Grottes de Lascaux

Train Brive & Sarlat.
Info place Bertran-de-Born, Montignac
(05) 53 51 82 60 or (05) 53 05 65
65. # Jun–Sep: daily; Apr–May
& Oct–Dec: Tue–Sun.
¢ Jan–early Feb. 8 &
www.semitour.com

 

The cave that became
known as the “Sistine
Chapel of prehistory” was
discovered on 12 September
1940 by four young boys
who were out walking. Its
paintings, which date from
around 18,000 BC, provide a
glimpse of that remote age.
It is now known that the cave
was never inhabited, and
the precise meaning of the
images on its walls remains
unclear. The prehistoric artists
who created them used the
relief of the cave walls to
help breathe a sense of life
into their depictions of bulls,
deer, horses and ibexes that
cover every surface from
floor to ceiling.
The cave rapidly became a
major attraction, drawing in
thousands of visitors. But
this influx also allowed in a
number of harmful microorganisms,
which caused the
paintings to deteriorate. It
was therefore decided to
close the cave in 1963. The
local authority then went about creating an exact
replica, just 200m (700ft)
from the original, close to
the town of Montignac.
Lascaux II, a remarkable feat
of scientific accuracy and
artistic skill, opened in 1983.
Executed by an artist using
the same techniques and
materials as her distant
ancestors, the paintings are
an accurate reconstruction of
the originals, around 70 per
cent of which have been
replicated on the walls of
two main cavities, the
Diverticule Axial (Central
Passage) and the Salle des
Taureaux (Hall of Bulls).
Montignac itself, is also
worth a visit. A bustling town,
it contains a number of fine
14th–16th century houses.

 

Environs
At Thonac, 10km (6 miles)
to the southwest of Lascaux,
is the Château de Losse, an
elegant residence built in
1576 on the ruins of the town’s
medieval fortress. It was once
the residence of Jean II de
Losse, the private tutor of Henri
IV. The 14th-century Tour de
l’Éperon stands on the ramparts
and a fortified gatehouse
guards the fixed bridge that
leads to the main courtyard. A
range of interesting 15th- and
17th-century furniture fills the
building’s Renaissance-style
interior. Nearby is the Tour de la Vermondie. According to
legend, this 13th-century
leaning tower was built at this
angle in order to make it
possible for the young girl
who was imprisoned there to
lean out and kiss her fiancé
as he passed by.