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Sites and their landscapes

How to reconstruct a medieval site: diversity of sources, asset and necessity.
The example of Cistercians monasteries in Auvergne (France)

Emma Bouvard
p. 35-37

Texte intégral

1It is difficult to study monastic sites in countries where archives do not exist or are too late to know what the landscape was like during the Middle Ages. That is the case in central France. The old dioceses of Clermont and Le Puy accommodated ten Cistercian monasteries between 1126 and the beginning of the 13th century (Fig. 1). This network has never been studied before and the reason is obvious: none of these abbeys has preserved any of its records. In the best case, there are the ruins and modern registers of accounts (Bouvard, 2006). This is hardly enough for a study of how the white monks colonised an area, and how they lived using the existing resources without worrying about disease. Nonetheless, the sites themselves remain with their geographic characteristics, toponymic testimony and sometimes physical evidence hidden in the landscape. Thus they become the real subject of research which requires a multidisciplinary approach, including special methods like geoarchaeology. The goal of this approach is to understand the adaptation of monasteries to their environment: how sites were chosen and how they were transformed into a place to live for the monks.

Figure 1: Map of the Cistercian abbeys in Auvergne (Emma Bouvard).

Figure 1: Map of the Cistercian abbeys in Auvergne (Emma Bouvard).

2First of all, monks rarely chose the location of their monastery, being given land by a noble family on its own property. This is the case in Auvergne. So, they had to adapt their building to natural constraints. When we talk about the monks’ choice, it is the way in which they build in a set place and how they transform the landscape to manage it. These transformations remain visible for a long time, even today. Deciphering the anomalies of the landscape provides the opportunity to reconstruct its history before and after the arrival of the Cistercians. The purpose is to create a graphic restitution of the Cistercian site with its hydraulics and economic structure and monastic buildings. At the end, this work will allow a comparison of the ten sites in order to see, if a Cistercian building model exists or not.

3Surveys on foot, linked with archival and cartographic researches (lato sensu survey, Verhaeghe, 1986) were undertaken during several weeks last year on seven abbeys in Auvergne. Four will be presented here: Clavas (Bergeron, 2004 and 2002), Bellecombe (Theillère), La Séauve-Bénite (Peyron, 1992) and Feniers (Cantal – Rochemonteix, 1882). The main sources for our investigations are La carte de Cassini, LeCadastre Napoléonien, topographic maps (1/25000) and air photos. The objective was to discover hydraulic installations testifying to the way in which the Cistercians adaptated to their environment (Bouvard, 2008). Each structure was listed and mapped. These graphic restitutions show huge systems which protect the monk communities from water, while supplying the monasteries with the commodity (Bouvard, 2008).

4In this communication I will explain how insignificant monastic sites could be recreated thanks to the method. I will present the results of a land survey which emphasizes the link between Cistercians communities and the landscape, moreover the hydraulic patrimony, because water remains the first condition of settlement (Fig. 2).

Figure 2: Clavas abbey, Riotord, Haute-Loire, France. Hydraulic system restitution (Patrick Boudon and Emma Bouvard).

Figure 2: Clavas abbey, Riotord, Haute-Loire, France. Hydraulic system restitution (Patrick Boudon and Emma Bouvard).
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Bibliographie

Bergeron, R., 2004. L’abbaye cistercienne de Notre-Dame de Clavas aux xvie et xviie siècles. Cahiers de la Haute-Loire 2004: 59-78.

Bergeron, R., 2002. L’abbaye cistercienne de Notre-Dame-de-Clavas au xviiie siècle. Cahiers de la Haute-Loire 2002: 237-264.

Bouvard, E., 2008. Inventaire des infrastructures hydrauliques cisterciennes, levés topographiques des vestiges. Campagne de prospection 2008. Service Régional de l’Archéologie Auvergne, 2 vol.

Bouvard, E., 2006. Opération d’archéologie programmée Abbaye cistercienne de Mègemont, commune de Chassagne, dans le Puy de Dôme. Université Lumière Lyon 2 et Service Régional de l’Archéologie Auvergne.

Bouvard, E., 2005. Opération d’archéologie d’élévation programmée et surveillance de travaux sur l’abbaye de Mègemont (Puy-de-Dôme). Université Lumière Lyon 2 et Service Régional de l’Archéologie Auvergne.

Peyron, P., 1002. Abbaye cistercienne de la Seauve-Bénite en Velay, quelques points d’histoire, mémoire dactylographié.

Rochemonteix, A., 1882. L’Histoire de l’abbaye de Feniers ou du Val-Honnête en Auvergne.

Verhaeghe, F., 1986. La prospection “sensu lato”: quelques expériences en Flandres (Belgique). La prospection archéologique. Paysage et peuplement, Actes de la table ronde des 14 et 15 mai 1982, Paris, Document d’Archéologie Française n° 3, 101-108.

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Table des illustrations

Titre Figure 1: Map of the Cistercian abbeys in Auvergne (Emma Bouvard).
URL http://archeosciences.revues.org/docannexe/image/1240/img-1.png
Fichier image/png, 159k
Titre Figure 2: Clavas abbey, Riotord, Haute-Loire, France. Hydraulic system restitution (Patrick Boudon and Emma Bouvard).
URL http://archeosciences.revues.org/docannexe/image/1240/img-2.png
Fichier image/png, 38k
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Pour citer cet article

Référence papier

Emma Bouvard, « How to reconstruct a medieval site: diversity of sources, asset and necessity.
The example of Cistercians monasteries in Auvergne (France) », ArcheoSciences, 33 (suppl.) | 2009, 35-37.

Référence électronique

Emma Bouvard, « How to reconstruct a medieval site: diversity of sources, asset and necessity.
The example of Cistercians monasteries in Auvergne (France) », ArcheoSciences [En ligne], 33 (suppl.) | 2009, mis en ligne le 30 octobre 2011, consulté le 29 avril 2017. URL : http://archeosciences.revues.org/1240 ; DOI : 10.4000/archeosciences.1240

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Auteur

Emma Bouvard

Archaeologist, preparing a thesis about Middle Ages Archaeology (directors: Nicolas Reveyron, Université Lumière Lyon 2, UMR 5138, and Bruno Phalip, Université Blaise Pascal, Clermont II) (emma_bouvard@yahoo.fr)

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Droits d’auteur

Article L.111-1 du Code de la propriété intellectuelle.

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