Friday, 14 August 2009

Singing rocks

As we've all been looking for meteor showers during the past few days, and as I'm about to head off to Brittany again, here's a post from last summer about some other extraordinary rocks.

On the shore just past the little port town of Notre Dame du Guildo are a heap of rather unexciting-looking rocks. Nonetheless, if you watch them for a little while, you'll see people coming up and hitting them with pebbles. Why? Because these are the 'pierres sonnantes': ringing stones which give a strange, metallic sound when struck with a hard piece of rock. The best spots have been worn into hollows by repeated use. Check out the video evidence:

There are various explanations for the sound. Legends have it that:
  1. The giant Gargantua ate a fishing boat full of fish rather too greedily, and vomited up the stone ballast. Fun, but a little unappealing.
  2. The souls of the damned are trapped within the rocks. A bit creepy for a day at the seaside...
  3. The rocks are made of the densest matter in the universe. Actually, this one isn't a million miles from the truth.
In fact, the rocks ring with their strange metallic sounds for two reasons. They are amphibole, a very dense volcanic rock about 250-350 million years old - one of the hardest on earth. The combination of this density and their piled-up arrangement allows them to resonate.

If singing rocks aren't enough reason for you to visit this spot (and why wouldn't they be?), the ruins of Le Guildo castle are directly opposite, across a river estuary. Gilles de Bretagne whose funeral cortege passed through Langourla spent much of his life here. He had been sent to England as an ambassador when aged 8; the luxurious life of the English court led him into bad habits and he brought his wicked ways and overly-close friendship with England back with him to Le Guildo. His brother's warnings went unheeded, until eventually he was imprisoned, tortured and killed.


Anonymous said...

Rocks singing their ancient anthems definitely the most appealing image - and that's fascinating info about the type of volcanic rock. I wonder if any of it was ever quarried for use in construction of eg religious buildings, on the basis of an existing acoustic ...
As for the poor Gilles, well - just goes to show, ils sont fous ces anglais!

Minnie said...

So glad to have a chance to re-read this, and follow up the (excellent) local info in French. Am going to send ref to composer cousin, as have suspicion he'd love the notion/sounds of amphibole rock. Thank you!

Unknown said...

I too have been to visit these stones and they are fascinating to see and hear. I have placed a reference to these stones on Wikipedia under "The Singing Stones of Brittany", look it up.