With over six hundred miles of tunnels, the Saumur region has the largest number of troglodyte caves in France. Villages, cellars, mushroom farms and museums have all found their place in these cool, silent and somewhat mysterious underground structures. A voyage to the very heart of Saumur’s stone.
In the beginning, there was tuffeau stone: a soft, chalky, white limestone used for building castles, abbeys, towns and villages across the Loire Valley. It has been used since Gallo-Roman times for the construction of buildings from Anjou to Touraine, thereby creating hollow cavities and tunnels. Humans were quick to settle in these structures, where they were naturally protected from the harsh conditions outside. Troglodyte caves are a perfect example both of cultural heritage and of the historical legacy of the region’s population, architecture and economic activity over the centuries. They can still be explored today – a truly astonishing experience.
You will love visiting the troglodyte village of Rochemenier : experience what life was like in the French countryside, hundreds of years ago. Immersed in a world of silence, explore two old farmhouses and outbuildings, an underground chapel and modernized homes, dug into of the sandy ground. In Forges, a well-preserved hamlet of troglodyte houses was first discovered when people walked on the houses’ roofs! Hewn into the rock in the 18th century, they give an authentic glimpse of the rural life of bygone days. Another highlight when visiting the region’s troglodyte structures: the Château de Brézé, just 10 miles from Saumur. A real “château within a château”, built alongside one of the deepest moats in Europe, this 11th-century underground structure is host to a seigneurial residence. Wall-walks, drawbridges, kitchens, cellars, press rooms and defense systems all indicate the self-sufficient nature of life here. This impressive underground fortress is the largest in Europe, with the 15th-century Château de Brézé built over it, above ground.
Converted into mushroom farms, troglodyte tunnels also offer ideal conditions for growing different species of mushrooms. The Mushroom Museum of Saumur has the largest mycology exhibition in Europe. 12 tons of wild and cultured mushrooms are harvested each year: button mushrooms, oyster mushrooms, shiitakes, blue foot mushrooms and more.
Troglodyte structures remain silent and mysterious to this day. Take your time as you leave Château de Beauvois before making your way towards Château Le Prieuré to explore these incredible sites. Discover the underground history of the Saumur region and come face-to-face with history as you explore these century-old labyrinthine structures.