Friday 19 June 2009

Secrets in stones

The Abbaye de Bon Repos, near Gouarec in Brittany, is a sturdy grey stone building. However, its stones - unremarkable at first glance - are in fact strangely appropriate to the locale. To discover why, a much closer look is needed.

The grey stone is scattered with white lozenges, and in many of these are black crosses. The little symbols are known in crystallography as macles, formed when the local schist was compressed by granite to create crystals of chiastolite.

Many of the inclusions form lozenges-within-lozenges rather than the more distinctive crosses. However, where there is a piece of stone containing a cross, myth says that it has the power to bring happiness and ease heartache. Perhaps this large grasshopper basking on the wall was more concerned with affairs of the heart than the heat of the sun?

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