Rochemenier is a tiny above-ground village in central France but it has an amazing tourist attraction in the centre of the village. Until 1920, some of the rural-dwellers of this village lived underground in caves. Troglodyte living – literally meaning cave-dwellers – occurs all over the world (notably in Coober Pedy in South Australia, where, to escape the heat, much of the town is built into underground caves).
The caves at Rochemenier are not quite so modern as the dwellings in Coober Pedy, but they show a functioning farm and several houses which formed the cave-dwelling community, including communal halls, wine-making presses and enclosures for the animals. Photographs on display show large families in full 18th century dress, weddings and other community gatherings. They might have lived in caves but their lives were probably not so different from other rural folk at the time.
The dwellings and halls were built into caves in the walls of a very large pit in the ground. Various holes and openings allowed light in and smoke out while protecting inhabitants from the worst of the elements. The paths and open spaces between the dwellings were open to the sky. The front of the houses were built across with stone, leaving doors and windows (the latter were glazed), but the inner rooms had rough-hewn walls of stone, where the caves had been extended and cut back into the rock.
The caves have been restored and are open for tourists to visit. A quiz for children is available at the front counter, with a prize for children who complete the questions. In the photographs above and below, ground level is usually at the top of the picture (they were taken from the bottom of the pit within the village). Surrounding the caves on the ground level was an orchard which belonged to the original form, and the village of Rochemenier.
The website for Rochemenier ishere.
Want more photos of France? Here are a few more….
Arrival in Paris
Caves of Lascaux
Standing Stones of Carnac
Les Grottos en France
Eiffel Tower (Tour Eiffel)
Streets of Paris
Arc de Triomphe
The troglodytes of Maison Fort de Reignac
Fontainebleau – Versailles without the queues
An unknown Chateau
Theme Parks, French Style
Where Da Vinci lived
Pretty pictures en France