Saturday, February 19, 2011

La Roque St Cristophe

When you sightsee you are naturally going for the most interesting places a country has to offer. We’ve seen the unusual and magnificent all across Europe. The town of La Roque St Cristophe was no exception.

This place is once again built into the side of a rock face. The medieval types in this area really saw the value of a good rock. It could have just been a case of using what was available but you’d think after millennia of use, people would come up with a new idea. On the other hand, perhaps those in the 15th century also thought it quaint to live in a place inhabited by humans for thousands of years. La Roque St Cristophe is perhaps the best protected medieval village we’ve seen yet; a kind of poor man’s castle.

Forget all the imposing castles; this place had one entrance, a narrow path along the rock face. Below is a nasty drop. Above is a serious climb. To get to the village, you had to pass along this path through a gate composed of stone. You weren’t going to be bringing in the cannon or even a wagon because although the path was narrow, the gate was narrower. You probably didn’t even want to be dressed in a bunch of armour with multiple weapons for this attack. People could throw down things from above and if you didn’t have the sure-footed balance of a goat, you were gone.

Once through the gate, things got a little easier. The stone widened, providing an overhang with a natural roof. This roofing technique looked awfully good to Tom and I. Those of you who are familiar with our roof problems this year or have ones of your own, may commiserate. We’ve seen a lot of rooves in our travels and if a thousand year old roof made of stones and no mortar or filler can still be leak-proof, what’s with ours? But I digress. The stone here had been carved out by human hands over time to include stairs, cupboards, higher arched ceilings, passages and even feeding troughs and tie-ups for animals. None of the wooden structures remain so it is up to one’s imagination to fill in the details in most places.

This was a thriving community with a whole market area and church, complete with bell, all clinging to the rock face. Friends of the rock have recreated many of the tools of the time to help understand how the people got so many things in and out of the village. They had to lift it all in and out! It seems like a ridiculous amount of work until you think about the uncertainty of the times.

Vikings and other brutish sorts were raiding the area and would sail up the river at the foot of the cliff to attack. The community had set up a clever system of lookouts up and down the river. Each lookout could see the next one. If one spotted raiders, they’d signal to the next point and it would travel up the river. In 6 minutes they could send a message 15 miles! That’s not bad for a place with no cell phones. Once the village knew an attack was imminent, they’d haul up the ropes and voila, the fortress is secure. Even if the attackers did manage to send up fire arrows to do damage, they weren’t going to get in. I’m not sure I’d have wanted to set up camp here but given the option of serfdom or this, there had to have been an appeal.

2 comments: said...

That, too is very interesting and the fact that you found it, not a lot of tourists etc. makes it even more magical... Love Mom

Steve said...

Nothing like a room with a view they always say...