The main building at Les Mazelles.Eventually we mentioned the site to Niall and Antoinette and they in their turn trotted off to visit. When they got back their description of what they had seen didn't match ours at all. What was going on?
One day last year we found out. For once we entered Thésée from the west, and there on your left is a stonking great Roman ruin, with walls metres high, not just foundations requiring the maximum of imagination. Before, we had always entered Thésée from the south and turned right to go through the village, never realising that the ruins we had heard about were plain to see on the edge of the village in the opposite direction.
Looking north, from the road -- unmissable Roman ruins...Earlier in March we returned yet again to take photos of this impressive site. It should properly be called the Gallo-Roman Site of les Mazelles. These imposing ruins have long intrigued the locals, specialists, antiquarians, archaeologists and historians alike. Theories (some serious, some crackpot) abound as to the purpose of the buildings and local legends have been created around them.
For the visitor today, the Mazelles ruins are the most visible remains of the ancient Tasciaca. In fact, far more still lies hidden underground, having been excavated and re-buried for protection. The site is situated 100m or so from the right (north) bank of the River Cher, right on the modern D176 as it comes into Thésée. In Roman times, this was the road from Tours to Bourges (and on to Nantes or Lyon ultimately). The proximity to both these highways (road and river) explain the location of Tasciaca.
The interior of the main building.
The sign says 'This listed site must be preserved. Have the kindness: not to climb on the walls; to avoid touching the stones.'
To the south we find two other buildings. The one on the south-west, 12m x 10m, is levelled off on top by three courses of quarry (rubble) stones. The other, to the south-east and measuring 35m x 18m, shows evidence for several rooms, but is in a rather delapidated condition and the original construction was more slapdash than the main building.
Evidence of what looks like a nicely done modern repair, made clearly visible so there is no confusion between museum service repair and original, as is best practice today.
The holes you can see in the walls are notches to hold wooden scaffolding used while constructing the building.
The cruder building to the south east, with the main building in the background.
Les Mazelles was classified as an Historic Monument by Prosper Merimée in 1840. Old photos show the buildings abandoned, covered in ivy, brambles and scrub. In 1950 they were privately owned, with a vine growing in the shelter of the walls. From 1962 to 1965 a team of young archaeologists pulled the ivy from the walls, cleared the area and undertook a series of surveys and test digs. Maurice Druon, a member of the Academie Française, happened to pass the site one day in 1965. Falling in love with the place he purchased the ruins and the surrounding land, which he scoured and remodelled. In 1976 he gave Les Mazelles to the département of Loir et Cher for a symbolic 1 franc and the Conseil Général have landscaped the surroundings to what you see today.
A close up of a wall.
Note the alternating bands of small flat stones laid in a herringbone pattern and small rectangular stones, as well as the notches for scaffolding.
The Friends of Tasciaca have an informative website here (in French), which is where I cribbed all the information above from.