Exploring prehistoric La Roque Saint Christophe, all year round is written and photographed by Mimi Beck Knudsen.
The tourists crowds have returned home and the days are still sunny and mild. It’s a perfect time to explore the prehistoric sites of the Périgord region. Having a teenaged houseguest inspires us, on one recent day, to head to La Roque Saint-Christophe, a site near Les-Eyzies in the Dordogne department.
The 32-step monolithic staircase at La Roque Saint-Christophe is one of the largest in Europe.
This UNESCO World Heritage site was inhabited by the “People of the Cliffs” thousands of years ago. In fact, humans lived in this rock shelter from prehistoric times through the Middle Ages until the Renaissance.
Our drive to prehistoric La Roque Saint-Christophe takes us through Les Eyzies in the direction of Montignac. Just as we approach Peyzac, we park in the free lot on the left side of the road and avail ourselves of the restrooms behind the snack bar. Across the road, we climb some steps (there’s also a ramp, although visitors with disabilities may have some trouble negotiating the rocky paths of La Roque) and buy our tickets at the gift shop.
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Visitors walk along the rock shelter at La Roque Saint Christophe.
In addition to a walk through history, visitors to La Roque Saint Christophe can enjoy beautiful views over the Vézère river and valley.
The cave’s floors and ceilings were cut to form a church at La Roque Saint Christophe.
We walk through along the cliff through the fort where I am distracted by the beautiful views of the valley below. The grand abri/Boulevard de l’Humanite stretches along the rock shelter for several hundred meters. A large screen shows a fascinating animated film that recreates the history of La Roque.
Our stroll takes us back through time, as the caves were transformed in the Middle Ages to a troglodytic fortress, then later into a medieval city. The British seized prehistoric La Roque Saint Christophe during the Hundred Years War and occupied it for five years. Some Protestants lived in the cliff houses during the Wars of Religion until finally being removed in 1588.
Along the way, large signs (in French and English), provide insights into the lives of those who lived among the rock ledge.
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La Grue à balancier (the pendulum crane) allowed heavy loads to be lifted up the side of the cliffs at La Roque Saint-Christophe.
A window at La Roque Saint-Christophe looks out over the Vézère river and valley.
Artifacts found at La Roque Saint-Christophe offer archaeologists insight into life in prehistoric and medieval times.
It is no surprise that the site has yielded abundant archaeological treasures making prehistoric La Roque Saint Christophe a living book of Périgordian history.
We’re ready for lunch after our hour-long visit to La Roque so we continue up the road to the plus beau village of Saint-Léon-sur-Vézère. In addition to a nice selection of restaurants, the town contains a lovely Romanesque church and is home to a fair number of artisans.
La Roque Saint-Christophe is open every day, all year round, making it, along with Saint-Léon-sur-Vézère, an ideal destination for an autumn or winter outing.
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Saint-Léon-sur-Vézère has a half-dozen restaurants offering everything from traditional Périgordian fare to picnics-to-go.
Saint-Léon-sur-Vézère offers food, art and leisure in the heart of the Périgord.
This 12th-century Romanesque church in Saint-Léon-sur-Vézère is listed as a historical monument.
For more information about the local area, visit our Area Information pages