Le Trépied Dolmen near Catioroc in Guernsey

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In the southern part of the Channel Island of Guernsey, on the Le Catioroc peninsula, stands the dolmen of Trépied. In 1977 this megalithic monument appeared on a Guernsey postage stamp.

In 1839-1840 this site was excavated by Frederick Corbin Lukis [an amateur archaeologist who lived from 1788 to 1871]. He found human bones, a few earthenware beakers and flint arrow heads which dated from 1800 BC. Some years later his son restored the collapsed keystone on the western side. At the beginning of the 20th century this restored stone collapsed again and was again restored in 1920.

The whole area around the tomb is covered with stones, some of them clearly buried and some apparently scattered. The dolmen has a V-shape and is oriented northeast – southwest. Its length is about 5.5 metres and its diameter 2 metres. It is bordered by twelve orthostats [upright standing stones] and topped by three capstones.

This prehistoric passage grave, which has a spectacular view of the Bay of Perelle, was built on a hill during the Neolithicum (ca. 4000 – 2500 BC) and remained in use up to the Late Bronze Age around 1000 BC. Subsequent burials or cremations were deposited in the grave chamber , together with grave gifts such as earthenware, flints and stone tools.

Guernsey is rich in old stories and legends about witchcraft and devil worship. At the beginning of the 17th century, according to legend, Le Catioroc was the midnight meeting place for the witches and wizards during the witches’ gathering and celebrations [sabbaths]. According to the supposed confessions of the witches, the devil could be found in Le Catioroc every Friday evening, sitting on the middle of the keystone in the form of a black goat named ‘Baal Berith’ or ‘Barberie’. The witches, warlocks [black magicians] and spirits danced around ‘in adoration’ and mocked the Virgin Mary in their songs. The shrine of the Virgin Mary once stood on the nearby island of Lihou.

Right up until the last century, as the weekend began, this place was strictly avoided by the local superstitious inhabitants. This superstition, and the tradition of avoiding the area on Friday evenings, has been put forward as one reason why the dolmen has remained so well preserved for so long.

Text                 Aldert Slot

Translation     Alun Harvey

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