Martel, an extraordinary adventurer
From the end of the Middle Ages, la Cité de Pierres in Montpellier-le-Vieux gradually fell into oblivion as it became difficult to access.
Around 1854, an officer of the army's geological service reportedly spent about ten days in the area.
In 1884 Mr de Barbeyrac, an owner on the Causse Noir, decided to explore the area with the help of Mr de Malafosse, president of the Société Géographique de Toulouse. After a first visit, they invited
Edouard Alfred Martel to join them on this adventure.
Edouard Alfred Martel was already famous for his discoveries in the Gorges du Tarn, even though he was only 25 years old. He came to Montpellier-le-Vieux in 1984. In 4 days, from the 11th until the 14th of September he explored the whole of la Cité de Pierres and became enthusiastic about this new “Pompei”, this “Acropolis of the Cévennes”.
At the same time, papers were published by Mr de Malafosse at the Société Géographique de Toulouse and by Edouard Alfred Martel at the Club Alpin Français.
The following year, in 11 days from the 2nd to 13th of September 1885, he carried out a 10,000-scale survey for the first map of La Cité de Pierres.
At the start of 1886 a conference at the French Alpine Club given byMr. Trutat, curator of the Museum of Natural History in Toulouse, impressed the members of this distinguished club. They then decided to contribute to the layout and construction of the first access and discovery paths of the site.
Guides were then able to show la Cité de Pierres to the visitors of the village of La Roque Sainte Marguerite at the bottom of the Gorges of Dourbie. They took the first visitors up on mules and the expedition took a full day round trip.
In 1902, the France Touring Club participated in the construction of the Riou Sec road. In 1938, the Société de l'Aven Armand (founded by Edouard Alfred Martel in 1897) opened an access road to Montpellier-le-Vieux from the hamlet of Maubert. Tourism then significantly developed in La Cité de Pierres..
The founders of the site were Mr de Barbeyrac and Mr de Malafosse. Mr. Viré contributed to the historical dimension with his archaeological discoveries. Mr Balsan and Mr Birebent were the authors of the first tourist guide.
However, Edouard Alfred Martel remains the great explorer of the Montpellier-le-Vieux site and its “Cité de Pierres”:
- with his vision, he was a true pioneer in a new era of discovery.
- with his energy and his talent as an explorer, challenging all the technical difficulties of the time.
- with his numerous publications which have endlessly spread his passion to many people.