C Megalithic Trail
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By walking the High Trail of Cinque Terre, you'll have the chance to view the large stones witnessing the presence of an old prehistoric culture, rich in myths and legends.
The Megalithic Culture
Menhirs, "long stones" in Breton language, are megaliths raised in prehistoric age (around 4.500 b.C.); they are widely spread in many areas of the world and symbolize divinities, they were used for the cult of the dead and for astronomical observations. Such prehistoric culture inhabited the coast of Cinque Terre too. The first menhirs to be discovered were the one of Tramonti and the one called "della Madonna". Both were found by local historian Ubaldo Mazzini in 1922.
Such megalithic heritage witnesses that a pagan culture has been flourishing in the area and, by all chances, such culture corresponds with the old Ligures, a people whose heritage has been completely destroyed after the Romans conquered the area. With the diffusion of Christianity, the pagan places of worship have undergone a christianization process: menhirs were tore down and crosses were carved into them.
The function and the time they were erected is still a secret of the people who created them, but given their position along an ancient road far from villages and considered the difficulties intrinsic to the erection of similar stones, the reasons behind such work are supposedly ritual and religious.
There are reasons to believe that the megaliths of Cinque Terre are part of the same culture which reached its peak with the statue-menhirs of Lunigiana, which are displayed at the Archaeological Museum of La Spezia and at the Museum of Statue-menhirs of Pontremoli.
1 Monte Cuna Pass - Sharpening stone
A stone with marks of knife sharpening was first discovered in the Pass of Monte Cuna in the 80's. As in other instances, it is almost impossible to date the stone.
2 Monte Capri - Menhir and carved stone
This menhir, 3.8 m long and with a diameter of 2 m, was made with a stone the differs from the one found on Monte Capri. First discovered in the 80's, it features the classic obelisk shape of menhirs.
A 10 cm long cross is carved in the lower part of the menhir.
Not far from the menhir, in a place called Le Croci (the Crosses), there is another stone with interesting carvings. The carvings, probably dating back to different ages, represent 3 crosses, one of which stems from a triangular Calvary. Their origin and dating is unknown, as is their purpose: road sign, land mark or something else?
Close to these carvings, there are four similar, yet less visible, carvings:
- a rhombus with a dash in the centre surrounded by irradiating lines;
- another rhombus ;
- a cup mark
- another cylindrical cup mark.
It is thought these signs represent female reproductive organs, a sign of fertility.
3 Monte Grosso - The Basin
In Monte Grosso, close to a large navy signal, there is a large regular-shaped carved "Basin" dating back to neolithic age. Similar Basins can be found in Tuscany and Corse too. In all likelihood, they were used to perform water-related rituals.
4 Telegrafo - Petroglyph called "della Madonna"
Here you can find the reproduction of the Petroglyph uncovered in 1922. The incisions in the central part of the stone represent a female divinity and cup marks on the side representing fertility indicate that the stone dates back to the neolithic age. The stone, erected on the border between Riomaggiore and La Spezia municipalities, features signs of Christianization on both sides, dating back to the 13th and the 14th Century. The original stone is kept at the Museum of Menhir-Statues of Pontremoli.
TAKE PATH #504
5 Tramonti - Menhir
2.5 m high, this menhir has been erected together with 2 other smaller stones, one of which has been removed. Given the specific arrangement and the fact that on the summer solstice its shadow is projected to the exact centre of the long stone on the opposite side of the road, researchers believe that the menhir was erected for rituals. The monolith is also known as the "Stone of the Devil". In fact, legend has it that this is the place where witches' Sabbaths took place and where people witnessed paranormal light phenomena and devilish apparitions.
Legend also has it that a woman passing by the stone started to hear loud women voices and was then enchanted by a mysterious force which made her dance and dance.
Sure enough, people tried to dispel such fears by adding Christianization symbols such as the cross on top of it.