A small dry-stone hut on the Méjean plateauA cazelle, a small heritage site on the Causse Méjean
©A cazelle, a small heritage site on the Causse Méjean|Rémi Flament

Small heritage of the Grands Causses

An exceptional UNESCO-listed heritage site

Come and discover the beauty of the Grands Causses’ small-scale heritage

The small heritage of the Grands Causses

The agropastoralism that people have practiced here for millennia has left us a legacy of beautiful traces scattered between the stony plains and pine forests of the Grands Causses: cazelles, jasses, lavognes… but also sublime farms with typical Caussenarde architecture, some of which are still occupied. This small-scale heritage is an integral part of the landscape, and the area has been classified byUNESCO as a “Cultural Landscape of Mediterranean Agropastoralism”.


Caussenarde architecture

The old farmhouses of the Causses are mostly built along the same lines: their walls are always bare, in dry stone bonded with crushed limestone mortar, and they are covered with lauzes. The near-absence of wood is explained by the scarcity of this resource, but also by the need to prevent fire hazards.

On the first floor is the sheepfold, whose vaulted ceilings protect the ewes from the heat in summer and the cold in winter. An outside staircase leads to a terrace, providing access to the living quarters on the middle floor.

The living space consists of a large room combining the functions of kitchen, dining room and bedrooms. A wooden staircase or ladder provides access to the attic. Each house has its own cistern to collect water, which is scarce on the Causses.

Today, too small to accommodate the expanding herds of breeders, these beautiful farmhouses have been turned from their original function into simple living quarters or gîtes.


The Cazelles

As you stroll along the Causse, you’re likely to come across a number of small dry-stone huts, most of them rounded and vaulted. These “Cazelles ” were built by shepherds to protect themselves from the sun, rain and wind on the often windy Causses. They built them using an ancestral technique requiring great skill. In the 18th century, cantonniers, road maintenance workers, drew inspiration from these models to build shelters along the roads, where they were sometimes forced to stay overnight.



Jasses ” are the kind of sheepfolds found near farms or isolated on pastureland. They also served as shelters for the shepherd and his animals at night, or when weather conditions, which can change suddenly on these high plateaus, required it. The jasses were also used to house pregnant ewes (in late summer and autumn).

Like Caussenard houses, these buildings were built entirely of limestone, and were used to collect rainwater. Most are rib-vaulted. Today, this typical heritage of the Grands Causses is under threat. Breeders, whose herds have grown considerably, no longer use these isolated dwellings, which are sometimes saved from ruin by being converted into gîtes or second homes.


Threshing floors

Threshing floors” are the large, flat surfaces found in front of farmhouses in the villages and hamlets of the Grands Causses, where wheat was threshed. Once the harvest was over, the farmer’s work was far from finished: he had to carry the sheaves to the threshing floor to separate the grain from the cob. The threshing floor is always set up in the sun, so that the heat and dryness of the day make it easier for the ears to burst. Techniques differed from period to period and from region to region: first, wheat ears were beaten with flails, while later oxen or horses were used.



These are watering troughs built into “sotchs”, funnel-shaped natural depressions found on the Grands Causses. These were covered by man with clay to contain the water, which would not remain on the permeable limestone soil. The Lavogne thus formed enabled the herds to quench their thirst. It requires regular maintenance, as in the dry season the clay tends to crack and become less watertight.


Bread ovens

In rural Lozère, where life was harsh and the shadow of famine constantly hung over the population, bread was indispensable. Before the development of bakeries, villagers regularly gathered around the communal oven, where bread was baked. Most ovens were built along the same lines: they consisted of a shed with a frame or vaulted roof covered with lauze, and a heating chamber protected by masonry walls and always vaulted to conserve heat. The majority of these on the Grands Causses are built of limestone, with a limestone lauze roof.


The Ferradou

The shoeing frame or “ferradou “, as its name suggests, was used to shoe animals used for skidding or agricultural work. The animal was placed in the loom, its head held in front by a yoke and sometimes resting on a small metal plate. Straps attached to horizontal beams were then passed under the animal’s belly to support it, followed by its legs, one by one, on wooden beams parallel to the ground, acting as “rests” to facilitate shoeing.

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