTube video here.
Hello again. Today we move on from Rome and Pompeii and learn about Charlemagne and the empire he built. This is a German-produced documentary in English about the history of the Germans. Anyway, it is a fascinating documentary to show in a classroom setting. In the 700’s, there were just Franks and Saxons, German was not even an idea. The Germans kick off with the story of Charlemagne.
The Saxons were a pagan people and they went into the sacred woods for the gods to answer their questions. They did this for centuries, until 772 when their world changed. A young Frankish king invaded Saxony with a cohort of troops. The Saxons are taken by surprise. Their villages were destroyed by the Franks.
The Frankish king wants to expand his realm and wants to make the Saxons Christians. After the attacks, the Saxon nobles vow to avenge the attacks. Charles, the Frankish king wants to subjugate the Saxons and unite his empire under one religion. The Franks tear down the idols of Saxons. However, the Saxon resistance was not broken. The Saxon nobility rallied the people to rebel against the Franks.
Charles, the Frankish King ruled the Frankish Empire. He was from an old noble family and their center of power was Saint-Denis. There was no real center of power in the Frankish Empire. The Pope visited Saint-Denis when Charles was six. The pope wanted security for Rome and the Franks wanted recognition for their empire. At the end of the pope’s visit, the Franks and the Pope were in an alliance.
After Charlemagne conquered the Saxons, they were forced to bow to him in a ceremony. They were to be subjects in Charlemagne’s realm. It seems for the time being that Saxons were on his side. Charlemagne moved on to Lombardy even though the Lombards were Christians. He wanted to resurrect the Roman empire. It was to be on empire, one faith, one ruler. He became the King of the Franks and the Lombards. Charlemagne was crowned with the crown of the Lombards, the Iron Crown. However, even though was a conqueror, he developed a love of learning. He gathered experts in his court to help reform education. This led to the rebirth of the classical world. He also unified the empire under one language and written script.
In the meantime, the Saxons were casting off their idols into the fire. Charlemagne had passed a law that they had to be baptized or die. There was one noble who rebelled against this law. His name was Widukind and he led the rebellion of the Saxons. He attacked Frankish villages. It explodes in a dirty war between unequal. Widukind escapes capture. Charles took his revenge on the Saxons for their rebellion, slaughtering over 4,000 Saxon men. He deported 1,000’s more to the Frankish empire. It was brutal and even shocked Charlemagne's contemporaries.
The Saxon resistance was not broken by Charlemagne’s harsh revenge. They fought for thirteen years. Charlemagne’s advisors tried to reason with him. They wanted to negotiate with the Saxons. Charlemagne was reluctant to do so. There was a suggestion of an honorable capitulation with Widukind but in exchange for backing down Widukind would have to be baptized. Widukind rode into the Frankish homeland and was baptized. This was the early history of an empire that would eventually become France and Germany.
To find out more continue to watch the documentary. In the meantime, keep this documentary in your files to share with a class. You can always use clips from this documentary in a lecture too.
You can access the documentary on YouTube here.
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