La Pierre Levée

Novel Gargantua Rabelais (1534)
Then a student in Poitiers, Gargantua's son, Pantagruel would have feasted on the dolmen of La Pierre Levée...
The dolmen of La Pierre levée (credit Wiki Commons / Zoom view)

“Thus Pantagruel grew from day to day, and profited by sight, which his father delighted in by natural affection… Then sent him to school to learn and pass his young age. In fact, he came to Poitiers to study, and enjoyed it very much; to which place seeing that the schoolboys were no time of leisure and did not know what to spend their time in, he had compassion. And one day he took from a large rock called Passelaudir a large rock about twelve toises square and fourteen sides thick, and put it on four pillars in the middle of a field, at his ease, so that the said schoolchildren, when they knew nothing else to do, would spend time climbing on the said rock, and there banqueting with flasks, hams and pates, and writing their names on it with a knife; and from now on, they called it Pierre Levée. And, in memory of this, is that today passed none in the matriculation of the said University of Poitiers, if not that it drank in the fountain caballine of Crontelles, passed to Passelourdin and climbed on the Pierre-Levée “.

Pantagruel, chapter V by Rabelais

Pantagruel tore off a huge boulder from the Passelourdain cliff, a rocky structure in the commune of Saint-Benoît in the Vienne. He would then have carried it to this place in Poitiers. Balancing her on nine stones, this nine-metre slab would then have served as a table for feasting.

In the 18th century, this dolmen located near the ancient city of Poitiers, in the district of the Dunes (Super dubiam) collapsed in the 18th century, giving this strangely inclined position.

La Pierre levée is an important step in the initiation of the Order of the Bitards, a student brotherhood referring to Rabelais. Every year, on the Wednesday of Student Week, the members party, drink and eat endlessly, since 1922 to “give life to the orgiastic and pantagruelic legacy left by Rabelais, a student from Poitiers in 1431”. A nearby high school bears the name of Dolmen and the old Poitiers prison in the next street was called the Pierre levée.


On the upper face of the Raised Stone is carved an axe with two branches.

Sur la pierre levée, Illustration du chapitre V du roman Pantagruel de Rabelais par Robida (Crédit Wiki Commons / Bnf)

1 Rue du Dolmen

An ancient monument very well known by the Poitevins, La Pierre Levée situated at 1 rue du Dolmen is very anchored in the local culture.

In a small square in the Dunes district of Poitiers, stands a dolmen dating from the Neolithic period.

It was located not far from the Roman road Lemonum (Poitiers) – Avaricum (Bourges) – Lugdunum (Lyon).

6 m long and 3 m wide, the inclined stone rests on 9 pillars. On its upper side, there is a sculpture in the shape of two axes.

Rabelais refers to it in the chapter of the Facts of the noble Pantagruel in his youth and Saint Radegonde would have carried the enormous block of stone on her head to make a table of it but the devil would have stolen one of the pillars from where its inclination.

Finally, the Pierre levée is a place of initiation of the Bitards, a student brotherhood of the University of Poitiers.

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Pantagruel et Gargantua de Rabelais

Gargantua and Pantagruel

Parodying everyone from classic authors to his own contemporaries, the dazzling and exuberant stories of Rabelais expose human follies with mischievous and often obscene humor. Gargantua depicts a young giant who becomes a cultured Christian knight. Pantagruel portrays Gargantua’s bookish son who becomes a Renaissance Socrates, divinely guided by wisdom and by his idiotic, self-loving companion, Panurge.

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