Buried Treasure at Teysseroles Chapel

Teysseroles - marking out the allée
Chapelle de Teysseroles

I’ve written before about the visit of the departmental archaeologists to Teysseroles, where we are helping to restore the 15th-century chapel. This is a requirement when works are planned at a historic monument, to ensure that nothing of significance is damaged or lost. Their test dig took place three years ago. Recently, a surprise was in store for our team.

We had assumed that the findings would be carefully documented and transmitted to us, but no report was forthcoming. Despite discussions at our meetings, it appeared that no report had been written. This was disappointing, but we supposed that the site wasn’t of sufficient importance to warrant it.

Wrong. A couple of months ago, a copy of the report turned up in the dusty recesses of the Parisot Mairie’s filing system, received in…February 2016, i.e. more than two years previously. By some oversight, the association was never made aware of its existence.

We knew the general findings, but the report gave much more detail. A good half of it is taken up with copies of prefectoral arrêts and generalised technical detail about methodology. I skipped that and went to the results.

Former churches on the site

The archaeologists carried out three test excavations. The one at the front of the church discovered the remains of not one (as we had thought) but two earlier buildings. Both of them were longer than the current chapel.

Fondations de l'ancien église - peut-être
Paving stones at the bottom thought to be from the earliest building

The first building was difficult to date, although there’s documentary evidence of a church on the site in the 10th century. The second building dates to the late 12th or early 13th century. It’s very likely that our chapel was simply built on top of the previous ones in the late 15th century, using some of the stone from the older buildings.

Mur de l'ancien église
Wall of the second building, thought to be 12th-13th century

The current chapel stands on its own on a slight rise. Historians have speculated that an earlier church was surrounded by a village, which was razed along with the church during the Hundred Years War. If there was a village, its remains have long since disappeared.

Chapel overshadowed by its trees
15th-century Chapelle de Teysseroles

Skeleton with a story?

Two further excavations were carried out. In the first, they discovered a series of bones, but they were so badly damaged that it was impossible to determine their sex. In this grave a copper ring was found with a stone of blue-green glass.

Ring from tomb

In the second lay an intact female skeleton in good condition, aged between 20 and 49, with her head up against the east end of the church. She wore a simple copper wedding ring on the fourth finger of her right hand. This, in addition to the radiocarbon dating of the bones, led the archaeologists to believe that she must have lived before the 17th century. In the Middle Ages, it was common to wear the wedding ring on the right hand. It was only from the 17th century that it was worn on the left hand in France.

Skeleton plus ring
What was her story?

It appears that she was buried directly in the ground, since no remnants of a coffin, such as nails, were found. Was this a pauper’s grave? Did she have to be buried hurriedly as the result of some contagious illness – plague? Why was she buried in that spot with her head against the wall? Ideas on the latter include that rainwater falling on the church roof would become holy water and penetrate the ground beneath.

We’ll never know anything of her story, but we can do some imagining.

Further fundraising

The restoration itself continues more slowly than we would like, despite the fact that we have funding from our own efforts and promises of subsidies from various authorities. We are hopeful that work can resume soon.

In the meantime, we’re holding our annual fundraising fête on Sunday 24th June. If you live in the area or happen to be visiting, it’s always a convivial event, with a meal held in our alfresco dining room under the trees.

Teysseroles 2018

You might also like:

Posts about la chapelle de Teysseroles
French Cultural Heritage on our Doorstep

Copyright © 2018 Life on La Lune, all rights reserved


  1. Back in our favorite part of France, we have been able to visit the Chateau de la Reine Margot at Saint-Projet. We’ve often past the signs to the chateau but because we come to the Aveyron in late May early June a lot of places are still closed. After another superb lunch with Madame Monique in Bach( thanks to your recommendation Vanessa) we were delighted to find Chateau de la Reine Margot open and well worth a visit. Not a huge place but full of interesting pieces of furniture old weapons and pictures including Margot and Catherine de Medici. Oh to have more time here! Thanks to your excellent blog we can keep in touch with Aveyron all year.. Merci beacoup. Margot

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m pleased to hear you had a good trip, although the weather was awful :(. It hasn’t been good since last November, except for a brief truce in April. I hope it didn’t spoil your enjoyment. At least the countryside is very green just now!

      We are going to Monique’s in a couple of weeks’ time. Few places like that still exist, except in our memories, so I’m glad you went. The château at Saint-Projet is not huge, but it’s well restored and the story about finding la Reine Margot’s room is the stuff of novels. As is her colourful life.

      Thank you for your kind words about my blog. I enjoy writing it and I’m so glad it can bring some enjoyment to others. Bon retour l’année prochaine.


  2. I prescribe a little road trip for you three – using Nessa’s blog as a guide you could explore a little above Toulouse and I’m certain you would find so much that you would love, knowing a little of what floats your canoe!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Kind of you to suggest using my blog as a guide – it’s certainly not exhaustive! I’m pleased to suggest places to visit – some of them off the beaten tourist trail.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I’m currently trying and failing to find such a site (or more realistically sites) here to explore parts of the US but off the route touristique. It’s not easy which is one of the reasons you are such a gem in your own part of the world 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

        • I’m sorry to take so long to come back on your lovely comment. Our internet has been working painfully slowly for the past few days, for reasons I won’t bore you with. It was like watching paint dry waiting for websites to come up. Now it is back, so I am catching up. I hope you’ll find some sites that give you the gen on off-the-tourist-rail places in the US. I will ask my American friend if she knows any.

          Liked by 1 person

          • Oh that would be wonderful! Thank you so much. I do think you have to go off the tourist track to understand a place even vaguely and though I am not churlish enough to not want to see some of the great sites, I do want to come away from here feeling I got under the skin of this country a tiny bit 🙂

            Liked by 1 person

    • As Osyth says, maybe a little road trip to discover this area might be in order. Always happy to suggest places to visit. I am a history nut, so I love this sort of thing.


  3. How fascinating and how envious you make me. All they want to do in our village is cover the past with concrete and uPVC. I hope you have a lovely sunny day (a bit rare thus far) and pull in the funds.

    Liked by 1 person

    • We are fortunate to live in an area where the patrimoine is valued. Thanks for your good wishes. I hope the weather gods smile on us that day. In 8 years, we have only once had to hold the meal under cover.


  4. Better late than never, I suppose and what finds! It is fascinating that the Church is the third not the second on the site. And the lady? Stories flutter through the mind like little butterflies …. she will never release her secrets now but I am sure that in the hands of a great historical writer like you she might find a second life in a story down the line …..

    Liked by 2 people

    • This is just one of the many frustrations of being involved in this project. But the finds make up for it. I would love to know what the place looked like all those centuries ago, especially if it was surrounded by a village at that time. The lady deserves a story of her own. We were hoping to get her back and bury her properly, but I expect she now reposes in a box in some dusty archive.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Given that I have been giving proper burials to chipmunks that have drowned in our pool (little shrouds made out of an old sheet and a nice place in the woods) I am sad that your lady is languishing in an archive. I’m not religious but I do think dignity in death is important. I hope they left her ring on her finger ….

        Liked by 1 person

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