Updated: Jan 25, 2021
Carnac Stones, France
France has its share of sacred sites, although only a few will be discussed in length here. Although stone circles are relatively common in the British Isles and stone rows rare, the opposite is true in France. "The greatest concentration of upright stones (menhirs) in Europe – 3,000 of them in all – stands just to the north of Carnac, a small coastal town in Brittany. Unlike Stonehenge, all but 70 of the stones at Carnac are arranged in [twelve] parallel rows." The rows stretching northward for over one kilometer are not equidistant from one another. Rather, they become progressively closer together towards the outer rows like a gigantic narrow fan, according to the statistical analyses and accurate surveying done by Dr. Alexander Thom, who believes Carnac may have originally totaled about 7,000 stones!
Within twenty kilometers of Carnac in the Morbihan region 44 dolmens or burial chambers are to be found. These graves were constructed around 5,000 BC, which predates Stonehenge by about 2,300 years and the Egyptian pyramids by 1,000 years. These dolmens are either passage graves (circular or rectangular chambers approached by a passage or corridor from the outside) or gallery graves (long rectangular chambers inside a burial mound). Many of the stones forming the burial chambers have fantastic and elaborate designs carved on them, which seem to have symbolic meaning as well as being art forms. Some of the designs show axe-heads, perhaps signifying either an agricultural symbol or one designating authority. One motif is a circle with projecting rays, while spirals and circles are other favorite designs. "Gavrinis" dolmen has axe designs and an array of clustered arcs, chevrons and serpentine forms on 23 of the 29 upright passage and chamber stones. The most beautiful tomb is "Table des Marchands" with four rows of large hook-like designs (corn-sheaves or shepherds’ crooks?) contained within a shield-shaped tablet which itself is surrounded by sunbeams.
Table des Marchands
Bare bones (from cremated remains) were interred within these tombs, while pottery, flint arrowheads, pendants, and large polished axes were buried with them as well.
Menhirs or standing stones are found over this wide area and many are associated with the tombs, but carvings on these are rare. Generally the stones are in their natural state, but a few have been sculpted using water and heat. "Le Geant" is the tallest standing stone, about 6 meters tall.
These stones are often found in pairs, spaced some distance apart. "Professor Thom has studied the relative location of many menhirs in the surrounding countryside and has suggested that the directions determined by such intervisible menhirs indicate some of the positions on the horizon of the moon and sun rising and setting at significant points of the calendar." The stone rows at Carnac may have been aligned to predict eclipses as well.
Chartres, the world-famous, stunningly-architected 13th century cathedral, situated in the small city bearing its name, is only one hour’s drive from Paris. Chartres Cathedral is generally known for its 176 sets of magnificent stained-glass windows. These windows, which can be removed, were taken down and stored during World War II in order to preserve the13th century glass masterpieces. However, Chartres contains secrets not usually known to the ordinary tourist.
Quite often churches of other religions were built on ancient holy sites while the energy and sacredness of the location was maintained. "The student of Chartres Cathedral, Louis Charpentier, argued persuasively that there was originally a Neolithic mound containing a dolmen or a cave which ultimately became the site for a crypt which pre-dated the gothic structure." Another scholar, Bulteau, maintains that the spot on which Chartres was built was originally a holy Druid sanctuary and the center of Druidism. "The cathedral’s historian, Suchet, relates how there was once a sacred forest on the hilltop where Chartres [Cathedral] now stands. Centuries earlier, it was known as Carnute, where – according to Julius Caesar – druids held their ceremonies…An old well behind the cathedral is believed to have been used by druids for purposes of divination."
Chartres remained a sacred site and after the building of the Cathedral became a popular place of pilgrimage during the Middle Ages. Chartres was then what Lourdes is today and sick people went there to be nursed back to health. "A Latin document of the first years of the 13th century relates miracles that took place in [Chartres]… and considerably helped to spread the reputation of the sanctuary, even beyond the frontiers."
A mystery at Chartres lies in its famous maze, a "…42-foot diameter, thirteenth-century labyrinth design laid out on the nave floor (usually covered by chairs nowadays).
Geometer Keith Critchlow has noted that if the elevation of the west front of the cathedral is ‘hinged down’ onto the ground plan, the great West Rose window ‘not only conforms basically in size to the maze, but…covers it almost exactly." What was the labyrinth used for? "Interpretations of the function of …mazes concentrate on their uses for various dancing and walking rituals...It is possible that the sudden changes of direction required by the convoluted route are associated with the dizzying changes in consciousness, akin to the effect of hallucinogens, or at a more mundane level the exhilaration of dance."
Of historical interest relating to ancient civilizations and their interest in the sun and moon is found in the spires of the Cathedral. "Facing the west front, the left hand tower rises 365 feet…the right hand tower is 28 feet shorter. The left hand tower therefore represents the number of days in the solar year, the 28 foot shortfall of the right hand tower representing the number of days in a lunar month. The solar and lunar symbolism of the towers is further reinforced in that each tower has the appropriate sun or moon symbol on its weather vane!"
Black Madonna of Chartres
The Black Madonna is one of Chartres most important treasures. "A well, 108 feet deep, opens in the crypt at Chartres which today houses a copy of a wooden effigy of the Blessed Virgin and Child. [The original was destroyed during the French Revolution.] The statue, carved in the hollowed-out trunk of a pear tree and very ancient, represented the Holy Virgin, seated with the Infant God on her knees. Age had blackened it, for it was made, not by Christians but before the birth of the Savior by Druids, pagan priests to whom a prophetic angel announced that a Virgin would give birth to a God…"
Yet Chartres is not the only location where the Black Madonna is in residence. Many other churches and grottos in southeastern France and other places in the world contain statues of Black Madonnas, famous for healing powers and stories of miraculous cures. "They are unlike most Christian icons in their earthiness and magnetism, and the dark feminine. It is an archetype of the sensual, uninhibited woman who is fertile and expressive…a direct link to the pagan fertility goddess and the symbolism of the wisdom of the body and the earth."
Research and "legends tell us that [Mary Magdalene] sailed to France from the Middle East with a small group of Initiates [thirteen years after the Crucifixion], carrying with her the Grail…accompanied by her black Egyptian servant, Sara." According to myth, Mary lived in seclusion in a cave in Ste. Baume until her death thirty years later. The Knights Templar and the Cathars lived in France during the Middle Ages, the good men who gave their lives to preserve and honor the wisdom of the ancient Gnostic teachings and the pursuit of the Holy Grail. Is there a connection between them and this myth? Reportedly related to the Masons and Rosicrucians, their history is veiled by mystery.
Mont Ste. Michel
The Mont Ste. Michel on the Normandy/Brittany border is said to be aligned on the St. Michael’s leyline that runs through England and across the channel to France. Like its counterpart, St. Michael’s Mount in England, it is situated on an island, accessible only when the tide is low. They both have churches which are dedicated to St. Michael.
No pilgrimage to sacred sites is complete without a trip to France (and the food is great, too).
SYMBOLIC LANDSCAPES, Paul Devereux, Gothic Image Publications, Glastonbury, England, 1992 SECRETS OF ANCIENT AND SACRED PLACES, Paul Devereux, Blandford Publishing, London, England, 1995 THE SACRED EARTH, Brian Leigh Molyneaux, Little, Brown & Company, Boston, MA, 1995 CHARTRES, GUIDE OF THE CATHEDRAL, Etienne Houvet CARNAC AND THE MEGALITHIC MONUMENTS OF THE MORBIHAN, Pitkin Pictorials THE ATLAS OF HOLY PLACES AND SACRED SITES, Colin Wilson, DK Publishing, London, England, 1996
Lauren O. Thyme is a spiritual and psychic counselor, channel, lecturer, published writer and poet (author of 10 published books and hundreds of articles), professional astrologer, permaculture farmer, and spiritual pilgrim.