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Report 1981: Megaliths, Parish Closes and Cider - Part 2 Morbihan
By Eleanor from UK, Fall 2011
Page 14 of 27: Locmariaquer
Carvings in the chamber of Table des Marchands
After Carnac this is probably the second most important megalithic site in Morbihan. The area has been settled since about 6000BC and there was a high population density and strong hierarchical structure. As well as the three main structures at the Ensemble Megalithique de Locmariaquer, there are smaller dolmens scattered around the area.
Ensemble Megalithique De Locmariaquer is signed coming into the town. There are two large car parks. The site is surrounded by tall coniferous hedges. A raised platform on the footpath along the road may give some views. The Visitor Centre is carefully designed not to intrude too much. It has some books and assorted tee shirts. The toilets were basic. There is a video and earphones; English and German translation are available. There are steps up to a viewing area on the roof. This is probably the best place to photograph Er Grah.
Grass surrounds the megaliths and a fence controls access to the site. The best photos of Er Grah need to be taken from the end and this is impossible.
Er Grah was begun about 4500BC when a tumulus with small cairns on top was constructed. About 4200BC a small burial chamber surrounded by a circular stone cairn was added. It was further extended about 4000BC to the north and south by the addition of a mass of clay held in place on each side by dry stone facings. In the 19thC, the northern part was destroyed by quarrying. At the start of the 20thC the monument had collapsed in places and was covered in vegetation. It was restored to its original condition in 1992. The main cairn is a massive stepped structure. All that remains from the 4000BC extension are the two long dry stone facings.
Grand Menhir Brise is huge. It now lies broken in four pieces. Intact it is over 20m long and would have stood about 18.5m high. It is thought it was erected about 4500BC. The stone was quarried about 12km away and was smoothed using quartz hammers. It is assumed it might have been part of a lunar observatory. Behind it is an area of stony ground, which was originally a row of 18 smaller menhirs. These and the Grand Menhir were destroyed between 4300-4200BC but it is not know whether it was accidental or deliberate. Parts of the stones were reused in other dolmens and tumuli in the area. It is thought the Table des Marchands may contain some.
Table Des Marchands is a passage grave aligned to the summer solstice and erected about 3700BC. A massive mound of stones covers a passage way to the central chamber. Entry is allowed into the dolmen. There are two upright stones and a massive capstone at the entrance. This is quite low so you need to mind your head and back. The passage gradually gets higher and it is possible to stand upright in the central chamber. This gets quite claustrophobic if there are more than about five people in it. Massive stones line the passageway and chamber. The only light comes down the passageway.
The capstone is thought to have been brought from an older carved dolmen that was broken up before reusing. The carvings of an axe and a plough pulled by oxen are quite difficult to make out. The end stone has whorls and arches as well as a 20thC carving of a 'gazelle'. These are best seen by standing in the passageway as this blocks some of the natural light entering and the carvings are much clearer. Take pictures from here too. We could see carvings on some of the large stones in the passageway. Beautifully laid smaller stones pack in the large uprights.
There are other smaller dolmens in the area. Dolmen Mané Lud is on the edge of the town. There is a large parking area and it is a 5 minute walk along a well made track through the trees. The dolmen is set in woodland behind the village and is built into the ground. There are narrow steps down to the entrance and a long passageway to the end chamber. Gaps between the cap stone and end stones let in a little natural light.
Dolmen De Mané Rethual is signed down a narrow passage way in the centre of the town. It is in a small enclosed grassy area among houses. It is a long covered alley grave but the entrance was too low for us to enter easily.
We then parked in the centre of Locmariaquer and found a bakers to buy lunch, which we ate on a wall overlooking the Golfe du Morbihan. It was a glorious day and very warm in the sunshine. There were views of the boats, islands and the Golfe du Morbihan. We went for a walk around the town which had great character with old houses and not too many shops and eateries.
Eglise Notre-Dame-De-Kerdo has a beautiful 11thC choir and transept (1082-1120). The rest of the church is 17thC. The steeple was repaired in 1817 and the nave widened and made higher in 1838. The stained glass windows date from 1960. It is a solid stone building with big square pillars in the nave which has big round topped windows. The glass is made up of a mosaic of small pieces in shades of yellow and white with pale blue and green glass round the edge. The nave is plain with no pulpit and just the stations of the cross on the walls. There are two huge and ornate side altars in the north and south transepts with lots of gilt decoration, a painting in the centre and statues. The small 11thC apse has an arched roof and small round windows. The round pillars have highly carved tops. There is a plain main altar in the apse with a smaller, modern communion table in front. There is a carving of the Virgin and Child above the transept arch and a ship on the north wall. There is a massive wooden west door with a small round window above.
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