New Old Roof
Posted: November 1, 2022
In Paris, France, medieval carpentry could solve a modern problem.
The Notre Dame Cathedral caught fire in 2019. The building survived. But its roof? Not so much.
Hundreds of oak beams supported the 800-year-old structure’s roof. From beneath, it almost looked like a grove of trees. People nicknamed it “The Forest.” It burned quickly. Experts said the roof would never be the same. That would require long-lost medieval carpentry skills.
Long lost, you say? Hold that thought. Meet the carpenters of Guédelon Castle.
Guédelon Castle looks ancient—but look again. Construction began in 1997. Today, the castle is nearly complete.
Why the long build? This castle is a work of experimental archaeology. Usually, archaeologists dig up really old structures. But these archaeologists chose to build something new—just in a very old way.
Guédelon Castle workers use only medieval tools and methods. There’s no modern machinery on site. That means no sawmills. To make boards, they hand-hew local trees. Each tree makes just a single beam.
The carpenters of Guédelon are perfect for the repair work at Notre Dame. The new roof will take years to build.
Wouldn’t modern tools take less time? They would. But the end result wouldn’t be the same. The Guédelon method can make the new roof almost exactly like the original.
The original roof stood for 800 years. If not for the fire, who knows how long it could have lasted? By using the same medieval methods, today’s carpenters hope to make a roof that lasts another 800 years. Or even longer!
The Guédelon carpenters remind us faster doesn’t always mean better. France will have to wait patiently for Notre Dame Cathedral to reopen. In the meantime, Guédelon’s carpenters have a new use for their unique skills.
Why? Often, God gives us the chance to bless others with our gifts in unexpected ways.