As part of our adventure into deepest Vienne last week we paid a visit to the Merovingian necropolis (
) in Civaux. An interesting place that in the past had the chapel above at its centre. Merovingian Cemetery
There isn't a great deal left of this 15th /16th century building. It was built on the site of an older building, probably Romanesque.
A view of the small entrance to the chapel.
Excavations in 1961 uncovered sarcophagi within the chapel along with 13th and 14th century coins and other small artefacts which can be seen in the villages small museum.
The discovery of these was not I'm sure much of a surprise as this site listed as a 'monument historique' once apparently contained anything from 7,000 to 15,000 of them! Dated from the 6th to 8th century.
There are hundreds still visible today in various configurations'
Local legend has it that they were used to bury the soldiers (Franks) killed in 507 A.D. during the battle of Vouillé but historians dispute this. No real answer has been found as to why so many burials took place herein such a small village. It has links to Christianity dating back to the 4th century and there is evidence around the newer church in the village that it may well have been a place of pilgrimage for many centuries.
It is still used as the villages cemetery today but with more traditional methods of burial.
The entire cemetery wall is actually made up of sarcophagi lids set as 'standing stones' - this was done before the 18th century and offers a historic contrast to the modern nuclear power station that is its backdrop.