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The lake and its legends

By Eric Verdel
research engineer
director of excavations at the Colletiéres site

les legendes du lac de Paladru

The diabolical deluge, intaglio engraving from the 17th century

Photo H. Jézéquel, National Museum of Popular Arts and Traditions, Paris

Some legendary stories relate more particularly to the hamlet of Ars, established since the Middle Ages on the western shore of Lake Paladru (in the town of "Le Pin").

les legendes du lac de Paladru

The first tells the story of a pilgrim to whom the uncharitable inhabitants refuse hospitality: in the night, the elements are unleashed and cause the engulfment of the village. The second evokes the breaking of a pact made between the Arsois and the devil (there is still today a place called "La Grange du Diable" not far from Pré d'Ars).

Engraving by C. Pegeron and A. Perrotin, Allobroge, 2nd year, 1840. Photo Dauphinois Museum.

les legendes du lac de Paladru

In the 18th century, the foundations of a Sainte-Anne d'Ars chapel were first discovered.

In the same place, more recent observations also report the discovery of sarcophagi and medieval ceramics.

"Pilotis" from the site of the year one thousand in Charavines-Colletière (Isère).
Photo Excavations of Colletière.

les legendes du lac de Paladru

Archaeological excavations have also provided proof that three coastal sites (including that of Ars) were effectively abandoned around 1040, following a lake transgression which flooded them. The memory of this event is perpetuated in the oral tradition of a population who knew the locations where one could distinguish (and sometimes even collect with the fishing nets) vestiges under a low water height: piles of oak, pottery fragments, wooden objects, iron tools and weapons.

A Houot extract from the comic strip "Ars engloutie" Glénat edition

les legendes du lac de Paladru

Historical research has finally shown that between 1172 and 1177, the Carthusians of Silve Bénite had appealed to Pope Alexander III and the German Emperor Frederic Barbarossa to defend their interests against the community of Ars. It is even probable that the monks had the hamlet set on fire and driven out the inhabitants of Ars who were preventing them from gaining access to the property of the lake and its fishing resources.

These various elements indicate that the local legend was nourished by real facts, both based on the whims of nature (the flood of the 11th century) and on the destruction of the village of Ars (towards the end of the 12th century ). Two events that the Carthusians, who sought to have the widest possible "desert" around their monastery, took advantage of them by attributing them to divine intervention.

Legend of the White Lady, acrylic painting on synthetic canvas
by C. Sage and M. Ribeaud, 1995. Photo PF Couderc

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