Place d'Onclaire, 07000 Coux.
From the Rhône Valley, take the D104 towards Privas and stop at Coux, place d'Onclaire.
|Cave House Cave Castle
|Incandescent Electric Light System
Coux Town Hall, Espace des Grads, 07000 Coux, Tel: +33-475-642204.
Monts d'Ardèche Regional Nature Park, Domain of Rochemure, 07380 Jaujac, Tel: +33-475-363860.
|As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
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Grottes troglodytes de la Jaubernie are cave houses, or actually fortified caves, which are more like cave castles. They were built and used by Huguenots, protestants which were at some point pursued in catholic France of the 16th century. They built such hideouts all over the country, some were killed, the others left the country, many settled in Germany, which was happy to invite the well-educated artisans and entrepreneurs. Actually those who went into exile were lucky.
In the departement Ardèche there were many Protestant during the 16th century, due to its proximity to Geneva. This time is also called the French Wars of Religion, between 1562 and 1598, with a total of nine wars. Between two and four million people died from violence, famine or diseases which were directly caused by the conflict. It ended with the Edict of Nantes, promulgated by Henri IV in 1598, which granted the Calvinist Protestants of France, also known as Huguenots, substantial rights. It recognizes 75 places of worship in the area of Privas, which was a stronghold of Protestantism. But the Catholics continued to be hostile against the Protestants and the King, who faced many attempts on his life and was finally assassinated in 1610. His successor Louis XIII wanted to reduce the power of the Protestants. He led military campaigns for this purpose, including the siege of Privas in 1629 by the King himself and by Richelieu. The city was conquered after only a few days of siege, the Protestants of the Privadois fled to the hamlet La Jaubernie and fortified the caves. It seems the caves were used until 1787 when Louis XVI signed the Edict of Versailles, known as the “Edict of Tolerance”. They left their hideouts which remained almost unchanged until today.
The caves of Jaubernie are located on the northern side of the Ouvèze valley and are part of the Regional Natural Park and the GeoPark of the Monts d'Ardèche. The caves are located in sandstone and conglomeratic limestone with quartz pebbles from the nearby crystalline basement. The sedimentary rocks were formed underwater in a deltaic environment during the Domerian (190 Ma) in the Lower Jurassic. Quite impressive are belemnite rostra which oriented by the underwater currents, and so they show the major direction of those currents. They were fossilized by the circulation of fluids containing baryte which replaced the calcite. The erosion of the valley during the Quaternary created an escarpment, the west face of the outcrop contains numerous small caves and shelters. Fluids circulating in cracks dissolved the calcitic cement, the resulting sand was eroded.
There are eight caves, but only the four along the cliff are still accessible. The others are at the edge of the stream, but are no longer accessible. The caves were widened and closed by a massive wall with loopholes and gatehouse, there were wooden floors inside which are now gone. There is a trail which connects the caves but is sometimes a little overgrown. Above the caves is a large stone slab named Le Clapas which shows circular cavities. These are traces of the extraction of grindstones used for the mills of the region. The start of the trail is at the main road D104 at Coux, place d'Onclaire, and is signposted with small signs reading "Les Grottes – La Jaubernie". The single lane road is the access to the numerous houses and farms on the hillside, and if you are brave you can drive up to the end of the road. If you walk, it's a nice 5 km round trip. While the trail and the caves are freely accessible, please be aware that the caves are private property. A descriptive sheet is available at the Tourist Office.