1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Cévennes

CÉVENNES (Lat. Cebenna or Gebenna), a mountain range of southern France, forming the southern and eastern fringe of the central plateau and part of the watershed between the Atlantic and Mediterranean basins. It consists of a narrow ridge some 320 m. long, with numerous lofty plateaus and secondary ranges branching from it. The northern division of the range, which nowhere exceeds 3320 ft. in height, extends, under the name of the mountains of Charolais, Beaujolais and Lyonnais, from the Col de Longpendu (west of Chalon-sur-Saône) in a southerly direction to the Col de Gier. The central Cévennes, comprising the volcanic chain of Vivarais, incline south-east and extend as far as the Lozère group. The northern portion of this chain forms the Boutières range. Farther south it includes the Gerbier des Joncs (5089 ft.), the Mont de Mézenc (5755 ft.), the culminating point of the entire range, and the Tanargue group. South of the Mont Lozère, where the Pic Finiels reaches 5584 ft., lies that portion of the range to which the name Cévennes is most strictly applied. This region, now embraced in the departments of Lozère and Gard, stretches south to include the Aigoual and Espérou groups. Under various local names (the Garrigues, the mountains of Espinouse and Lacaune) and with numerous offshoots the range extends south-east and then east to the Montagne Noire, which runs parallel to the Canal du Midi and comes to an end some 25 m. east of Toulouse. In the south the Cévennes separate the cold and barren table-lands known as the Causses from the sunny region of Languedoc, where the olive, vine and mulberry flourish. Northwards the contrast between the two slopes is less striking.

The Cévennes proper are formed by a folded belt of Palaeozoic rocks which lies along the south-east border of the central plateau of France. Concealed in part by later deposits, this ancient mountain chain extends from Castelnaudary to the neighbourhood of Valence, where it sinks suddenly beneath the Tertiary and recent deposits of the valley of the Rhone. It is in the Montagne Noire rather than in the Cévennes proper that the structure of the chain has been most fully investigated. All the geological systems from the Cambrian to the Carboniferous are included in the folded belt, and J. Bergeron has shown that the gneiss and schist which form so much of the chain consist, in part at least, of metamorphosed Cambrian beds. The direction of the folds is about N. 60° E., and the structure is complicated by overthrusting on an extensive scale. The overthrust came from the south-east, and the Palaeozoic beds were crushed and crumpled against the ancient massif of the central plateau. The principal folding took place at the close of the Carboniferous period, and was contemporaneous with that of the old Hercynian chain of Belgium, &c. The Permian and later beds lie unconformably upon the denuded folds, and in the space between the Montagne Noire and the Cévennes proper the folded belt is buried beneath the horizontal Jurassic strata of the Causses. Although the chain was completed in Palaeozoic times, a second folding took place along its south-east margin at the close of the Eocene period. The Secondary and Tertiary beds of the Languedoc were crushed against the central plateau and were frequently overfolded. But by this time the ancient Palaeozoic chain had become a part of the unyielding massif, and the folding did not extend beyond its foot.

As the division between the basins of the Loire and the Garonne to the west and those of the Saône and Rhone to the east, the Cévennes send many affluents to those rivers. In the south the Orb, the Hérault and the Vidourle are independent rivers flowing to the Golfe du Lion; farther north, the Gard—formed by the union of several streams named Gardon—the Cèze and the Ardèche flow to the Rhone. The Vivarais mountains and the northern Cévennes approach the right banks of the Rhone and Saône closely, and on that side send their waters by way of short torrents to those rivers; on the west side the streams are tributaries of the Loire, which rises at the foot of Mont Mézenc. A short distance to the south on the same side are the sources of the Allier and Lot. The waters of the north-western slope of the southern Cévennes drain into the Tarn either directly or by way of the Aveyron, which rises in the outlying chain of the Lévezou, and, in the extreme south, the Agout. The Tarn itself rises on the southern slope of the Mont Lozère.

In the Lozère group and the southern Cévennes generally, good pasturage is found, and huge flocks spend the summer there. Silkworm-rearing and the cultivation of peaches, chestnuts and other fruits are also carried on. In the Vivarais cattle are reared, while on the slopes of the Beaujolais excellent wines are grown.

The chief historical event in the history of the Cévennes is the revolt of the Camisards in the early years of the 18th century (see Camisards).