Grotte des Huguenots

Grotte du Colombier -


Useful Information

the Ardeche valley in front of the Grotte des Tunnel and the Grotte des Huguenots.
Location: A7, exit Montélimar or Bollène, up the Ardeche valley to Vallon-Pont d'Arc. Near Vallon Pont d'Arc, 2.5 km east at the Ardeche valley road.
(44.388087607628364, 4.40832172031115)
Open: Only by appointment for groups.
[2021]
Fee:  
Classification: SpeleologyKarst cave
Light: electric.
Dimension: L=200 m, VR=35 m, A=85 m asl.
Guided tours: self guided
Photography: allowed
Accessibility: no
Bibliography: Jean-Louis Roudil (1965): The Eneolithic site of the Huguenots cave, Vallon-Pont-d'Arc (Ardèche). Gallia Prehistory, Year 1965, 8, pp. 1-8.
Gérard Onoratini, Cinzia Joris (1995): A new sequence from the Upper Paleolithic in the Huguenots cave (Vallon-Pont-d'Arc). Ardèche Archéologie, n°12, pp. 23-28.
Erwin Tscherter (2003): The cave of the Huguenots. Testimonies of a long history... "Encounters with the past", 2002, Friends of the history of the region of Vallon-Pont-d'Arc édit., Pp. 62-81.
Erwin Tscherter, Colette Paillole (2010): The Huguenots cave in Vallon-Pont-d'Arc. Ardèche Archeology, FARPA edits., n°27, pp. 65-66.
Address: Mairie de Vallon Pont d'Arc, 1 Place de la Resistance, 07150 Vallon Pont D'arc, Tel: +33-475-880-206, Fax: +33-475-881-176. 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.

History

1869 description by Jules Ollier de Marichard, the French prehistorian.
MAY-1890 during the synod of Salavas the cave was used for Protestant ceremonies.
1901 declared a historic site.
1947 land with Grotte de Huguenots and Grotte des Tunnels purchased by Maurice Martin and installed a restaurant.
1958 restaurant destroyed by a flood.
1960 terrace constructed.
1961 Maurice Martin dies and the terrace is closed.
1961 archaeological excavation in the cave.
1972 CÉSAME offers activities and exhibitions.
1991 archaeological excavation in the cave.
2007 last exhibition "Speleology, Archeology and Huguenot History" by CÉSAME.
2009 accident during a training session by the acrobats of the company Lez Arts Cordés.
2019 cave owned by the department Ardèche.

Description

The Grotte des Huguenots is a single chamber with a huge portal. It has two entrances, a small one directly at the Ardeche valley road, a much bigger one to the right in an angle of 90°. The cave entrances are closed by iron gates, but it may be visited during summer. The cave is maintained and protected by the Association CESAME, who used the cave to install an archaeological exhibition inside.

The interior is not very interesting from the speleological view, but it is an important archaeological and palaeontological site. The cave is rather small and horizontal, with huge entrances allowing the light to fall in. This is ideal for an shelter. The cave was first described by Jules Ollier de Marichard, the French prehistorian. He mentions that it was originally called Grotte du Colombier or Temple. He describes it as a "walled cave". During the guerres de Religion (Religion Wars) many caves were walled up. In 1692, the Count de Broglie had many walled up caves in the region of Saint-Jean-du-Gard. The walled caves were often used to hold assemblies, especially the currently forbidden type. During the synod of Salavas in May 1890 the cave was used for Protestant ceremonies. That's why it was then called Grotte des Huguenots (Cave of the Huguenots). Huguenots are the French protestants which were persecuted and later expelled, primarily to Germany. That's only fair, as protestantism was a German idea.

Until the road in front of the cave was constructed the only access was by boat from the river. A second quite narrow entrance further north on the hillside requires climbing and was rarely used. It is called trou du Guetteur (Hole of the Watchman).

The land with the Grotte de Huguenots and the Grotte des Tunnels was purchased by Maurice Martin in 1947. He was an entrepreneur and a pioneer in tourism, and installed a kitchen in the Huguenots cave and used it as a restaurant. But the restaurant was destroyed in the flood of 1958, and the restaurant never rebuilt. Instead he built a terrace at the river, which still exists. But only one year later he died and the venue was closed.

During archaeological excavation in the cave remains from the Upper Paleolithic (Gravettian) to the Neolithic were found. Also remains from the Bronze Age were discovered. It was quite difficult to find any remains, because the cave is located on the outside of a meander, the cut bank, where the erosion of the river is much bigger than on the other side. Numerous floods destroyed the content of the cave and replaced it by other sediments, numerous remains were lost by those natural events. The excavations were made in sections which were not reached by the river.

When I visited this cave in 1971, I found a large entrance at the side of the road in the Ardèche Gorge, wide open and no access restrictions. Just inside the entrance was a large chamber about 70 m across and 25 m high with man-made level floor as if it had been used as a ball room or tea garden. We were able to explore about 300 m of horizontal passage, most of which was up to 10 m high.


Text by Tony Oldham (2003). With kind permission.