The weekend of 14th-15th September was the opportunity for organisations large and small all over France to display the nation's lesser-known heritage under the Journées Européennes du Patrimoine scheme. This is no thanks to the dreadful national website, or the Centre region booklet which contrived to omit everything in the canton of Ligueil! Having friends who live in Charnizay own up to never having visited their local dolmen (you know who you are), the excellent leaflet for Touraine du Sud brought this megalithic monument to our attention. There was to be a visite commentée - a guided tour.
Accompanied by our friend Joan, we followed the signs from Charnizay along the road to Obterre and were finally guided to an enclosure along a stretch of track where we could see other cars parked. In the midst of a rolling lawn surrounded by trees there is a massive assembly of stone, believed to date from the early Neolithic period about 5000 years ago. It is the work of people who had no iron tools, no tractor-driven diggers, just flint and antler picks. The capstone is 6 metres by 4.2 metres and weighs 50 tonnes, an almost incredible feat of the human spirit..
|The guided visit under way|
|The Palets de Gargantua|
|The interpretative board... the information can be read if you click on the picture...|
The name originates with the giant Gargantua, who is a character from the works of Rabelais. A palet is a quoit, a throwing toy. One legend is that Gargantua's wife carried the quoits in her apron to the Champ de l'Ormeau (ou de l'Humeau) where Les Palets de Gargantua now stands. Alternatively, Gargantua himself threw the quoits, from Charnizay or from Bossay-sur-Claise. Gargantua amused himself by hurling the quoits at his target which was the menhir (standing stone) at Draché according to some, or the dolmen at Civray-sur-Esvres according to others.
The site is beautifully presented, with a brand new interpretive board and for the day a display of the publications of the Association under a neat awning. It would make a good picnic spot - there are picnic tables for that purpose! The sheer size of the dolmen was overwhelming, but there is a sense of great peace.