What an interesting place we discovered when looking at the area around Amiens! The City of Naours has a subterranean city, re-discovered in 1887 by a local priest, Rev. Ernest Danicort, who encouraged its restoration so as to open up the caves to the public. The subterranean city is about 100 feet underground, and its labyrinth of tunnels and chambers runs about two miles, with 28 galleries and 300 chambers.
The site began as a limestone quarry, built by the Romans in the 2nd century AD. Once the quarry fell into disuse, the local people began to store goods there, and eventually hid in the caves from invading armies. Most notably, they used the underground during the 16th century Wars of Religion and the Thirty Years War in the early 17th century. They developed the tunnel system and built rooms so that it could be used as an underground city for extended periods. Apparently, the children knew the underground city so well that they could freely run through the tunnels without getting lost. Ingeniously, so as not to be discovered, they situated their fireplaces so that the smoke vented through the chimneys of the cottages above ground!
The audio guide given to us told us many great stories about the subterranean city. The 10th photo below shows a passage where we had to stoop very low to pass through. Apparently it was made that way intentionally. When enemies were present in the subterranean city, the citizens would have children run through the passage, with the invaders in tow. The children’s progress through the cave could be followed by the sound of them running over gravel on the ground. The citizens would be hiding on the far side of that pinch. The children, small and unencumbered by weapons or equipment, could run through quickly. Invaders following closely behind were slowed going through it. The citizens would wait in ambush on the other side of the pinch and attack them as they passed through.
As we passed a large steel plate on the ground (the 16th photo), our audio guide explained that there was a pit under the plate. During times of trouble or invasion, boards covering that hole would be removed and invaders, lured down that dimly-lit passageway, would fall into the deep pit.
Soldiers of WWI visited the caves as tourists, and almost 3,000 names of individuals can be found in the caves’ graffiti. During WWII, the Germans used the caves as a radio control room. We found the caves to be an unusual and unique attraction. The site is nothing we had ever heard of before and is an interesting historical artifact. And to top off the experience, we went to a small farmer’s market a short walk up the hill from the caves. We found the windmill shown in the last photo and bought two cartons of some of the best strawberries we have ever tasted from one of the vendors. (European strawberries are very tender, softer than those in the US. This means that they spoil much quicker, but the taste is unbeatable!)