The fascinating cave systems of the Loire Valley
Oysters dominated the sea that once covered this part of France. These fossils left behind a thick bed of white stone called tuffeau. Many of the Loire’s grandest châteaux were built from white tufa, and the quarrying, naturally, created caves.
For centuries, men cut into the tuff eau and falun (shelly sand) to build houses, châteaux and churches and very soon this underground world became extraordinary.
During the 11th century, rather than build houses on the surface, peasants dug an open pit for the yard of their farm. They then kept going, digging the house and outbuildings.
Between Montsoreau and Gennes, the population quickly took possession of the caves in the cliffs of the Loire. Peppered with windows and doors, the cliffs reveal an amazing underground world where farmers, fishers and winemakers have lived together for centuries. Entire villages were underground. Some people still live in the caves (as seen in my photo). Due to the caves stable temperature of approximately 13C - the stone quarry galleries offer an ideal setting for a number of purposes. Besides from general storage of crops & lifestock, caves are & were used for:
▫️maturing and preserving wine, millions of bottles therefore mature in the shade of the limestone caves
▫️they have been used from the early 20th century for mushroom cultivation & a large percentage of mushroom farms still exist in caves today
▫️during the 16th century Wars of Religion, many monks used the caves to hide away
▫️there are many tales passed down in history, how Kings used the caves to hide & smuggle mistresses from & to their chambers
As you can see in one of my photos, one of the residents of the caves uses a cave as a garage to store his prized car, a "deux chevaux"! 😅
Happy Wednesday 💋