Saturday, October 11, 2008

Corbelled buildings


Gordes is on the side of the Vacluse mountains which are the last outpost of the Alps down towards the Mediterranean Sea. The hillside is thick with limestone rocks. What to do with all the rocks in your fields? Pack them into walls to get them out of the field.

Or build a shed out of them. This is an olive grove with a tool shed. This type of construction is called corbelled building. Antonia was interested in going to ‘Le Village des Bories’ outside Gordes because it is made entirely of corbelled buildings. Antonia is a member of the Vernacular Architecture Society of South Africa (VERNACS). There are corbelled buildings in the Great Karoo which the VERNACS have visited and are currently busy recording. Seeing we were near to Bories she wanted to see the buildings there. The founder of the VERNACS had been here in the past. Those two photos were taken on our walk to Bories from Gordes which is where we started our proper walking tour from.

This is one of the buildings in Bories. A corbelled building is built out of dry stone (no mortar or cement is used; the stones are simply stacked on each other). The distinctive feature is the roof which is made by placing each layer slightly inwards so you end up with a building made entirely out of stones; no wood is used at all, even for the roof.

A view of the roof from the inside (not the same building).

There are seven buildings in the village, only one is a single room separate building. The others are like this. Part is for people & parts are barns or for animals.

I think this is the single room building. Note how tall it is.

Another view of the same one I think.

The building on the left has a ‘window’ – very unusual for Bories.

The hills in the background are Le Petit Luberon. The town where the Malans came from is Merindol & it is just behind the highest point but close to the river Durance on the far side. Those are Holm oak trees in the photo. Notice how much uncultivated land there is in Provence. Over the next three days we were going to walk from here (Bories is close to Borges where we were staying) to Lourmarin which is close to Merindol, mainly through the forests you see in the picture. I had wanted to see the country my ancestors had to flee.

This building is more ‘modern’ shaped with straight walls and a definite start to the roof which also has sharp corners on the hipped end edges. Also has a tiny window. The buildings had collapsed and have been rebuilt so they probably were not so ‘perfectly’ shaped originally.

When they were first built is unclear, there is discussion about it in this link:

It may have been as long ago as the Bronze Age or not before the 15th century according to that link though the last building was in the 1800s which is also when the site was abandoned. Is this the one built in the 1800s?

I am pretty sure this must be the last to be built. Note the frame around the door and window; that is typical of most of the buildings you still see in Provence now. Note the big stones on the corner of the building; again common on the buildings in modern towns in Provence. Plus it is two stories high. This is a museum giving information about Bories and how it was restored between 1969 & 1976. It has pictures of other corbelled buildings around the world but South Africa is not listed. Antonia spoke to them and will be sending them the VASSA Journal about corbelled buildings in the Great Karoo. Antonia had a proper look at the genealogy of people known to have lived in Bories which is inside this museum. Look what she noticed:

I will zoom in further.

My son is called Anton Malan. So the Malans were here too and way back in 1572 & even before that. Not a chateau to have in ones history but I am very content to have this in my record.

I wonder if the Meynards became our Maynards. The x1592 Lacoste is the date of a marriage in Lacoste (a town nearby) is that the origin of our farm name La Cotte? I will make a separate post about this topic.


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