THE BASTIDE'S SECRET
Did you dicover the Bastide’s Secret ? Each of the characters you met on the way round the village gave you a clue : they spoke to you of the need for protection, of what there is beneath the ground, of limestone cavities and a vaulted passage… And yes ! That’s it !
A legend tells of a underground passage connecting the centre of the bastide to its neighbour the Abbaye de Flaran. Quite a story !
Legends of underground passages
Nearly every castle or abbey has its legendary tunnel. These are often in stories told by old people, who believe them, but have never themselves seen the tunnel in question. The person who claims to have « seen » it, in fact has seen something he thought to be the entrance or the exit, but which was blocked by a landslide or rubblr preventing them from going further…
Whenever a legend tells the story of a tunnel that someone has been through from end to end, it’s always someone who died some years ago, and so the story can’t be verified. Often there’s the « dog story »: a dog disappears near the entrance and reappears miraculously near the exit. Therefore the dog went through the tunnel, there can be no doubt !
Oral tradition tells of the rare and brave men who went in but had to turn back when their lamp went out, that the tunnel covers a considerable distance and invariably links the village to a nearby monument, and sometimes ….. there’s the question of treasure.
Is there an underground passage between Valence and Flaran ?
In Valence, the myth of the tunnel that starts from the house of Jeanne d’Albret (perhaps another legend ?) situated on the Church Square and leads to the Abbaye de Flaran has lasted down the centuries, even if it seems technically very complicated. It would need to run under the beds of two rivers (la Baïse and l’Auloue), and reach 40 metres below ground over a distance of more than a kilometre !
And yet there is support for its existence. There is, indeed there is, a cellar wall that sounds hollow, a hole that opens in the road, a ball that disappears down a well, and aren’t there caves in the rock the village stands on to confirm these sayings ?,
Better still, at Flaran, at the beginning of the 1970s the the church wall that runs along the monks’ refectory collapsed. A hole appeared. True, it was full of rubble, but witnesses saw what looked like the shape of an archway in the ruined wall. One legend tells of a tunnel that leads to a room where the monks’ treasures were kept, and even of the bell that disappeared at the time of The Revolution. Everything is kept behind a solid iron gate that opens each year on Christmas Night ... When midnight strikes…
Even if there is no logical explanation and even if tales of tunnels are told simply to whet our taste for sombre mysteries of the Middle Ages, we can still try to understand the origins of the the « tunnel phenomonen ».
Valence is built on a limestone promontory 40 metres above the valley. The soft rock underground has numerous holes, modest holes compared to other sites, but which have been used by the villagers to create caves and sometimes, link them, one to another, which could create passages.
If these cavities were created by water erosion, this also gave the possibility of digging more than 100 wells, for the villagers of Valence and there are several springs each with medicinal virtues known to all throughout the countryside surrounding the bastide.
All these facts provide us with the temptation to transform our modest underground cavities into tunnels as long as one kilometre ! But let’s be reassured, underground passages really do exist. During the Hundred Years’ War, companies of English soldiers often sold the castles they held, having first dug a tunnel a few metres under the walls – so that they could take the castle back…
And what about you ? Did you really believe this story of a tunnel ?