Roche-aux-Fées (Essé) - outside
Massive Angevin dolmen / allée couverte near Essé in the Ille-et-Vilaine Département of Brittany, 20 metres long by almost 5 metres wide and 2 metres high. The main chamber is divided into four sections by three internal upright slabs. The entrance porchway is about 3 metres long, and fronted by the most lovely portico, consisting of two uprights and a lintel of carefully worked and positioned stone.
100 kilometers north of Nantes, near Retiers in the small commune of Essé, the more adventurous will encounter the Idyllic Roche Aux Fées, or “fairies Rock.” The site has been known for centuries but only recently made more presentable. Within the last couple of decades, the local commune, encouraged by the local priest, cleared the area and bought up a bankrupt local golf course to build a parking lot and small visitors center. There is an enthusiastic attendant there.
In its original state, Roche Des Fées, would have been a south east facing nearly 20 meter long barrow, with several large chambers. It is constructed with very large, nearly rectangular reddish brown basaltic blocks that give the site a very structured look. As it stands, it could be described as a mini Stonehenge, were it not for its roofed rectangular shape. It is said to be one of the largest sites in Europe. Originally, it would have been covered by a tumulus, which is now long gone. A couple of the medium sized stones are also displaced to the sides, a 300 year old oak growing over one of them. One of the roof slabs lost a small chunk due to degradation of the rock over 5,000 years, and this piece now lies on the floor of the middle chamber.
Roche Aux Fées served more as a grave, but rituals took place here, according to my pendulum. The cap stone at the entrance has a few indentations, in which blood traces have been found, which would have resulted from animal sacrifices. The South/East facing entrance points directly towards the winter solstice sunrise. The blocks were originally quarried 4 km away, according to the guidebook.
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France is affectionately referred to as "the Hexagon" for its overall shape.
French history goes back to the Gauls, a Celtic tribe which inhabited the area circa 300BC until being conquered by Julius Caesar.
The Franks were the first tribe to adopt Catholic Christianity after the Roman Empire collapsed. France became an independent location in the Treaty of Verdun in (843 AD), which divided up Charlemagne's Carolingian Empire into several portions.
The French monarchy reached its zenith during the reign of Louis XIV, the Sun King, who stood for seventy-two years as the Monarch of all Monarchs. His palace of Versailles and its Hall of Mirrors are a splendid treasure-trove of Baroque art.
The French Revolution ended the rule of the monarchy with the motto "Liberty, Equality, Fraternity!" On July 14th, 1789 angry mobs stormed La Bastille prison and began the Revolution in which Louis XVI, his wife Marie-Antoinette and thousands of others met the guillotine.
One decade after the revolution, Napolean Bonaparte seized control of the Republic and named himself Emperor. His armies conquered most of Europe and his Napoleonic Code became a lasting legal foundation for concepts of personal status and property.
During the period of colonization France controlled the largest empire in the world, second only to Britain.
France is one of the founding members of the European Union and the United Nations, as well as one of the nuclear armed nations of the world.
Text by Steve Smith.