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.
Only by appointment for groups.
|Light:||Incandescent Electric Light System|
|Dimension:||L=200 m, VR=35 m, A=85 m asl.|
|Guided tours:||self guided|
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.
|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.|
|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.|
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.