The natural sculpture of the Causse Noir

by | Feb 8, 2024

The natural sculpture of the Causse Noir The Causse Noir is known for its spectacular rock formations that tell us all about the region’s geological history. The landscape is littered with natural sculptures which seem to have escaped from some world of giants. Abrupt cliff-faces and natural arches, each rock formation seems to be a fragment of some monumental artwork created by mother nature. These rock formations also provide refuge for a diverse range of plant and animal species which have adapted to this unique environment. The Cité de Pierres of Montpellier-le-Vieux in the heart of the Causse Noir, is a genuine open-air museum where the rocks have become natural and living sculptures with a mysterious past silently telling us of nature’s unwavering power.

History & Geology

Long before mankind first appeared on the Earth, over 170 million years ago, the geology of Aveyron began to form under a tropical sea with an abundant marine life. 10 million years later the remains of these living organisms would leave a 300 metre thick layer of limestone on the ground. The formation of the Alps and the Pyrenees, 100 million years ago, gave rise to a series of parallel fault-lines much like those of glaciers. After 80 million years, the Causse Noir region emerged and erosion sculpted the limestone landscape into spectacular forms which came to resemble unique and monumental natural sculptures.

The Cité de Pierres was first explored in 1884 and then mapped in 1885 by the famous explorer Edouard Alfred Martel, it is located in Montpellier-le-Vieux and includes a unique concentration of narrow passages, dead ends and cirques carved into the living rock and forming into the architecture of an imaginary city littered with natural sculptures, each one more spectacular than the last.

Discover 30 natural and monumental sculptures

The natural sculptures of the Cité de Pierres, are among the most impressive rocky monoliths to be seen in the Causse Noir.

Wander the pathways of the Cité de Pierres and discover and photograph its 30 natural and monumental sculptures:

  1. La Cuidad
  2. Le Douminal
  3. La Brèche de Rolland
  4. Roc du Corridor
  5. Avenue du Corridor
  6. L’Amphore
  7. L’Oule
  8. La Cathédrale
  9. La Grande Nef
  10. L’Éléphant
  11. Les Remparts
  12. Le Grand Sphinx
  13. La Quille
  14. L’Avenue des Obélisques
  15. La Porte de Mycènes
  16. Le Crocodile
  17. L’Arc de Triomphe
  18. Le Roc Camparolié
  19. Château Gaillard
  20. Roc de la Lucarne
  21. L’Escarpe
  22. La Chaire du Diable
  23. Le Trou de La Lune
  24. La Tête de l’Ours
  25. La Reine Victoria
  26. L’Allée des Tombeaux
  27. Le Sphinx
  28. La Chaise Curule
  29. La Poterne
  30. La Tête d’Arlequin

How do I visit the Cité de Pierres?

The Cité de Pierres is a natural site that has been adapted to allow visitors to discover its monolithic grandeur in total safety.

You will receive a map of the site at reception to help you find your way around this labyrinth of rock formations.

Walking trails

The discovery pass provides access to the site so that you can discover its natural sculptures via 6 special walking trails. Don’t forget your walking shoes, water bottle and hat when you set off on such an adventure!

Miniature train

Once you have your discovery pass you can also add a ticket for the miniature train so that you can enjoy a guided visit with a number of stops on the way to admire the naturally sculpted rock formations.

Games

The Cité de Pierres Explor’Games and “Martel’s Secret” Adventure Game are a fun way to discover the site with children and adolescents, by solving riddles as you make your way through the site. Buy a ticket for the game of your choice and ask for the kit at reception.

Via Ferrata

The Cité de Pierres via ferrata is one of the most beautiful via ferratas of the Millau region, it provides a unique way to discover the natural sculptures of the Causse Noir. There are 2 via ferratas catering to two different proficiency levels. There is a supplement charge for the via ferrata.

Article rédigé par

Joséphine Besson