Megaliths in the Aude departement, Languedoc
The megaliths of Languedoc-Roussillon may not be as impressive or as famous as those in Brittany, but they are nearly as numerous and almost as large. There are 500 in Lozère, 400 in Gard, 400 in Hérault, 100 in Pyrenées-Orientales and about the same here in the Aude. Though few in number the megaliths of this area are well worth exploring : two of the biggest menhirs in the south of France can be found here – Malves at 5 metres/25 tons and Counozouls at 9 metres/70 tonnes, as well as two of the longest barrow-graves – Pepieux at 15 metres and Saint-Eugène at 24 metres.
Size is impressive, but it’s not everything – and while the rest may be smaller and often in a poor condition, their placement in the landscape is usually dramatic – making the exploration of the sites a breathtaking experience.
The Corbières and Minervois hills make up most of this unpopulated and little-explored corner of France and there are great possibilities for finding vestiges of as yet uncharted sites on the limestone uplands, or the wooded mountain-sides, or on the slopes of the garrigue.
There is no evidence that either Gauls, Iberians or Romans caused the widespread damage to megaliths – in fact some dolmens were used by the Romans as shepherds’ huts and temporary shelters, while in other cases the Visigoths returned them to their original function as tombs. It was the edict issued by the christianised Charlemagne, in 800, that set the anti-pagan forces in motion resulting in the widespread smashing of capstones and scattering of uprights. Some sites were entirely dimantled, the stones then used to build chapels and churches on the same ground. Where this proved impracticable, the christian authorities attributed malificent powers to the megaliths, or manufactured stories of sacrificial practices around them.