We live in Stone Country. I have attempted to get beyond ‘limestone’ and ‘sandstone’ and can just about tell my nummulithic from your oolithic – but I soon find myself in alien territory, where they speak like this : ‘ . . . the origin of the paleodoline is interpreted as resulting from a combination of Eocene synorogenic tectonics . . .’ It’s too late to learn a new language like this.
But I was delighted to discover that les lauses – thick flat slabs of schist that tile the roof of the 13th. C. Chapelle de Notre-Dame de Centeilles are phonoliths : they ‘ring’ when tapped. I had come to the little church only because there were prehistoric vestiges in the area, but the time spent tramping through the vines and the garrigue convinced me that this was a rather extraordinary place : there is an unusual amount of context – geographic and historic, and lithic. The sheer amount of stones around Centeilles is astonishing, and attests to a continuous inhabitation since neolithic times.
This was taken from the top of a walled area of stone 15 metres wide by twenty metres long. There is another in the background – also 4 metres high. They are all that remain of a neolithic settlement.
More ‘modern’ are the capitelles that cluster round the chapel, the dolmen, the well and the spring :
There are fourteen of these clochán, or beehive huts visible from the path. Usually they are isolated shelters for shepherds and in more recent times, for fieldworkers. Here their use ranges over the millennia from hermitages to pilgrim huts to transhumant herders’ lodgings during mediaeval Fairs.
See the Capitelles de Centeilles Page for more.