Tuesday, 24 November 2009


I don’t know about you but I feel a drawing to stones. They have stillness and calm that makes you think, encourages you to, really. Whether this is a small stone washed up on the shore, many carefully constructed together such as the Barnenez cairn or the largest specially chosen for a menhir there is always a story.

In the summer I went to Brittany for our break and visited the Barnenez Cairn. It is magnificent. Thought to have been built between 4500 and 3900bc the exact purpose remains obscure. It is part of a group and when you consider its size this indicates that the dead were given much importance in the large population. Barnenez is actually made of a primary and a secondary cairn covering 11 funerary chambers (dolmen) whose passages open onto the south side of the monument. Made of dry stone walls, there are 2 types of roofs capping the walls, megalithic capstones or corbelled domes. The two types of rock used were a local dolerite and a light coloured granite, not a surprise the second as the region is covered in the beautiful rose granite (many a good sunrise & sunset spent watching the reflections on these stones). The clever mathematic boffins have worked out that the monument is made up of 12000-14000 tonnes and the number of hours it is estimated to make would have been about 600,000, approx 300 builders for 10 months! Some of the treasures and history had given up in the excavations included tools of flint, pottery, polished axes, a copper dagger and an arrowhead with fins and barbs. Carvings have also been found, symbols showing and idol with hair spreading out, horned shaped markings and depictions of bows and axes.

We also visited various menhirs in the area, some eroded with time and nature, others eroded by man. One such was the menhir at Pleumeur-Bodou, erected between 5000-4000bc it is a little over 7.5 metres tall. Its mutilation, oops sorry I mean Christianisation, (slip of tongue honest!) dates back to the 17th century after a mission by Father Maunoir in 1674.

On the southern side they carved the “Arma Christi” the imagery often used in the 17th century. All the instruments of the Passion which are mentioned in the gospels are represented with an exception of Veronica’s veil. Towards the top on both sides are images of the sun and Moon (pagan or an interpretation of the death and resurrection?) and at the bottom a skull pertaining to represent Adam. Up until the beginning of the 20th century there were paintings and colours, on the cross added at the top a painted Christ, now obliterated by the weather and not soon to be replaced.

One day I hope to go back to Brittany and visit Carnac. Until I do I’m going to head over to Stonehenge for Littleun to see.

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