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S'ain't-Just no ordinary place

Saint-Just, a very ordinary and comfortably pleasant French village, is the guardian to a wild and wacky ribbon of monuments which will have me scratching my head quizzically for the rest of my life. Nothing here makes any sense at all as the path to the west of the village leads you on a megalithic mystery tour.

Each monument on its own is intriguing … beguiling … but together, so close together they become a megalithic headf*ck. Sorry for using such language, but no other words quite explain it!

We parked to the west of the village and followed the ample and informative signs which led us under the pines towards the Cojoux heathland glowing golden with gorse and ringing with birdsong. Apart from us, there was no one else around at all. The monuments - and the birds - just kept on coming. Warning: this weblog is quite a long shopping list of goodies

The first monuments you reach are the Moulin-de-Cojoux alignments. There are three sets of alignments. The first, northern row is a long row of white, quartzy, sugar lumps.

The second which runs parallel just metres away, are an elegant series of blade-shaped menhirs of various different sizes, colours and types of stone.

Some 50 metres away are the third, western alignments which consist of the same white, quartzy, sugar lumps as the northern alignments.

And next, following the path west (I didn't go up towards the old windmill to see the gorsedd) snaking its way through the dense, tall gorse forest for about 400 metres we reached the stones of Les Demoiselles Piquées the 'worm-eaten women'. Not a very nice name, but you can see why they are called this. These are big stones, too. I stood next to one and felt like a midget. A novel feeling for me.

And next 200 metres on, is Chateau Bû, I paused to admire the numerous pink-breasted linnets and listen to them sing. I spotted a bird of prey in the distance and I knew it wasn't a buzzard it was too lightly built. This had a different outline, but I could identify it. Briefly it landed on the tallest stone of Chateau Bû, but had already swooped off by the time we got there. We were to see it again later in exactly the same place.

Chateau Bû! What on earth is it??? Chateau Bû! is caged up. Straight-jacketed. Probably for its own protection because it is INSANE. Without being able to get right up to it, walk round it, get into it, it's hard to make any sense of it. It has a mound, perhaps two metres tall, with a chamber in it like a cairn. Then it has four uprights on top of it.

And then a bit of a cromlech at one end. I've seen a lot of old crumblies in my time, but this one I can't fathom. You'll have to see it for yourself.

And next, 200 metres westwards over the health from Chateau Bû lie a whole pile of monuments, some -quite literally- within spitting distance of each other. The first set you encounter are three nice-but-nothing-to-write-home-about burial chambers called La Croix de St Pierre. Two are now little more than ground plans and the other is just a stone cist.

And next, immediately adjacent to these is the La Croix de St Pierre Tertre Tumulaire, a 20 metre long mound surrounded by small kerbstones marking out its shape. Not much height left to the mound though.

And next, again immediately adjacent to the previous feature is La Croix de St Pierre cairn (which Julian calls Le Dolmen West.) I loved this. It's very restored but it has a style and character, clarity and sharpness which I found very appealing.

And next, still within shouting distance rather than spitting distance, is Le Tribunal cromlech. This wide horseshoe of stripy zebra stones swings around from the south of the path. Each stone is so carefully chosen and positioned they each invite special consideration.

Having recently seen all the crazy carved stones at Gavrinis a couple of days before it occurred to me that the ancient builders of this site, instead of laboriously carving all those motifs into the rock, instead went out and sought stones which already had a natural decoration.
The position of this arc of stones, within metres of the graves of revered ancestors and with a name hinting at tribal law, felt like a very important meeting place within the Saint-Just complex. But this isn't the end of the affair. There are more monuments just beyond.

Next, up on the hill, about 30 metres away we spotted this…

…unnamed burial. Not indicated on any of the literature we had at the time.

And next, only 20 metres away up a bit on a rise lies the charming but a bit crumbly allee couverte of La Four Sarrazin

It had one or two underwhelming cup marks on it, but no intriguing carvings of swirls or zigzags, 'breasts' or chevrons. From up here there are some magical views back over the heath, with the tallest stones of Chateau Bû poking up from above the gorse.

Twitcher moment: As I walked the mile back to the car, I took time to admire the skylarks, crested larks, linnets, greenfinches, goldfinches, thrushes, tits and chaffinches darting all around, filling the air with song. We also got a good view of that bird of prey again, which we later identified, thanks to Moth's wonderful photograph, as a juvenile peregrine falcon.

As we left, I took a moment to make a quick sketch of the alignments.

Apart from the string of monuments out to the west of the village, Saint-Just has a couple of other interesting sites. As you drive north out of the village, directly opposite this crazymadbonkers Christian grotto (which I had fun leaping around on rather disrespectfully)…

…. we saw these three very tall, slender standing stones Les Trois Collonades on the same side of the road as the cemetery.

We were about to leave Saint-Just and as I looked on the map, I noticed another monument marked very close by but not featured in any of the literature we had. We had to go and see if we could sniff it out. Without having a clue what it would be, we picked up a sign to a 'dolmen' and parked. Scrambling up a steep bank into some woodland punctuated withamazing natural rocks, we followed the path until … WOW! What a find! Treal allee couverte.

An absolute beauty to end the most wonderful and megalithically perplexing day.

Jane Posted by Jane
4th May 2005ce
Edited 24th November 2005ce

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