Lake Saint-Andéol

Discover the mysteries of the most famous lake in Aubrac

Lake Saint-Andéol

The lake of Saint-Andéol, with its 12 hectares and 15 meters deep is the largest of the Aubrac lakes. Located on the commune of Marchastel, it regularly witnesses hikers on the way to Santiago of Compostela stopping to contemplate it. Place of pilgrimage in ancient times, a huge granite cross dominates it.

The lake of Saint-Andéol, sacred since the dawn of time, is already mentioned as a site of pagan rituals in the 6th century by Gregory of Tours. It consists of an altitude water reservoir, which has naturally developed gradually, in the remains of an ancient volcano crater of the Aubrac plateau. People headed there in procession to cure ulcers, rheumatism...

There are many legends hovering over this place. According to a tradition still cited in the 19th century, "there was once a city, which was swallowed up overnight and turned into a lake to punish the inhabitants for their inhospitability." (Broca, 1872). Saint Gregory of Tours in his "Ecclesiastical History of the Franks" wrote that "Since time immemorial meet on the shores, every year, on the second Sunday of July, between 4000 and 5000 people, to worship the god of the waters, to bathe, feast and throw in the lake edibles, fur, sheep's toisons, copper coins, silver and gold." In the 3rd century, Saint-Andéol, the apostle of the Vivarais (territory that stretched over the present-day Ardèche and part of the Lozère), came to the sacred lake with the intention of stopping these pagan practices. He then built a chapel dedicated to Saint-Hilaire. Now gone, this chapel located about 1500 meters east of the lake, is the only church in Aubrac whose construction can be traced back to the very High Middle Ages. It later became a parish church.  Its ruins are about a hundred meters north of the Buron hut Saint-Andéol. Every year, the faithful and the priest of Marchastels undertook a procession to the chapel. Until the 19th century, offerings were made in the lake and pagan ceremonies were performed. In 1867, during a brawl, a gendarme was killed. Following this event, the authorities banned all festivities on the lake’s shores.

Even today, and despite the excavations already carried out by many archaeologists, the lake has not finished revealing all its secrets. They found many small sculptures from Gallo-Roman period but also vases of protohistoric origin, some coins and pieces of wood gnawed by beavers, long considered the remains of a legendary lakeside city. A little further on, on the heights, stands a cross on the site of a "fanium", a small ancient temple.

Discover this exceptional site, a place of rituals that have followed each other over millennia. Come and explore Aubrac’s endless immensities and set out to meet this lake with dark and mysterious waters that continue to feed legends from the depths of ages.