|Location:||La Rochebeaucourt-et-Argentine, near the hamlet Argentine.|
Closed, key at the town hall at La Rochebeaucourt.
|Classification:||Cave House Rock Mine Cave Tomb Cave Church|
|Accessibility:||Not wheelchair accessible. Some walking and steel staircase.|
|Address:||Cluzeaux d'Argentine, 24340 La Rochebeaucourt-et-Argentine, Tel: +33-, Fax: +33-.|
|As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
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The Cluzeaux d'Argentine are impressive shelters dug into the limestone rock below the hamlet Argentine. Cluzeau is an Occitan term, the old language which is still spoken in this area. It means a shelter dug or cut into the rock by man. The caves are easily visible from the valley of river Nizonne, but they are accessible from above, from Argentine.
Actually there are three different caves, the Grotte des Anglais, Grotte des Tombeaux and Grotte de l'Eglise. All were used as hideouts in periods of war, for example the Hundred Years War. One cave, named Grotte des Tombeaux (Cave of the Tombs) has a series of long coffin-like holes in the ground. It is rather obvious what they were used for, such sarcophages are known from Merowingan times. However, this cave was used most certainly as cemetery for the lepers of a lazar house run by the Lord of La Rochebeaucourt in the early 18th century. The Grotte des Anglais (Cave of the Englishmen), is the western cave and contains a passage with steps to the plateau, where a new trail with steel staircase was built. It also contains shelves and grain silos dug into the rock.
We read about a third cave, named the Grotte de l'Eglise (Cave of the Church) but could not find out more. It is probably named after the church above, located under the church, or it was used for worshiping.
Argentine is today only a church surrounded by three farmhouses. The hamlet belongs to La Rochebeaucourt, but actually it has a much better location. While La Rochebeaucourt is located at the river Nizonne, subject to flood and hard to fortify, is Argentine located on a limestone plateau with three steep sides. The far end of this plateau was once inhabited by the impressive castle of the family Galard de Bearn, which is today only a ruin. As a result the town was almost three times as big as La Rochebeaucourt when the two towns were merged in 1827 against the wishes of the inhabitants of Argentine.
On the southern side of the plateau Argentine huge caves can be found which are abandoned limestone quarries. They were later also used to grow mushrooms and are now abandoned for many years. We could not find out if they are open to the public, but they are definitely not developed in any way.