Patrick Yon, the village’s mayor, had little doubt: “When we started collective plumbing with Eau47 on March 1st, we knew digging trenches near the church would have some surprises in store for us.”
And the surprises lived up to predictions, especially when digging in an old cemetery! For this reason, the relevant services were notified and a team of archaeologists from EVEHA closely monitored the activities of the excavator.
From the first days of work, no fewer than four skeletons (two men and two women) were excavated that were more than three feet deep. When we went there, archaeologists were digging up the skeleton of a child (or young teenager). Millimeter by millimeter, the precision tools scrape the earth and the brush gradually reveals the ribs of the rib cage, then the spine … A moving spectacle when we know that this child has probably been there for more than 1,000 years.
700 and 1000
“The laboratory analyzes will give us more details, comments Séverine, the site manager. However, we can already estimate that these burials were between the year 700 and the year 1000. The skeletons discovered were on three levels and corresponded to three different periods of history. Quite Down in the ditch the stone had been cut to accommodate a corpse. But these burials are not accompanied by any other object (furniture). “
Another archaeologist explains: “In the Middle Ages the dead were buried facing west. We relied on the orientation of religious buildings (the church of St-Pierre also faces west / east).” There was no building nearby, the orientation got pretty approximate. With the Gallo-Romans, on the other hand, we relied heavily on communication channels. So we find both west / east and north / south orientations.
The dead almost always lay on their backs. But those who did not deserve Paradise in the eyes of society or religious power were buried undercover. After all, very young children were often buried on the walls of churches “.
One side of the story
According to Guillaume Deotti (“Process of the historical reconstruction of the site and the Romanesque church” 2010), the history of the Saint-Pierre church and its cemetery goes back to at least the second or third century. At that time, “the first Christian building, the shape of which is unknown”, rose. In 711 the church “would have been rebuilt with the recovery of old materials from the 2nd or 3rd century. This date is visible in the choir of the church”. The church would have been destroyed in the 10th century and rebuilt in 1100.
Nowadays one can see a Merovingian sarcophagus that came from the cemetery behind the church and was in use until 1845 when it was moved to its current location.
According to Alain Paraillous (“Customs and Heritage” – magazine of the “Friends of the Côtes de Buzet” No. 30) the land then became an urban meadow and then housed the school. During the restoration of the church in 1856, tombs were discovered inside. These could be the old barns of Fontclaire (La Maison des Moines, the ruins of which can still be seen along the road to Avison). “Below the church there are still some sections of the wall between the blackberries. Folk tradition speaks of a former monastery.
There was also a chapel founded by Bernard de Mons near the current church, which disappeared during the Wars of Religion. “Finally, in 1982, while working, a walled window was revealed in which a bottle with a moving message was discovered, signed by Father Goulinat, parish priest of St-Pierre and Ambrus in the early 20th century.
Due to the renovation work, the excavations were resumed today. You should stay in the southern and western parts of the church for at least two weeks. The skeletons found will be returned to the community after the study. They are buried in the mass grave. A final report will also be sent to the municipality by the company EVEHA, which is responsible for the excavations. But not for two years.
The site of St-Pierre-de-Buzet probably hides many more …