Archive for the ‘pilgrimage’ Tag

Ordinary Old Stones   1 comment

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.

Sacred Stones and Holy Water, at Centeilles   Leave a comment

In the XIII century, (some texts say the XII century) La Chapelle de Notre-Dame de Centeilles was built close to the site of a romanesque chapel, or of a Roman villa. Throughout the Middle Ages Centeilles was the centre of a thriving community on the trail between plain and mountain and was the focus of an important fair and market on 25th and 26th March. It was also a centre of pilgrimage for Ascension Day, with its Procession of the Rogations, and Assumption Day.

The first fresco to face the weary pilgrim was that of St. Christopher, patron saint of travellers.

La Révolution put an end to this tradition – the human population deserted it, and it was used as a barn. For the next one hundred years it was occupied by sheep. It was sold in 1960, for 500 francs. to the Diosese of Narbonne who later handed it over to Les Amis de Centailles, an association that undertook its repair and upkeep.

The early christian church had not chosen this place at random – it was a site of sacred significance since the earliest times. For wherever Our Lady has been installed and adored it is certain that she replaced a pre-christian animist or fertility cult – usually of Cybele, or Potnia Theron, the Queen of the Animals – one of the myriad names of the Mother Goddess.

For more photos and info- see the Chapelle de Centeilles Page