Lounging in France 9: Saint-Thibery

SaintThiberyBridgeYou will have noticed that I’m interested in how old stuff gets reused. In a region crammed full of old stuff, this is continually happening. Upcycling old houses so they have flush toilets, repaving the Roman roads so that the trucks can haul produce, getting WiFi into a building erected when there were only three digits in the calendar year — it’s endless and necessary.

So, the ancient town of Saint-Thibery. The village is on the Herault River, and above you see the ancient bridge that carried the Roman’s Via Domitia across. The span was in use until the 19th century, when it was substantially rebuilt, but flooding took out several of the arches and this is what’s left. Yes, those are people standing up there — they’re measuring the ruins, I assume to see if they’re still stable.

Ruinous bits of the Via Domitia are everywhere around here. But nice powerful rivers, more rare. Need to be reused! So, the Benedictine monks built a mill right next door:

StTMill

This is perhaps twenty yards upstream of the bridge. I didn’t move to take this picture, just turned to the left. Admire the nice millstone there, almost certainly not its original position — there’s another one around the corner, used as a picnic table. The Herault was dammed up (see the remains of the dam to the far right) so that the full force of the water could be directed into the channel in the center, to turn the millstones that ground wheat into flour. Excellent, very necessary — but not needed nowadays, when factories do it faster and cheaper. But the water, still useful! So, one more revamp:

Hydroelectric

This is the back side of the Benedictines’ mill. It’s, yes, a modern hydroelectric facility. There’s no people here, it’s all automated. Walk over the iron grates in that walkway there and you can see and hear the water rushing by underneath, pushing the turbines that generate electricity for the region. The EU has been making a major push for green energy. The hills bristle with wind turbines, rural farmhouses have solar panels nestled into the thatch, and this hydroelectric plant was built probably in the last fifteen years. The bridge is ruinous, the flour mill no longer useful, but there’s still value to be derived from the place. You can walk along this river bank for less than fifty yards, and pass from the first to the twenty-first century.

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Lounging in France 9: Saint-Thibery — 2 Comments

  1. That’s what I miss about Europe and Britain, the continuity of places. Just yesterday on “Time time” the archaeologists dug a property knowing they’d find medieval and maybe late Bronze Age from pottery shards dug up when adding a septic tank. They did not expect to find a henge! Evidence of 4000 years of continuous occupation.

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