Cénomes, 12360 Montagnol.
Meet Mister Serge Di Venanzio at his home, last house on the left on D52 Route de Montagnol à Graissessac towards Tauriac-de-Camarès.
Heritage Days 10-17.
|Classification:||Silver Mine Copper Mine Fire-setting Cellar|
|Guided tours:||D=30 min, Max=6.|
Bernard Léchelon (2011):
Argent rutène et entrepreneurs romains aux confins de la Transalpine
Les Rutènes, Aquitania, Supplément 25, 2011, pp. 245-279.
Mine d'Argent Romaine de Cénomes, Association Mine de Cénomes, « La cave » à Cénomes, 12360 Montagnol, Tel: +33-685-18-20-94.
L'Office de Tourisme du Rougier de Camarès, 9 Grand Rue, 12360 Camarès, Tel: +32-565-49-53-76. E-mail: -
|As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
Please check rates and details directly with the companies in question if you need more recent info.
|70 BC||silver mine started.|
|30||silver mine closed.|
|12th century||mining reactivated by the Cistercians.|
|1266||Cistercians give a concession to three partners from Lodève to operate the Cénomes mine.|
|2015||declared a Historic Monument.|
The Mine d'Argent Romaine de Cénomes (Roman Silver Mine Cénomes) is owned by Serge Di Venanzio, it's located behind his cellar. That's actually said to be the reason for the exceptional state of preservation: in the 18th century, a cheese cellar was installed, which allowed access while also protecting the mine. At that time, there was a cheese manufacturing workshop on the ground floor, and the cellar in the basement was used for storage of the cheese. The surrounding rock is dolomitic limestone, which is very stable, and there was never the necessity for support, which would have rotted away. The mine survived 2,000 years without significant collapses.
The mine was operated during Gallo-Roman times, between 70 BC and 30, for about 100 years. The Roman Empire needed silver, and so they opened numerous mines in the foothills of the Massif-Central. The silver-bearing copper ore was mined in a maze of small rooms and guts. The main mining technique was fire setting. There are also traces of the metal tools they used on the walls. The ore deposit was not exhausted when mining ceased, there were simply better mines in the Roman Empire, and so mining here became unprofitable. During Roman times, the mine was entered from a trench on the opposite side of the mountain, about 30 m above the current access point. The orebody was mined with three parallel drifts, connected by multiple passages. This ensures effective ventilation, which is important for fire setting. They followed the mineralized vein in a south-east/north-east direction. The vein has a variable width, up to 10 m wide, and is between one and two meters high. Some pillars were left, to ensure the stability of the structure. In the lower part of the mine they did not use fire setting, they had a cutting face which was 80 cm wide and 1.5 m high. Here they cut five vertical cuts into the face, about 6 cm deep. Then the material between the cuts was broken off and removed, the cutting face moved forward by 6 cm.
The silver mining in the area was revived in the Middle Ages, the Cistercians from Sylvanèss abbey opened mines in the 12th century. They did so at the Cénomes mines, the site is mentioned in documents of this time. They built a tunnel to access the Roman galleries, which is the entrance until today. They became the main producers of silver in the South of France until the middle of the 13th century.
The cheese production started in the early 19th century, around 1820. Monsieur Nouguier, a resident of the commune of Montagnol, joined forces with another owner to develop cheese production in a small cellar. The notarial deeds still exist in the departmental archives. Maison Nouguier was founded in 1841 and produced a Roquefort-type cheese. The village Roquefort is 20 km to the north and the situation with sheep, climate and caves or cellars in dolomitic rock is quite similar. But the companies at Roquefort had the name protected since 1411, so only cheese produced at Roquefort is named Roquefort. This cheese was called cave batarde and was awarded a bronze medal in 1867 and a gold medal in 1902. In 1906 the Nouguier company produced 110 t of cheese, and in 1908 it went bankrupt and the cheese dairy was auctioned off. The mine is entered through the cellar of this company, so the visit also includes the visit to a cheese cellar.
This is not a show mine with open hours, it is not developed in any way. The village has an association named Association Mine de Cénomes, which cleared the mine and made it safe. There is a mostly level floor but no light, wear walking shoes or gum boots and a headlamp, if you have, bring a helmet. The mine is not very large, so it requires stooping, and the number of visitors per tour is limited to 6. The tours take between 30 and 45 minutes. There is a 100 m long cross-cut from the cellar to the Roman workings.