Menhirs and dolmens of Brittany – Carnac and surroundings
Menhir (from Breton “men” = stone and “hir” = long) is a stone block vertically set in the ground. They occur all over the world. Usually without traces of working, rarely is a human figure, possibly clothing and weapons. Menhir statues are known from northwest France, Spain, Corsica. They have a phallic character, but somewhere are also places with female characters. Sometimes they form rows (alignements) or circles (kromlech). The word ”menhir” is a modern artificial compound using Breton words. In Breton itself, the word “peulvan” is used for menhir. It is possible that the Czech word “balvan” (boulder) and the Breton “peulvan” have a common origin.
Menhirs are about 4 to 6 thousand years old and their meaning is still not satisfactorily explained. There are theories about calendar or astronomical-astrological function, fertility cult, healing function, positive amplifiers or negative energy filters of the Earth and many others…
I personally incline to the theory that menhirs are somehow related to maintaining the balance of natural forces. Menhirs are often found at the site of geological breaks. This is also true of several Czech menhirs. I do not know how alone standing menhirs in Brittany (and what about the long range of menhirs around Carnac?), but there are rumors in Brittany, that the removal of menhirs led to the sinking of the landscape into the sea – surroundings of the Monastery of Mont Saint Michel, legend of the demise of the mythical city of Ys.
Megalithic series in Carnac (Alignements mégalithiques de Carnac in French) are a grouping of Neolithic menhirs and dolmens on more than four kilometers in southern Brittany. The most famous are the alleys with more than 4,000 erected stones placed in parallel or fan-shaped rows near the village of Carnac. Menhirs have been protected since 1889 as a historical monument.
In 1764, an amateur archaeologist and antiques collector, Count Anne Claude de Caylus, thought the stones were from the Gallo-Romanesque era. Later – approximately since 1790 – the Celtic origin of megaliths began to be assumed, and this hypothesis has long prevailed.
At the end of the 19th century, archaeologists James Miln and Zacharie Le Rouzic, on the basis of archaeological surveys, showed that the buildings were built much earlier before the arrival of the Celts. The menhirs were probably erected in the Neolithic period in the 6th to 2nd millennium BC.
The largest menhir in Locmariaquer weighs 300 tonnes and consists of a 20-meter granite stone.
In the past, the megalithic series suffered a great deal of damage. St Martin of Tours, who in the 4th century as part of his zealous Christianization efforts, which included the destruction of sacred pagan places, had miles of megalithic lines destroyed.
ROWS IN CARNAC
Alignments of Ménec (Alignements du Ménec)
The largest group of menhirs is located near the village of Le Ménec, very near to Carnac, where a group of houses is surrounded by a cromlech formed by an ellipse of 71 stones standing side by side. Cromlech is practically all surrounded by houses. To the east of the cromlech there are 1099 menhirs arranged in 11 rows, extending 1165 m in length in a belt 100 meters wide. The stones are aligned according to the height. The rows of stones are not straight but describe a slight curve towards the northeast. The rows are interrupted twice by roads and in the summer months free entry between menhirs is prohibited (they are surrounded by a low fence).
Alignments of Kermario and Manio
The alleys in Kermaria are not as extensive, but contain the largest stones. The highest of these megaliths is more than 7 meters tall. There are 982 menhirs located in ten rows. Also, as in Le Ménec, these stones are rapidly shrinking towards the end of the grouping 1.2 km away, where three huge boulders are placed at right angles.
Alignments of Kerlescan and Le Petit Ménec
The third group of stones stands further east to Kerlescan. It is a square enclosure in close proximity to 13 parallel rows consisting of 540 stones on an area of 3.5 ha. At its edge, there are kromlech of 39 menhirs. This part is the best preserved of all three. And even farther east of the forest there are about 100 stones of the group Le Petit Ménec near the village of La Trinité-sur-Mer.
In the forest standing menhir Géant du Manio. Géant du Manio is approximately 6.5 meters high menhir and is the largest menhir in Carnac and comes from the Neolithic.
Related pages and posts:
Dolmen La Roche-aux-Fées
Menhir Saint-Uzec is the largest menhir in France with Christian symbols. Pleumeur-Bodou, Brittany, France