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Art and Culture

Art and Architecture

The Vézère Valley, the prehistoric sites of Les Eyzies and the caves of the Quercy contain some of the finest known examples of prehistoric art, the earliest manifestations of art in France. Since that time, art and architecture have evolved in close connection with the region’s turbulent history. The significant periods of construction took place in periods of peace: the Pax Romana, the 12C (many monasteries date from this century) and the period spanning the end of the 14C to the 16C. During times of war – the Hundred Years War, the Wars of Religion – the main concern of the local population was its protection, hence the fortification of towns, castles and churches.

Gallo-Roman Architecture

Only a few buildings constructed by the Romans have withstood the test of time, although vestiges of the Gaulish period do still survive.

Excavations undertaken at Drevant , near St-Amand-Montrond, have established that a large Gallo-Roman centre developed on the site of a small Gaulish market town; a theatre, baths and a vast walled area which may have been a Gallo-Roman forum or temple have been uncovered here.

In Limoges , an amphitheatre was built on the northwest outskirts of the old town; however, it was razed to the ground in the 16C and its ruins are now hidden beneath the Jardin d’Orsay.

In Périgueux, traces have been discovered of the ancient Vesunna , capital of the Petrocorii. The finds include the Vesunna tower, the arena and the perimeter wall. The Puy d’Issolud near Vayrac is believed to be the site of the Uxellodunum encampment – this was the last bastion of the Gauls in their resistance against the all-conquering Caesar. At Luzech, traces of the Impernal encampment which commanded a bend in the River Lot have been unearthed; the ruins of the Murcens oppidum have also been discovered near the Vers Valley.

Romanesque Art and Religious Architecture

In the Berry

Though characteristics of the Poitou School are widely represented across the region, most Romanesque churches in the Berry have a precise plan with certain features peculiar to the area: the chancel generally consists of two bays flanked by aisles which communicate with the choir through arches resting on columns adorned with historiated capitals; the apse is semicircular; the transept has a dome on squinches above the crossing and barrel vaulting above the arms; the nave is wider than the transept crossing and communicates with the arms of the transept by narrow passages known as Berrichon passages.

The abbey churches are based on the Benedictine design, for the Order of St-Benedict spread throughout Berry and built abbeys at Fontgombault , Chezal-Benoît and at Châteaumeillant , where the church of St-Genès has an unusual arrangement of the chevet with six parallel apsidal chapels.

Noirlac was created by the Cistercians, Plaimpied and Puy-Ferrand by the Augustinian Canons Regular. One church in the Bourges diocese is designed quite differently: the basilica of Neuvy-St-Sépulcre was built in the form of a rotunda and was inspired by the church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem.

The Limousin School

The Limousin School combines many of the characteristics of its neighbours: the Auvergne School, whose chief feature is the semi-barrel vaulting of the aisles or the galleries above the nave Beaulieu-sur-Dordogne ); the Poitou School, whose influence can be seen in the collegiate church of St-Pierre in Le Dorat – a blind nave with broken-barrel vaulting and aisles with groined vaulting; and the Périgord School – the domes on the church at Solignac .

Nevertheless, certain elements can be considered as purely Limousin. Firstly, the use of granite, which is found throughout the region and whose colour, while usually grey, sometimes verges on a golden tone.

Secondly, in the peculiar design of some belfries: the octagonal spire which crowns them is joined to the square tiers that form the base of the tower by one or two octagonal storeys; and the gables that stand on the upper square tiers are not only ornamental but play a part in the overall construction, since they divide and balance the weight of the upper octagonal tiers.

The best examples of this style are the belfries at St-Léonard , Collonges , Uzerche and Brantôme (in the Périgord). The belfry at St-Junien was probably planned to follow this pattern as the beginning of a steeply sloping gable can be seen above the second square tier.

Lastly, the façades present a more or less uniform style: massive belfry-porches adorned with blind arcades of various sizes and forms ( Le Dorat , St-Junien); doorways with recessed elongated arcades on either side (St-Junien); a first storey flanked by bell turrets which are pierced at Le Dorat and encircled by a corbelled gallery at St-Junien; and doorways with twin doors framed by recessed covings, which in some cases are scalloped, showing the influence of Islamic art (Mozarabic style).

In the Dordogne

The plain, almost severe appearance of the area’s many Romanesque churches was enhanced by the use of fine golden sandstone. The exteriors are startling for the extreme simplicity of their decoration: the doorways without tympana were embellished with recessed orders, and carved with rounded mouldings and festoons in a saw-tooth pattern. Inside, the churches are equally plain, with apsidal chapels opening off the chancel, which is usually flat. Only a few churches were built with side aisles; as a general rule the nave stands alone.

The originality of the Périgord Romanesque style is in its vaulting and dome. Some specialists believe that this shows eastern influence, others that it is a French invention.

The dome offers several advantages over cradle vaulting, which requires the use of powerful buttresses. The dome on pendentives allows the support of the weight of the vault to be divided between the side walls and the transverse arches of the nave. Often set over the transept crossing, the domes also vault the nave when they follow one after another in a series (such as at St-Étienne-de-la-Cité , Périgueux ).

The nave is thus divided into several square bays vaulted with a dome on pendentives.

The pendentives serve as a transition from a square base to the circular dome. The cathedral of St-Front in Périgueux is unique, with its five domes erected above a Greek-cross plan. However, some of the region’s numerous Romanesque churches illustrate different designs: as an example, in St-Privat-des-Prés and Cadouin the naves have aisles with rounded and pointed barrel-vaulting. Some façades are adorned with rows of arcades; this reflects the influence of the Saintonge and Angoumois regions.

The neighbouring Quercy has a slightly different Romanesque style, characterised by richer sculptural embellishment (influence of the Moissac and Languedoc schools). Inspired by Byzantine art, illuminations and Antiquity, some of the carved doorways and tympana in this region are stunning: Cahors , Carennac , Martel , and Collonges-La-Rouge , on the border with the Limousin.

Decorative Arts

The Abbaye de St-Martial , in Limoges , with its many dependent priories, was the principal centre in the Limousin for the development of enamel, gold and silverwork. From the 10C onwards, the monks here produced shrines, episcopal rings and statues in gold and silver. The skill of the Limousin gold and silversmiths and their proven technique paved the way for the subsequent development of enamelwork .

Using methods practised from the 6C onwards by Byzantine enamellers, the Limousin workshops at first undertook cloisonné ware (in which the colours are kept apart by thin outline plates). But in the 12C they turned entirely to champlevé enamelware (in which a thick sheet of copper is hollowed out in certain areas and the cavities are filled in with enamel). Towards the end of the Romanesque period, colours became more subtle and often the cavities were filled with two or even four colours, placed one on top of the other. The folds of garments were rendered by the use of a highlight – white, light blue or yellow – around areas of dark blue and green.

Most of the work was inspired by the art of illuminators, by manuscripts, ivories and Byzantine and Oriental silks. From the beginning of the 12C, small enamelled figures were represented on a background of smooth gilded copper. From 1170 onwards this background was chiselled with decorative foliage motifs, with fantastic fauna intermingled with religious symbols. The compositions, although often naïve, show a very strong artistic sense. Of the many objects produced in this way, the most remarkable are the reliquary shrines of Ambazac , Gimel and Bellac . The municipal museums of Limoges and Guéret contain rich collections of enamelwork.

Gothic Art and Architecture

Religious architecture

The essential elements of Gothic art – quadripartite vaulting based on diagonal ribs and the systematic use of the pointed arch – underwent various regional modifications. Diagonal ribs revolutionised construction and architects became masters of the thrust and balance of a building. Through the use of pointed arches, piers and flying buttresses, they freed the inner space so that a church could be lofty and light, illuminated by stained-glass windows.

The Berry

The most important Gothic building in the region, recognised worldwide as an architectural masterpiece inscribed on UNESCO’s World Heritage List, is Bourges Cathedral . It bears no resemblance to any of the other great cathedrals of France; its high nave covered with sexpartite vaulting, its double side aisles which extend round the chancel and the absence of a transept make it unique.

The Limousin

The simultaneous influences of the Languedoc School (southern Gothic) and the schools of northern France were in play in the region. The passion for building in the 13C and 14C is illustrated in the cathedral of St-Étienne and the churches of St-Pierre-du-Queyroix and St-Michel-des-Lions at Limoges , in the nave of the church of St-Martin at Brive , the collegiate church at St-Yrieix , and the belfry-porch of Tulle Cathedral .

The Dordogne

Sarlat Cathedral is an example of the influence of both southern and northern Gothic styles: the nave has wide side aisles and soaring flying buttresses typical of the north, whereas the side chapel shows southern influence. Another commonly found aspect of the Languedoc School is the nave’s shape, almost as wide as it is high, with side chapels but no aisles ( Gourdon , Martel , Montpezat-du-Quercy and St-Cirq-Lapopie ).

In the Berry, Limousin and Dordogne, many monasteries were built during this period, although few have emerged intact from the ravages of time. In Cadouin and Cahors , there are still cloisters built in the Flamboyant style, and in Périgueux the cloisters were built between the 12C and the 16C.

During the 13C-14C, fortified churches were built in the region in response to unrest, in particular during the Hundred Years War. The sanctuaries provided villagers with a safe place of refuge from marauders and the churches and abbeys were like fortified castles in appearance, with crenellations, watch-paths, and sometimes even protective moats.

Sculpture and painting

The Berry

Art in stained glass reached its climax in Bourges with the completion in the 13C of a remarkable series of windows.

Around the middle of the 14C, under the guidance of Duke Jean de Berry, the Berry developed into a great intellectual and artistic centre. As an example, the stained-glass window known as the Grand Housteau in the cathedral at Bourges was a gift from the duke.

The duke assembled excellent artists but most of the masterpieces created in the studios and workshops in Bourges have unfortunately disappeared: only a few fragments of Berry’s tomb remain in the cathedral crypt (originally placed in the Sainte-Chapelle in Bourges , since demolished). The greater part of the statuary, however, dates from this period and has survived. At Issoudun , in the chapel of the former Hôtel-Dieu , there is a fine carved Tree of Jesse.

The Limousin

In Limoges , two tombs executed in the purest 14C style can still be seen in the ambulatory around the chancel in the cathedral of St-Étienne; the village of Reygade in the Corrèze possesses an Entombment dating from the 15C which resembles the one at Carennac; and the church at Eymoutiers is ornamented with interesting 15C stained glass.

Limousin enamelwork which flourished in the Romanesque period was transformed in the 15C with the appearance of painted enamels produced under the direction of such famous master-craftsmen as Monvaerni and Nardon Pénicaud.

The Dordogne

From the second half of the 13C until the 15C, several remarkable works were produced: the tomb of St Stephen at Aubazine , a magnificent shrine carved in limestone in the second half of the 13C; the Entombment (15C) at Carennac ; the tomb of the Cardaillacs at Espagnac-Ste-Eulalie ; and the recumbent figures of Cardinal Pierre des Prés and his nephew Jean in the church at Montpezat-du-Quercy .

Frescoes, mural paintings produced with water-based paint on fresh plaster (a technique which allows the colours to sink in), were used to decorate many chapels and churches. The west dome of Cahors Cathedral is entirely covered with 14C frescoes. Naïve 14C and 15C polychrome statuary and certain frescoes give a good idea of how peasants and nobility dressed at the time. In Rocamadour , the interiors of chapels are painted, with further embellishment on the façades.

Civil and Military Architecture

A few Gothic residences remain in the region, the most noteworthy example of which is the Palais Jacques Cœur in Bourges , one of the finest Gothic palaces in Europe. Built on the vestiges of a Gallo-Roman wall, the building is a combination of massive, forbidding towers and a lively, sculpted façade. Inside, the architecture seems to hint at the approaching Renaissance in its graceful lines and fanciful motifs.


These new, fortified towns (in the Oc language: bastidas ) appeared in the 13C; their fortified aspect was further developed during the course of the following century.


The principal founders of bastides were Alphonse de Poitiers (1249-71), count of Toulouse and brother to St Louis, and, from 1272 on, seneschal lords under Philip the Bold, Philip the Fair and King Edward I of England, who also held the title of duke of Aquitaine.


Their construction satisfied economic, military and political needs, with founders taking advantage of the growth of the population and encouraging people to settle on their land, in turn rationalising its use and cultivation. In return, inhabitants were granted a charter, guaranteed protection, exempted from military service and given the right to inherit. The bailiff represented the king, dispensed justice and collected taxes, whereas the consuls, elected by the people, administered the town; towns flourished under this system. After the Albigensian Crusade, when the count of Toulouse, Raymond VII, built about 40 bastides , and with the outbreak of hostilities between the French and the English over the Périgord, Quercy and the Agenais, the political and military advantages of the bastides were confirmed. Alphonse de Poitiers built Eymet , Catillonès and Villeréal along the River Dropt as well as Villefranche-du-Périgord and Ste-Foy-la-Grande . The king of England responded with the construction of Beaumont , Molières , Lalinde and Monpazier , while in 1281 Philip the Bold founded Domme.

All of the bastides , French and English, were built to the same plan – a square or rectangle – and yet they differed because of the terrain, the type of site, the potential for population growth, and their defensive plan. Occasionally, the bastide was built around a pre-existing building such as a fortified church (Beaumont) or a castle.

The design of Monpazier is most characteristic: it is built according to a quadrilateral plan with straight streets crossed at right angles by alleys known as carreyrous ; narrow spaces, andrones , stand between the houses and serve as fire breaks, drains or even latrines. In the centre of town, the main square is surrounded by covered arcades or couverts (also known as cornières ). The covered market or halle, also stands in this square. The church and the cemetery stand nearby, and the outer walls are punctuated with towers and gateways. The best-preserved bastides are today found in Monpazier , Domme and Eymet .

The Berry and Limousin

The fortresses of Turenne , Merle , Ventadour , Châlus , Montbrun and Chalusset all existed in the Limousin in the 13C. The ruins of Crozant overlooking the valley of the Creuse evoke what was once the powerful stronghold of the counts of Marche.

Numerous castles were built in the Berry during the Middle Ages: on Henry II’s accession to the throne of England in 1154, the English controlled Aquitaine and threatened the neighbouring Berry. The local lords therefore improved the fortification of their castles to resist the enemy. The Château de Culan , taken by Philip Augustus in 1188, was rebuilt in the 13C but retained its severity of appearance emphasised by its three round towers topped by a wooden hoarding. Ainay-le-Vieil is protected by its perimeter wall with nine towers, while Meillant still possesses its seven haughty feudal towers.

The Dordogne

There are few traces left of the civil architecture of the Romanesque period. The feudal fortresses erected in the 10C and 11C were greatly altered in later centuries and can scarcely be said to have withstood the warfare and destruction of the times. The only remaining buildings of this period are the square keeps – the last refuge of the defensive system. Castelnau-Bretenoux in the Quercy, with its strongly fortified keep, is a good example of feudal construction built on a hilltop site.

In the Périgord, parts of the castles of Biron and Beynac , Bourdeilles , Commarque and Castelnaud date back to the Romanesque period.

Many of the castles in the Périgord and Quercy were constructed during the Gothic period, as is visible in their architectural detail; examples of these are at Bourdeilles , Beynac-et-Cazenac , Castelnaud and Castelnau-Bretenoux . Bonaguil is unique in that although it was built at the end of the 15C and in the early part of the 16C, it has all the features of a medieval fortress.

A considerable boom in town building occurred after the Hundred Years War with Sarlat, Périgueux, Bergerac, Cahors, Figeac, Gourdon and Martel all benefiting from this. The façades of town houses were decorated with large pointed arches on the ground floor (where small shops were set up), flattened arches or rose windows adorned the upper floors, with turrets crowning the roof. Among the finest examples of this period, note the Hôtel de la Raymondie in Martel , the Hôtel de la Monnaie in Figeac , the Hôtel Plamon in Sarlat and the famous Pont Valentré in Cahors .

The Renaissance

At the beginning of the 16C the artistic movement in France was revitalised by the influence of Italy. King François I and the aristocracy were moved by the desire to copy Italian architecture and sculpture and introduced new styles by employing Italian artists. In the space of a century, hundreds of châteaux were built or restored, as financial resources boomed with the end of the Hundred Years War.

Other factors encouraging this artistic movement in the region included improved returns on farm estates (thanks to the development of share-cropping), increased freedom of trade, the mining of iron ore, low labour costs and the advent of ready credit.


The Berry

At least half of the châteaux in the Berry were rebuilt in the years between 1430 and 1550, and most of the urban centres were transformed. Yet it took a long time for the Italian influence to be felt in the Berry where Gothic art was so strongly implanted. Generally, the Italian styles were interpreted, rather than copied. In Bourges , which was ravaged by fire in 1487, the most notable examples of Renaissance architecture are the Hôtel Lallemant, the Hôtel Cujas and the Hôtel des Échevins. In the countryside, defensive castles became more comfortable residences, as was the case with Ainay-le-Vieil, Meillant, La Verrerie and Villegongis.

The Limousin

In Limoges, the Renaissance influence can be seen on the St John’s doorway (Portail St-Jean) – the monumental entrance to the cathedral. In Tulle, the Maison de Loyac is a manor house dating from the 16C. Châteaux which were built or transformed in what is considered a transitional style include those at Rochechouart , Coussac-Bonneval , Pompadour and Sédières .

The Dordogne

The new style flourished in Montal and Puyguilhem , which are similar in appearance to the châteaux of the Loire Valley. Most of the other 16C châteaux incorporate significant defensive features besides the windows, dormers, chimneys and other purely Renaissance elements; this is particularly evident in Monbazillac . In Cénevières , Bourdeilles , Lanquais , Les Bories and Rouffignac (church), buildings were partially transformed; the Château de Biron is graced by a marvellous Renaissance chapel.

Civil architecture was also influenced by the Italian style, as witnessed in the Maison de Roaldès in Cahors , the Maison Cayla (or Maison des Consuls) in Périgueux , the Hôtel de Maleville in Sarlat , and the Hôtel Labenche in Brive .

Sculpture and other arts

The Berry and the Limousin

In the Marche , tapestry-making developed rapidly. Throughout the 16C the Aubusson , Bourganeuf and Felletin workshops profited from the growing demand for tapestries and hangings as part of contemporary furnishings.

Aubusson and Felletin continued to take pride in making tapestries and even as late as the Revolution produced verdures (greeneries) in which plants and fantastic animals appeared against a background of foliage.

Sculpture can be best admired in the cathedral in Limoges, where the magnificent rood screen, erected between 1533 and 1535, and the tomb of Jean de Langeac, are considered outstanding works of art.

Following the exceptional developments of the 12C to 14C, Limousin enamelwork found new favour in the 15C-16C through the Pénicaud, Nouailher and Limosin families. Léonard Limosin reached new artistic heights through the use of innovative techniques.

In Bourges , the art of making stained-glass windows was revived through the work of the artist Lescuyer.

The Dordogne

The inner court of the Château de Montal is an outstanding example of the Italian style, with its busts in high relief – superb works of art which are both realistic and refined. Inside, the remarkable staircase rivals those of the Loire Valley châteaux. In the chapel at Biron , the recumbent figures of the Gontaut-Biron family are decorated with figures influenced by the Italian Quattrocento (15C).

From the 17c to the 20c

By copying the styles of Paris and Versailles, art lost all its regional character in the 17C.

In the Berry, François le Vau - brother of the architect who designed the Louvre, Vaux and Versailles - planned the Château de Lignières in the style of the Grand Siècle : the frontons are supported by pilasters, and the main buildings are reflected in sheets of water, with French-style gardens extending beyond.

The Château de Hautefort , on the border of the Limousin and Périgord, is a very good example of Classical architecture in its planning and unity of design; although it was ravaged by fire in 1968, it has since been completely restored. The Château de Rastignac was built at the end of the 18C: the purity of its lines and the harmony of its proportions place it among the most interesting buildings of that period.

In architecture, the 19C was largely devoted to the restoration and renovation of old buildings. Painting and tapestry, however, saw the introduction of numerous innovations. Auguste Renoir and Suzanne Valadon both heralded from the Limousin, although both left the province at a young age. Corot, on the other hand, was born in Paris and came to the region often to paint. His student, Berthe Morisot , a native of Bourges, was influenced by Renoir and Manet. Claude Monet was inspired by the ruins at Crozant, and painted 30 versions of the site in 1889. Ingres and Bourdelle , both from Montauban, are considered the most eminent representatives of the Quercy from this period.

The art of tapestry-making was revived in the 20C thanks to the new ideas and techniques introduced by Lurçat , Dufy , Marc Saint-Saëns , Gromaire and the Association of Tapestry Cartoon-Painters. Modern art is now displayed in many regional and municipal museums as well as at the Centre National d’Art et du Paysage at the Lac de Vassivière.

Traditional Rural Architecture

The Berry

Limestone, sandstone and cob are the traditional building materials of the Berry countryside, yet distinctive differences in style exist between one area and the next. For example, in the Champagne Berrichonne , large farm buildings are set around a courtyard. The low roof is covered in flat, brown tiles (or slate closer to the Loire); inside, where a big communal room is heated by a stone chimney, the floor is also tiled. The farms of the Pays Fort are more modest, with walls made from cob (clay and straw). Thatched roofs have gradually been replaced with tiles, with the extension of the eaves protecting the walls from wet weather. Around Sancerre , farms have a long façade of white limestone crowned with a roof punctuated with dormer windows; the living area is often flanked by a barn or stable. Other types of houses are found near the Sologne region and in La Brenne . Some features, however, are shared by all; these include ceramic finials, weathercocks or other ornaments placed on the ridge of the roof or at the apex of a gable, and plain interior furnishings.

The Limousin

Most of the houses in the Limousin countryside date from the 19C and are made of local granite. In the area known as the Montagne , the low-built dwellings are attached to the barn and stable. The double-sloped roofs used to be predominantly thatch, but have been mostly replaced by slate. Many houses have lean-to additions next to the garden or orchard, and in the past each farm had its own well or spring.

In the Xaintrie , the barn dwellings are often built into a hillside and the rough-cast walls are biscuit-coloured. In the south of the area, half-timbering appears, along with upper storeys in the form of wooden terraces protected by overhanging lauze roofs.

The granite houses of the Haute-Marche are usually built with a door and a small window on the ground floor, two small windows on the floor above, and an attic used for storing grain on top.

In the Bas-Pays Corrézien , the ground floor is used for storage, whereas the dwelling rooms are located above. The sandstone houses are covered with a four-sided sloping roof; an outer stairway links the two storeys by way of a landing and the cellar entrance is at the bottom of the steps.

Higher up on the plateau , the box-shaped buildings in blue or ochre granite have small windows and round-tiled roofs. In addition to the stables, where the hay is stored above the animals, many farms have a special room for drying chestnuts, or a dovecot. Every farm is served by its own well.

The Dordogne

The most typical type of house found in the Périgord Noir is a sturdy, block-like construction in golden limestone, topped with a steeply pitched roof covered with flat, brown tiles or lauzes . The lauzes are neither slate nor layered schist tiles, but small limestone slabs. Set horizontally, their weight is such (500kg per m2/about 102lb per sq ft) that they require a strong, steeply pitched timberwork roof to distribute the weight. Towers or dovecots adjoin the houses of larger houses.

In the Périgord Blanc , low houses in grey or white limestone are lit through windows topped with bull’s-eyes ( œils-de-bœuf ). The flat roof covered with Roman-style terracotta tiles already reflects the more southern style.

In the forested area known as the Double, houses were traditionally built of cob and half-timbering.

In the vineyards of Bergerac , the houses of wine-growers are understandably organised around the activities of pressing grapes and making wine; generally they form a U shape or else have two adjoining courtyards. The tumble-down cottages in the surrounding vineyards are used as dwellings for labourers etc.

The houses of the Quercy are built in blocks of white limestone mortared in lime, and display a range of shapes, additions, towers and windows. The lower level is partly below ground and called the cave ; it was here that the stable, shed and storerooms were traditionally located. The floor above was reserved for the living quarters; the two levels are connected by an outside staircase above a terrace protected by a porch supported by stone or wood columns.


The region is dotted with numerous dovecots, many of which are particularly elegant. Some are no more than small towers attached to the main building; others stand alone, either resting on a porch or supported by columns. Before the French Revolution, the right to keep pigeons was generally reserved for large landowners, although the Quercy and Périgord (where the right could be purchased for a fee) were exceptions. Dovecots were built mainly for collecting pigeon droppings – the value of these droppings is evident in the fact that when a property was divided up after a death, they were shared out between heirs in the same way as the livestock. Not only was it excellent manure, but it was also prized by bakers (for the aroma it gave their bread) and by pharmacists as a relief for goitre – the swelling of the thyroid gland – among other conditions. The appearance of chemical fertilisers after 1850 led to a decline in production.

The oldest types of free-standing dovecots were arcaded (so-called hanging dovecots), built on small columns to protect them from the damp. The stubby capitals ( capels ) created overhangs to deter would-be predators from climbing up the columns.

Drystone Huts

These small constructions are dotted around the region, and can be found either standing in isolation in a field or, more rarely, grouped together. They are built entirely of dry stones and crowned with conical roofs of stones supported by joggles (notches in each new layer are fitted into notches of the layer below to stop the roof from slipping, and the whole roof is fixed at the top by a sort of keystone). They are known as gariottes , caselles or bories , but it is not known precisely what their function used to be, nor exactly when they were built. Today’s farmers may speculate about the mysterious origins of these surprisingly solid huts; meanwhile, they are happy to use them as tool sheds and storage space and proudly show them off to visitors.

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