(January 2011) Some of today’s roads throughout Europe were, in fact, already paved roadways used by the Romans and the length of which like pearls on a string historic sites line up one next to the other. In the French region of Burgundy milestones were now erected just like back in Roman times. The markers are man-high and made of stone.
We are talking about the 34 km stretch of rural road between Alise-Sainte-Reine and Sombernon near Dijon. Foreigners will know the former from Roman history as Alesia, as it was called then, where the Julius Caesar’s fateful battle against Vercingetorix brought victory and riches to Rome. The colony of Gallia Transalpina forthwith had to pay exorbitant taxes to Rome.
The 11 milestones look somewhat like vertical pieces of cake along the rural pathways. The aim was not to replicate the originals from Roman times. These were stone pillars erected every 1481 m, indicating distance and direction.
The new milestones are placed in five locations far and wide. In some locations, several are bunched together at crossings. Some stand alone at the edge of the woods or below a power-line. Architect Patrick Berger deliberately gave them a neutral form without statement: but they can easily be interpreted as a ticket to the time-machine.
Wayfarers will find not only evidence of the 2-millenium-history. The path also bears evidence of 2nd WW sites, where the Résistance Movement fought against the German occupation, and of ruins reminiscent of many a battle.
To emphasize the historic importance of the sites, Pierre de Beaunotte, a local limestone, was used. Two parallel sides are polished – the other two sites are roughly honed. This is meant to incorporate the milestones in the natural environment, and, on the other hand, make them stand out as landmark of human culture. The area occupied by each stone marker is 1.10 m x 0.85 m. They weigh 2 t each and mark steps of a hiking path in several legs.
The project was initiated in a joint venture of several municipalities and was completed under the auspices and with assistance of the Fondation de France and the European Action Nouveaux Commanditaires which supports cultural projects initiated by local citizens. Further support was provided by the stone-organization Association Pierre de Bourgogne. The milestones were produced by Carrières et Marbreries de Bourgogne.
Photo: André Morin pour le Consortium