We don’t know exactly the origin of the name Matata. So, to explain it, people created a legend in the beginning of the 20th century. Inspired by real events, but even so pretty embroidered… Here’s the story.
1588. Henri I de Bourbon-Condé, who owned the castle Bardon in Meschers, suddenly died. A too sudden death… So the gossip boomed out: people spoke of poisoning. But who did such a thing? Who?! Every eyes fell on Henri’s wife, Charlotte de Trémoille.
Here we go, she was the perfect culprit! They locked her 6 years because she financed the murder. Financed, because she didn’t act alone… no, another hand helped her: she had an accomplice, a man called Permilhac de Belcastel… gossip said they were lovers!
So, this guy had to run away to escape to the jail. He found shelter in the caves of Meschers. How long did he stay here, alone, with the sea backwash and the seagulls’ shrieks? We don’t know.
But one day, a curious man met him and asked his name. He answered matuta, ″morning″. People started to nickname the chap Matata, who was surely a little bit mad now. He even scared inhabitants. Sometimes they met him, wandering near the caves, his eyes empty…
Panic-stricken (they didn’t know what he was plotting in his caves), people walled him up alive... Charlotte, for her part, while she was in jail, gave birth to a son, Henri II… an illegitimate kid? Em, probably… They finally set her free.
Those rocks overlook the estuary of Gironde. The sea dug those caves, combined with the wind and tiny little worms which ate into the rock, little by little: men only fit them. And they had time for that!
The fitting out began in the Prehistoric era: caves were kind of rudimentary shelters against storms and wild beasts. Then, they became shelters for the people when the terrible Vikings rushed into the land in the middle of the 9th century, real houses for fishermen, houses too for Protestants (they needed a place to say Mass during the war of Religion)…
The last inhabitant was Marie Guichard, who left the caves in 1906… She lived on by postcards’ selling.
Here, you’ll find a restaurant (ah, the nice view on the estuary), a hotel, a museum. The museum displays a typically troglodyte interior, with the visit of about 10 rooms cut into the rock: here men raised chimneys, opened windows, cut stairs, put little canals to collect the seeping water!