When first arriving into Brittany the natural first place place to go to is Mont St Michel, it is a magical Hogwarty dreamy kind of place. But when the hoards of tourists (and I cant stress the word hoards enough) choke the only street, it is time to come here, to the Menhir, thee menhir, of Champ Dolent.
At 32 feet, it is just over 6 feet taller than the Rudston monolith, Britain's tallest stone, but hey, it's not a competition, is it ? It is so big it just giddies the mind and it becomes impossible to look at its height and girth with out smiling, they were a bit bonkers in Brittany weren't they ?
There were a few people here today, but none of them stayed long, when ever someone comes we take a seat on a nearby table and watch them take the inevitable selfie, sorry to use such a contemporary term, I am in no way a modern man.
It was harder to find the stone this time, don't know why, and the bushes that lined the short path to the stone have gone, opening the whole place right up.
Burl says the Granite monolith was taken from a massif 4 km to the south, and erected on the Schist plateau, it's name is sometimes translated as "the field of sadness" which is interestingly samey as Kerloas "The heath of sadness".
The Menhir of Dol is said to be related to the Menhir De Noyal, 17km south east, related by the Devil throwing them both from Mont St Michel.
Menhir de Champ-Dolent is essential viewing for any stone hunting trip to Brittany. It is a true marvel.
We had a rough crossing on the overnight ferry to St. Malo, so landing in Brittany in a somewhat sleep deprived state, only the excitement of finally being back was keeping us going. So in need of a burst of energy we head off for the second tallest standing stone in Brittany, near the town of Dol de Bretagne, only about 15 miles away from the port.
Dol de Bretagne boasts an impressive cathedral and a maze like road system, so we headed south through the town and hoped for the best before fortunately finding a handy signpost. Soon our first Breton menhir of the trip hove into view, the top half of it standing proud above a field of yellowing corn, and for an anxious few seconds I feared the stone might be surrounded by crops. I needn’t have worried, a nicely manicured area, complete with picnic tables and parking spot gives easy access to the stone, and although surrounded on three sides by corn fields the crops were kept a respectful distance away from the stone, and what a stone it is! Standing a mind boggling 32’ tall, as you stand at the bottom of it and the stone towers above you it amazes how anyone could have erected this without the use of modern machines. Shaped and worked into a tapering top, as Postie says, it's like some megalithic rocket ship ready for take-off, this really is a superlative menhir.
The stone is smooth to the touch, I hug its huge girth, and I feel revitalised instantly. A nice smoothed boulder rests at the foot of the menhir, and provides a surprisingly comfortable spot to sit on to write some fieldnotes. A nearby information board relates the legends associated with the stone, and although only in French, is illustrated with cartoony pictures depicting the tales, so even with my shaky grasp of the language I’m able to catch the gist.
Probably the best standing stone I’ve ever seen, and an amazing way to start off the holiday in Brittany.
We were staying at a camp site nearby after a day on Mont St Michel
and arrived at the stone about 7.30pm. Only one family of Germans interupted our inspection of the menhir.,though there was enough stone for everyone, menhir isn't enough word for this one, back home I call 6ft a tall one, this is a stone spacerocket ready to take off at any moment. Quite simply the biggest stone Iv'e ever seen . At the stones foot is a little boulder shined black from centuries of bums.
The information board at the menhir related some of the folklore that surrounds the stone.
As well as the tale of the warring brothers, it is said that the Devil, from the high ground of nearby Mount Dol, saw Saint Samson building the cathedral at Dol. Enraged by this he launched a huge stone at the edifice, which knocked off the top of the north tower, which landing nearby became the Dolmen of Champ Dolent.
Also it is said that the stone imperceptably sinks, whenever someone dies, or in an alternate tale the moon nibbles a bit off the top of the stone each time it is full, causing it to shrink. In both tales when the stone is finally diminished to nothing it will signify the end of days.
Dol is situated in the north of the departement of Ille-et-Vilaine, not far from the sea-coast. Near it, in a field called the Champ Dolent ('Field of Woe'), stands a gigantic menhir, about thirty feet high and said to measure fifteen more underground.
It is composed of grey granite, and is surmounted by a cross . The early Christian missionaries, finding it impossible to wean the people from frequenting pagan neighbourhoods, surmounted the standing stones with the symbol of their faith, and this in time brought about the result desired.
A strange legend is connected with this menhir. On a day in the dark, uncharted past of Brittany a fierce battle was fought in the Champ Dolent. Blood ran in streams, sufficient, says the tale, to turn a millwheel in the neighbourhood of the battle-field. When the combat was at its height two brothers met and grappled in fratricidal strife. But ere they could harm one another the great granite shaft which now looms above the field rose up between them and separated them.
Legends and Romances of Brittany, by Lewis Spence (1917) p24.