Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Tote that barge, lift that bale

And hoist a few of those big stones up here, while you're at it. These are some of the stones that were cut to replace the older crumbling stones in the façade of the Chenonceau castle. You may be able to see that they're slightly curved; they were intended for one of the round corner towers on the building.

Expertly cut blocks of tuffeau stone, numbered and ready to be installed.

I assume that the stone is the local tuffeau, the nearly white limestone that was and is quarried in our region for building many of the châteaux. The stone is soft enough to be easily carved, but it's also quite susceptible to acid rain. I've seen quite a lot of ravaged stonework around the area.

I'm glad they have a life-preserver on hand in case of an accident.

The guys I could see on the scaffolding were busy loading the stones so they could be lifted up and put in place. Keep in mind that they're working on platforms built on scaffolding that's sitting in the river. One false step... The part of the castle that is being worked on is hidden behind a big sheet of some kind of material that is printed with a photo of the castle. It doesn't fool anybody, but it certainly looks a lot nicer to the visitors than the raw scaffolding it's hiding.

The underground quarries in the Loire region, left after the stone was depleted, were often converted into wine caves. One rather large one near us, which I understand provided a lot of stone for the Chambord castle, is used for growing mushrooms on a commercial scale.


  1. I'd be interested to know where the stone came from, and indeed, who the masons are. They are not using the usual company that does historic monuments repairs. I spoke to one of the masons there, but he wasn't French so with both of us speaking a second language poorly we didn't get too far. The masons I know who do this sort of historic restoration are complaining about the quality of the stone currently available. Apparently a large company has bought out all the little quarries and closed them down. The price of stone is thus pushed up and the quality is whatever they choose to provide - at the moment I understand it comes from Chateauroux and is expected to have a lifespan of about 50 years. Work for their grandsons guaranteed is how the masons see it, with a shrug. One of the guys who was retiling one of the barns a few months ago is the husband of a friend of ours, so he may be able to shed some light.

  2. Those stone mason look less hot than the ones from Pillars Of The Earth.

  3. Love those construction drapes that I see in France!
    Yes, it's Thanksgiving Eve and time to make the dressing and pumpkin pie. The weather is quite mild in Alabama and our two teams are getting ready for their Iron Bowl this Saturday. La vie set belle.

  4. this is fascinating stuff. thank you for sharing it.

  5. susan, very interesting!

    mark, I guess I'll have to go google that now.

    evelyn, enjoy your day!

    michael, it's all part of the service.


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