La-Roque-Saint-Christophe visitor guide

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The cave system at La Roque-Saint-Christophe is a large prehistoric settlement complex situated about nine kilometres north of Les Eyzies, on the south bank of the Vezere River, in a very scenic and attractive location. La Roque-St-Christophe is the largest settlement of its type in Europe.

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France This Way review: La Roque-Saint-Christophe is an amazing site where people lived in the cliff face from prehistoric to medieval times. As well as traces of the ancient settlement reconstructions have been made of aspects of their daily life to give a real feel for how these communities lived.

La Roque-Saint-Christophe is an extensive series of caves that have been carved out of a soft limestone cliff, initially by the action of the river then with further excavations by prehistoric man.

Working machines reconstructed in La Roque-Saint-Christophe

The cliff is almost a kilometre in length and 80 metres high and contained an entire prehistoric village above the river itself. It was approximately 55,000 years ago that man first started to inhabit these natural caves.

Various items from prehistoric times have been found at the site including tools and engraved bones and in 1913 the 3000 year old skeletons of an adult and adolescent were found in a burial place in the large abri.

It was from the 6th - 16th centuries that the cliff also became developed as a village, with numerous buildings and fortifications backing onto the cliff. It seems likely that the village was occupied continuously during this entire period, until it was finally abandoned in 1588 during the Wars of Religion.

When you visit La Roque-Saint-Christophe you can now see numerous remnants of the dwellings that once covered this section of the cliff, and the steps and passages that linked the buildings. The caves often had front walls added to make the accommodation more sheltered and safer from attack.

There are also various reconstructions at the site, showing the dwellings as they would have been such as the kitchen utensils and sleeping arrangements, the types of tools used during their construction, and explaining the way of life of the inhabitants.

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Many of the methods of construction are quite advanced, including winches to lift large rocks up the cliff face and scaffold structures allowing access to more of the cliff.

By the middle ages the 'town' included all the commerces that you would expect to find such as shops, areas for raising animals, a forge and a bread oven. Although we can see remains of these it is not easy to imagine this peaceful riverside location at La Roque-Saint-Christophe as a thriving town!

You can also learn the fascinating history of the fort that was built up the cliff in the 10th century, and the treasure that was abandoned by the English that might just still be hidden somewhere in the cave system.

The fort was on the left side of the site and is the first part of the visit and includes the arms rooms, stable, safe and the recreation of a kitchen. You then enter a tunnel in the rock and on the other side the long length of the troglodyte village stretches ahead.

Note: the scenery in the wooded Vezere valley is almost as much a highlight here as the ancient settlements!

La Rogue-Saint-Christophe is open all year round except for Christmas day and New Years day. It is open from 10.00 to 17.00 and longer in the summer. There is a large parking area and picnic tables and in the summer there is a snack bar.

La Roque-Saint-Christophe

Attractions nearby

The cliff village at La Roque-Saint-Christophe is just one of several prehistoric settlements in this region: discover the other main sites in our Vézère valley guide as well as other prehistoric sites in France.

The pretty village of Saint-Leon-sur-Vezere is another highlight nearby. It has a lovely Roman style church and lots of attractive houses in the village as well as a pretty riverside setting.

You can find more travel ideas in the Dordogne guide and the Aquitaine guide.

See also: 

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The French version of this page is at La-Roque-Saint-Christophe (Francais)

 
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