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 Location: Wallonia, Belgium.  Grid Reference: 50 20' N, 5 31' E.

 

      Wris: (The Belgian Capital of Megaliths).

The area surrounding the village of Wris has been found to contain a high concentration of megalithic monuments. It likely had a particular significance to the prehistoric inhabitants and builders of the monuments, many of which are composed of stones weighing several tons each.

The area is host to a 5km long alignment, which is also the longest in Belgium. The main Dolmen in the area; the 'Northern Dolmen' sits at the junction of this alignment and another equinoxial alignment (E-W), from the nearby natural rock formation called the 'Pierre Haina' or 'Stone of the Ancients'. The natural inclination of the stone towards the east, its prominent high position and the traditions still associated with it today, suggest that this stone held an importance as far back as the Neolithic and may be the very reason for the building of so many monuments in the area.

 

 

   The Weris Megaliths:

The 'Stone of the Ancients', (Pierre Haina).

This vaguely anthropomorphic natural rock outcrop stands out on the horizon like a beacon. It faces east and is painted white each year on the equinoxes following an ancient tradition by the locals.

(Photos Credits: http://tw.strahlen.org)

The 'Lit du Diable' or the Devil's Table.

There are several legends associated with these stones. In particular is that the Pierre Haina is a seal or 'plug' to the underworld, from which on certain nights, the devil would come out and fly around, eventually resting on the nearby stone called the 'Devils Bed', (Above, apparently partially carved). Tradition has it that he would sleep there until the first Rooster crowed in the morning, when he would return to the underworld, replacing the Stone of the Ancients as he went.

 

The Wris Alignment:

Unique in Belgian archaeology, this alignment offers several megalithic sites over a 5 Km distance.

(More about Leylines)

When the menhirs and two dolmens are plotted on a topographic map, the monuments appear to form an alignment which, adding the site of a missing menhir, extends to 5,000 yards. However, running NNE-SW, this orientation fails to mark any rising or setting positions of either sun or moon, nor does it point to any significant horizon features. (1) but it does follow the natural contours of the landscape.

1). Weris.

2). Dolmen de Weris. (Northern)

3). Bois de Vesin.

4). Danthine Menhir (s).

5). Southern Dolmen and Menhirs.

6).Three Menhirs, Oppagne.

7). Quarry.

8). Dolmen de Pierre Haina.

9). The Devils Bed.

The NNE-SW, this orientation fails to mark any significant astronomical orientation. However, the alignment does follow the natural contours of the landscape, being surrounded by the hills of the Fagne-Famenne valley region, which is marked by an abrupt depressions in the schist landscape.

 

The Tour Menhir: (Menhir de Heyd) To the north of the valley at the hamlet Tour, was resurrected in 1998.  First cited by Helen Danthine in 1947, this stone is said to lie close to the site of a spring. The Tour Menhir is the most remote and Northerly stone in the alignment and is 2.8 Km from any natural source of Pudding-stone.

The Menhir de Heyd during Restoration 1998.

(Photo Credits: http://www.megalithe.be/monuments/weris/heyd)

 

The Northern Dolmen: (Allee Couverte Norde) Near the village Wris is the Northern Dolmen, an impressive "gallery" type tomb, 33 feet long, and dated to the first half of the third millennium. (3) It has a now-ruined anti-chamber and spirit hole, and is covered by a massive, broken capstone, estimated to weigh 30 tons and supported by stones of which two are rectangular blocks weigh some 18 and 20 tons each. From the ante-chamber extends the remains of a straight stone avenue with thirty stones on either side, shown on an etching by the artist Moreels, drawn in 1888, when the dolmen was first excavated, cracking the capstone in the process. During a subsequent excavation in 1906, the ante-chamber was incorrectly restored: it was floored with broken stones, which originally formed the capstone of the chamber. The orientation of the monument is a couple of degrees of the larger alignment. This dolmen sits at the junction of the main alignment and the equinoxial alignment from the 'Stone of the ancients', due east.

A nearby re-sited tall menhir is actually one of two menhirs excavated nearby in recent years. (1)

The Northern Dolmen has a 'spirit hole' in its entrance and a 30 stone alignment

(Photo Credits: Jean-Pol GRANDMONT)

 

The Danthine Menhir: One of three stones from the 'Long-stone' field. The largest was discovered in 1947 by Prof Helen Danthine, who moved it 130m to have ot placed beside the road, and from which it earned its name 'The Danthine Menhir'. Measuring 12 feet tall, the top of the slab sloping at a 45 degree angle, it weighs about eight tons. Two other stones were recovered from the field in 1983, 50m from the Danthine Menhir which have now been reinstated in their original position behind the Weris Dolmen.

 

 

The Southern Dolmen: In the vicinity is the Southern Dolmen, a "sunken gallery type" tomb, approximately 23 feet long, it also features an incorrectly restored ante-chamber with 'spirit hole', which originally facilitated offerings to the ancestral spirits. The main axis of the chamber is 55, indicating a mid-summer solstice orientation, when the solar rays illuminate the circular spirit hole. At this dolmen, which may originally have been similar to a chambered mound, amateurs dug up five more stones in recent years.

The Three Menhirs of Bouhaimont at Oppagne: Continuing towards the southwest, there is a setting of three menhirs at right angles to the "alignment", of which the tallest stone measures 8 ft tall. First reported in 1888 by L. Moreels, at one time, they were removed by the owner of a hotel at Hotton, who set them up in his garden. In 1906, he was persuaded to return the three megaliths close to their original setting at Oppagne. Sadly, during transport, one of the menhirs broke in two halves, following which these were cemented back together. All stones of this "triad" have pointed tops. They are made of pudding-stone, like the dolmens. The original location pits for the stones are said to be just 5m south of their current position. (4)

Photo from 1906 showing the stones both reclining with one already broken. (Now restored)

 

The Quarry: To the south of Wris village, with its 11th century church dedicated to St. Walburge, there is located on the flank of a hill what is presumed to be the prehistoric quarry for the pudding stones. Below the rock face is what has been interpreted as a "ramp" to facilitate the removal and transportation of the stones by the megalithic builders. This implies that for the construction of the Northern dolmen, the 30 ton capstone was hauled to its site for some two miles. (1)

 

The Holed Stones (Portals):

Both the larger dolmens in the area (Northern and Southern) have small holes in their entrances. These 'spirit holes' or 'portals' are a common feature in Dolmens particularly in Northern Europe and Russia (Caucasia) where they are seen more frequently than not. The term spirit holes suggests that they were incorporated into the monuments to allow the spirit free access, however several examples of stone 'plugs' have been found which suggest that they would have been only opened at particular times.

   

Northern Dolmen (Left), and Southern Dolmen (Right).

(More about Holed Stones)

(More about Dolmens)

(More About Menhirs)

(Prehistoric French Sites)

(A-Z Index)

 

References:

1). http://sacred-sites.org/preservation/megalith.html
2). http://www.irishmegaliths.org.uk/fzbWeris.htm
3). http://www.megalithe.be/monuments/weris/pierre
4). http://www.megalithe.be/monuments/weris/oppagne
 
Further Research:
 
The Weris Megaliths: http://www.megalithe.be/monuments/weris/

 

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