Man knew the cave since a long time: hey, its entrance is visible, a huge hole (about 60 m. high) dug in the limestone mountain of Soudour! A real gaping mouth...
The cave used to house a planes factory during the World War II. Yes! And the fitting out of the place really damaged the cave.
Some inestimable prehistorical remains disappeared, unfortunately, because the soil had to be level off and cement, to raise the shop sheltered from bombings. Is there a remain from that time? Yes, the little house where visitors buy their tickets, today, made of concrete...
About planes, you know what? In 1972, a big world premiere took place here: the French aviator Georges Bonnet took off and landed in front of the cave’s entrance.
His ″steed″, the Rallye, was only 10 metres wingspan and it had only 200 metres to make its handling. Bonnet did really well! And he repeated his feat 2 years later… The Rallye is now display under the entrance porch of the cave.
Mr Marcorelle was the first man to visit Bédeilhac and wrote about it in 1773. He talked about this funny thing: ″At the bottom of the cave, there’s a clear stream. It runs in the cave and then it disappears in the soil: from that soil, we get a potter’s clay suited to remove stains of oil. People here use it to remove grease marks from their clothes.″
Pierre Dardenne described the cave in the book L'Ariège au temps de Napoléon (1804). Paul Baby in his book Guide-route du baigneur et du touriste dans le département de l'Ariège et en Andorre said: ″This cave is the most beautiful one in Pyrénées. In some spots, its about 80 metres high, and it ended by a vast room with amazing concretions, like Roland’s grave and the Small Bell.″
1906. A little man bustled at the entrance of the cave. Do you see him? Let me introduce Henri Breuil, aka the abbot Breuil or the ″Pope of the Prehistory″. He was a great and famous anthropologist and historian.
In Bédeilhac, he was run off his feet! He made several discoveries. Among them, wall paintings. Pretty rare paintings… black hand-prints with red thumbs!
There are two kinds:
• ″negative print″, with the hand surrounds with a colored halo. A halo get by putting the hand on the wall and blowing painting around.
• ″positive print″: the painted hand is apply on the wall.
He also discovered engravings made of clay, pretty rare too: they represent scenes with bisons. One of them had two holes made with a finger. We even have very schematized female sex organs!
Another man, abbot André Glory, discovered a skeleton in 1945, at the entrance of the cave. A man about 30 years old, about 1,50 metres tall. His skull is display in a museum in Foix.
Small specific feature: the skeleton was found in squat position, with his legs clasped to his chest. His muscles were compressed, his limbs dislocated, as if someone bound him… Is it a funerary rite? A way to keep the dead man’s soul inside the body?
Other discoveries! Now, here’s the most odd one: a small statue of a sculpted woman… in a horse’s tooth! We can easily recognize her silhouette, her head too, with a kind of hood with ″hairs″ around.
This lady, in fact, wore a fur coat, for extreme winters of the Magdalenian era! We can see this statue in the Prehistoric park in Tarascon-sur-Ariège.
The visit lasts about 1 hour. Lots of concretions with amazing forms: whoa, it’s amazing, the strength of time and nature! Look: we can see the confessional, the throne, a line of monks, a bell, organs… then Roland’s grave, a real colossus.
Roland? His grave? Roland was king Charlemagne’s brave knight. The legend says that Roland was buried in the cave. Proof of that is this font, a round and dug stalagmite where water drips inside…