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Brittany menhir stone row: Police protect mayor after death threats

The historical value of the stones is disputed. But their destruction has sparked an argument

Brittany is home to thousands of menhir stones that are recognised as historical treasures, but the stones at the Mr Bricolage site were of disputed and ‘non-major’ importance, authorities say Pic: Delpixel / Shutterstock

The mayor of a French town in which old menhir stones have been destroyed to make way for a DIY store has been placed under police protection.

Olivier Lepick and his family have been protected after receiving death threats in connection with the planning permit in Carnac, Brittany.

On Saturday (June 10), a local church was sprayed with graffiti in relation to the controversy. 

The argument erupted after a local archaeologist, Christian Obelitz, claimed “39 menhirs recognised by the French regional cultural office la Drac (la Direction régionale des affaires culturelles) had been destroyed” and that “explanations were necessary”. 

Mr Obelitz claimed the building of the Mr Bricolage site was “totally illegal”, despite authorities always maintaining that planning permission had been granted through the proper channels and that the historical significance of the area was disputed.

Read more: 39 ancient menhirs moved to make way for a Mr. Bricolage in Brittany 

‘Death threats’

Mr Lepick said his wife and daughters had been “threatened and insulted” over four small menhirs, which were still “scientifically unsure” (in contrast to menhirs of confirmed historical importance elsewhere in the area).

Morbihan prefect Pascal Bolot has come out in support of the mayor, saying that he “condemns these moves and the unacceptable behaviour that the mayor and his family have been victim to”.

In a statement, the prefecture said: “Having visited Carnac, the prefect was able to bring his full support to the mayor and asked the gendarmerie to check on his welfare and to be on highest alert.”

Church sprayed with graffiti 

The town’s local church has also been attacked, with graffiti ‘tags’, as a result of the debacle. 

The Saint-Cornély church in Carnac, which is itself classified as a historical monument, was vandalised with graffiti writing on its side, confirmed Mr Lepick on June 11. The writing appeared to read: “Raze everything [to the ground], like the menhirs.”

Mr Lepick highlighted the irony of a historical site being vandalised, in an argument about the protection of historical sites.    

He wrote on Facebook: "I imagine that the fierce protectors of our heritage who are calling for my death, burning down my house and attacking my family are the same ones who, last night, spray-painted and desecrated a 16th-century jewel, our church of Saint-Cornély.”

He added: "I think it was Albert Einstein who said that the only two infinite things were the universe and human stupidity. I am deeply saddened.”

The mayor reiterated that he had “complied fully with legislation” and also cited the "low archaeological value" of the objects found on the site.

Prefect: Planning permission legal, stones ‘not of major importance’

The prefecture commented on the furore and confirmed again that planning permission had been granted “legally”.

It said: “The Regional Director of Cultural Affairs has already had the opportunity to comment in detail on this issue, pointing out in particular that the stones discovered on the site during the diagnostic work carried out in 2015 are not of major importance.

“The prefect confirms the legal nature of the planning permission.”

The statement added that the planning permission request was submitted in 2022, and the granting of the permit conforms to the plan local d’urbanisme (PLU) and respects the zoning regulations.

“The project has also received favourable opinions from the commission départementale d’aménagement commercial (CDAC), the architect of Bâtiments de France (ABF), and the regional mission for environmental activities (MRAe). 

“The impact study attached to the file, which was submitted for public participation by electronic means (PPVE), did not raise any observations relating to the presence of [historical] remains.”

The prefect added that the planning permission file had also been examined by the Morbihan Prefecture's legality control department, which did not find any issues either.

Brittany's Direction régionale des affaires culturelles (Drac) has also re-emphasised the “still uncertain, and in any case, non-major, nature of these ruins”.

Carnac and its surrounding areas are home to around 4,000 menhirs. The stones are typically tall and placed upright, and are thought to be associated with fertility.

While the term ‘menhir’ is typically used to describe French sites, it is also sometimes used in reference to the stones at other famous locations, such as Stonehenge in Wiltshire, UK.

Related articles

39 ancient menhirs moved to make way for a Mr. Bricolage in Brittany  

Brittany's new 'Stonehenge' site will reconnect us to roots

Can you help lift up first stone at Brittany's new 'Stonehenge' site?

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