Grotte d'Osselle

Grottes d'Esselles


Useful Information

photography
Grotte d`Osselle, Jura, France. Public Domain.
photography
Grotte d`Osselle, Jura, France. Public Domain.
photography
Grotte d`Osselle, Jura, France. Public Domain.
Location: Near St Vit. From Besançon N73-D13-D48 or D13 through Quingey.
Navi: 42 route des Grottes, 25410 Roset-Fluans
(47.1349, 5.8367)
Open: APR daily 9:30-12, 14-17.
MAY to JUN daily 9:30-12, 14-17:30.
JUL to AUG daily 9:30-18:30.
SEP daily 9:30-12, 14-17.
OCT to All Saints Holidays Mon-Sat 14-17, Sun 9:30-12, 14-17.
[2021]
Fee: Adults EUR 9, Children (4-12) EUR 5, Students EUR 7.
Groups (15+): Adults EUR 6, High School EUR 4.20, College EUR 4, Primary School EUR 3.80.
Cavers ask for reduction.
[2021]
Classification: SpeleologyKarst cave
Light: LightIncandescent Electric Light System
Dimension: L=8,000 m, T=13 °C.
Guided tours: L=1,200 m, D=70 min.
Photography: allowed, no flash
Accessibility: partly wheelchair accessible
Bibliography: Benjamin Silliman, M.D. LL D (1828): American Journal of Sciences and Arts, Vol. XIV, July 1828, New Haven, A.H. Maltby and Hezekiah Howe, Philadelphia. pp 203-204. online
Address: Grotte d'Osselle, 42 route des Grottes, 25410 Roset-Fluans, Tel: +33-381-636209, Fax: +33-381-638852. E-mail:
Besançon Tourisme Et Congrès, 52 Grande rue (Hôtel de Ville, place du 8 Septembre), 25000 Besançon, Tel: +33-381-80-92-55, Fax: +33-381-80-58-30. 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

13th century cave discovered.
1504 first known visits.
09-SEP-1696 origin of cave as a river cave first published by Father Boisot in the Journal des Savants.
1751 bridge above the cave river built.
1826 skeletons of cave bears discovered by the English paleontologist Buckland.
02-MAY-1912 declared a site classé for multiple criteria.
MAY-1967 during the drilling of tunnels a 400 m long gallery was discovered.
1970 palaeontological excavation reveals 15 cave bear skeletons.

Description

photography
Grotte d`Osselle, Jura, France. Public Domain.
photography
Grotte d`Osselle, Jura, France. Public Domain.
photography
Grotte d`Osselle, Jura, France. Public Domain.
photography
Grotte d`Osselle, Jura, France. Public Domain.
photography
Grotte d`Osselle, Jura, France. Public Domain.
photography
Grottes d’Esselles, 1829, Isidore-Justin-Séverin Taylor (French, 1789–1879). Grotte d`Osselle, Jura, France. Public Domain.
photography
Le tombeau (The tomb), 1829, Isidore-Justin-Séverin Taylor (French, 1789–1879). Grotte d`Osselle, Jura, France. Public Domain.
photography
La chaire à prêcher (The preaching pulpit), 1829, Isidore-Justin-Séverin Taylor (French, 1789–1879). Grotte d`Osselle, Jura, France. Public Domain.

The Grotte d'Osselle is located in a cliff overlooking a meander of the river Doubs. The view from the cave entrance is nice, especially in the evening sun. The entrance of the cave is inside the borders of Osselle and thus the depatement Doubs, but much of the 8 km long cave system is actually located in the neighboring department Jura.

The cave has a long history as a show cave, guided visits are said to have begun in 1504, although the actual source of this claim is not given. However, the claim that this is "incontestably the oldest show cave together with the cave of Antiparos" is obviously complete nonsense. There are several older show caves, see our list of ExplainHistoric Show Caves. And second, the ShowcaveCave of Antiparos was actually first used as a show cave in the 19th century.

The first cave visit was described by Me Loïs Gollut (*1535-✝1595). He wrote a very personal description in his Mémoires historiques de la République Séquanaise (Historical Memoirs of the Séquanaise Republic). He was Avocat au Parlement de Dôle (Lawyer at the Dôle Parliament), not a scientist, and so he explained the creation of the cave with an old gold mine exploited by the Romans, which is abandoned because the gold was exhausted. He explained the speleothems by water drops which are freezing in the cold cave and then petrify. And he was convinced those pillars were necessary to prevent the mountain from collapsing. His (ridiculous) theory was refuted by Dunod de Charnage and later by Father Romain Jolly. Their theory, that the cave was formed by rainwater and the underground river was finally published by Father Boisot in the Journal des Savants on 09-SEP-1696.

The underground river in one of the lower galleries is spanned by a small stone bridge enabling visitors to see the so-called Organ Gallery on the other side. It was erected in 1751, the works were ordered by Jean-Louis Moreau de Beaumont, the military Intendant of Franche-Comté. The stones were cut outside the cave and the workers had to carry them on their back 900 m into the cave, because there was no trail suitable for a cart. Despite the great effort put into this work, the reason why the bridge was built remains unclear. It actually lead nowhere at that time. The use of the bridge for the cave tours began in 1966, after the discovery of a new passage on the other side. With the bridge it could be easily included into the tour.

In 1758 MM. Lacoré widened narrow passages. Why he did this is also unclear, probably he was guide and wanted to make the tours less strenuous or just longer. In 1763 Toulongeon again widened narrow passages. He organized festivals, banquets and concerts in a dry part of the caves. One section of the cave is really dry, the result of a water resistant layer above the passage which blocks dripping water from entering. While the lack of water caused a lack of speleothems, it also made the section less uncomfortable. The most famous participant was the philosopher Voltaire, at least according to local lore he participated several times. Due to the lack of speleothems the erosional forms created by the cave river can be seen much better than in the rest of the cave.

During the French Revolution (1789–1799) the cave was used as a refuge by fugitive priests. One of them, Father Griès, is known by name. Most likely they erected the clay altar which dates to that time.

The cave became an important palaeontological site with worldwide reputation when the great English paleontologist William Buckland (*1784-✝1856) excavated the cave in 1826. Typically for the 19th century, he was on a guided tour of the show cave when he had the idea that this cave looked similar to the ones in Franconia, Germany, where the cave bear was first described. So he started to dig with his hammer. Today he would get expelled, most likely sued, but at that time he was allowed to continue his excavations. He unearthed the first complete skeleton of a BiologyCave Bear (Ursus spelaeus), which he reassembled and exhibited at the British Museum in London. He sent a part of his discoveries to Paris to Georges Cuvier, the French naturalist and zoologist, who is called the founding father of paleontology. One of the strange details was the lack of any other bones, obviously the cave bears displaced all other potential cave visitors like hyena. Georges Cuvier himself later undertook numerous excavations in the cave. The discovery was published by Silliman in the Volume 14 of the American Journal of Sciences and Arts in July 1828. As a result the Osselle cave became internationally famous.

The cave guides are convinced that William Buckland's first cave bear is still on display at the British museum. Obviously they never went there to check. We tried to find it in the online catalogue, which contains 4 Million exhibits, but were not able to find it. While we think that this skeleton is of great importance for the history of science, we would not be surprised to find out, that it was stored to make room for dinosaurs.

The modern tourist trail is 1,200 m long, and more or less level. Moct of the cave can actually be visited with a wheelchair, which is quite exceptional. The operators say that the tour covers 15 galleries, a completely arbitrary term, which was quite popular in the 19th century. The cave has many speleothems, mostly stalactites and stalagmites. One of the numerous cave bear skeletons can be seen on the tour, reassembled. To give an impression on how they looked alive there is a small family of cave bears with fur. While size and proportions give a good impression, the cave bears are not really realistic, they look more like huge teddy bears.