Les Grottes de Perrier – Auvergne's largest troglodyte site
Les Grottes de Perrier, a geological site created by volcanic eruption
Les Grottes de Perrier is a group of troglodyte dwellings that is also known as Village des Roches.
These caves are located on the cliff of the Plateau de Perrier, a geological area in the heart of the ancient volcanoes of Auvergne region.
The plateau appeared during the formation of the Monts Dore stratovolcano.
The alternation of fluvial deposits (mud, sand and gravel) and lava flows and volcanic rock debris from the pyroclastic cloud filled a vast river valley.
This type of volcanic mud-flow or debris flow is known in geology as lahar.
The site of Perrier is considered one of the most spectacular clusters of lahar in the world!
The river Allier then dug its valley, carrying away sand, mud and gravel, exposing a 100m long plateau and digging cavities in its 100m long cliff.
Grottes de Perrier converted into troglodyte habitat
The prehistoric artefacts uncovered on the site show men have inhabited these rock shelters since the earliest times.
The Celtic Arverni later enlarged, adapted and converted these natural caves into dwellings.
So it’s not surprising that the local Patois perières, which means excavations – caves dug by man, evolved into perriers.
In the 10th century, their descendants built the first houses below in the plain.
However, they retreated in the troglodyte Village des Roches in the 15th century during the Hundred Years War.
They fortified it with an enclosure and transformed a fairy chimney into a watchtower known as Tour de Maurifolet.
Ancient documents show that several hundred villagers lived in the caves in the late 16th century.
A century later, they abandoned their troglodyte dwellings for the valley where they founded the current village.
Some families, however, remained in the Village des Roches; by the late 19th century about 20 still lived there and the last inhabitant left at the end of WWII.
The Village des Roches troglodyte dwellings
The troglodyte caves are laid out on two levels.
Dwellings were on the upper sections of the cliff, wine cellars at the foot.
Paths ran along the cliff to connect the dwellings while stairs and ladders linked the different levels; vegetable gardens and vineyards spread below.
Over the centuries, the villagers adapted their dwellings to their need.
The first men expanded and adapted the natural rock shelters, which generally consist of a 3/4m wide vaulted room.
Their descendants enlarged their living space by building extensions in masonry or wood outside the cavities.
The following generations abandoned this semi-troglodyte style construction and built stone houses against the cliff rock.
Many dwellings have retained to this day traces of human occupation: fireplaces, partition walls, carved furniture, cavities for their lamps...
Grottes de Perrier, a protected site part of Natura 2000
Not only is Perrier the largest troglodyte site in Auvergne, but it was declared a protected site in 1930 and is part the Natura 2000 network.
This organization aims to protect natural habitats and species habitats in line with existing human activities.
The Plateau de Perrier indeed boasts an exceptional fauna and flora associated with dry lawns.
The association for the safeguarding of Perrier heritage was created in 1997 to slow the degradation of the site but also to restore it.
The site is still fragile because of the ongoing natural erosion, but marked trails lead the visitor to the discovery of the 300 rock shelters uncovered to date.
Department of Puy-de-Dôme - Perrier - Auvergne region
Coordinates: Lat 45.548214 - Long 3.200267
Credits photos: Jean Piludu alias Papou Poustache @cpauvergne