The word for the story as well as history in French is ‘histoire’ / ‘l’histoire’. The reason for this ‘Gyan’ 🙂 right at the beginning, is for everything that lies ahead. It’s a post dedicated to a stone i.e ‘le calliou’ in French (plural -les cailloux). Mind you, it’s not any ordinary one but a ‘Gros’ (French for great, big) … A great stone, ‘Gros Caillou‘ is a blast from the past and has an interesting fable associated with it.

How about a backdrop of a garden to start the story? Sounds good! So, without beating around the bush let me take you to “Jardin du Gros Cailloux” in the neighbourhood of Croix Rousse, Lyon.

On y va!!! (French for Let’s go!)

Once upon a time, there lived a poor family of canut (French for silk worker) in a rented house on the Croix Rousse hill. The poor family had a canut, his pregnant wife and his ‘gones’ (kids in local Lyonnaise French). It was mid of winter. A bailiff, mandated by the owner, turned up at their door. He ordered the family to vacate the house for not paying the rent. The family pleaded with the bailiff to have mercy and let them live in the house and not evict them for late payment of the rent. But the bailiff turned deaf ear saying he was only performing his duty of following the order of the owner who mandated eviction.

God who was watching it, appeared before the bailiff and cursed him to push his heart that was nothing short of a stone till he met someone who was more malicious than him. Poof… the heart of the bailiff turned into a pebble and slipped on the ground from his shirt. The bailiff, a smart chap, passed through the judicial sector of the courthouse located in Saint-Jean district, the military area of Perrache, as well as the financial district of Palais de la Bourse in search, of which he was confident to find one! All the while rolling, the stone grew and grew in size but the bailiff failed to find someone nastier, atrocious than him.

Finally, he came to the hill of Croix Rousse again and couldn’t roll the big stone anymore. However, he saw a building manager there and that reinforced his thought that it’s not he but the owners who were malicious. So he left the place leaving the rock behind at the hill of Croix Rousse. God who was watching all this got disappointed with the blame game and utter callousness on part of humans who failed miserably to learn a lesson.

God decided to come down less frequently to meet us from that day. The stone however is still there to remind us of the humanity that resides in our hearts and advocates to be kind to all in need!

From fable to the fantastic real-world… For that, let’s time travel to 1860! It was a time marked with a lot of developments concerning transportation in Lyon. Efforts were made to connect Croix Rousse plateau to downtown Lyon. Funicular or the ropeway was being built to ease the travel between two parts of the city. The hill of the Croix Rousse, famously known as the ‘hill that works‘ owing to the busy silk weaving activity there, was drilled by several workers to dig tunnels. The workers however had to halt their work as they encountered a very hard rock that couldn’t be drilled. After several attempts to break it failed, it was decided to excavate it as it is.

After its excavation, it was studied for its composition. It was a grey-white rock about a man’s height.  It was found to be glacial erratic as indicated by its mineralogical composition which is typical of alpine regions of Maurienne and Tarentaise (valleys in Savoy region of SouthEast France). It has been displaced by about 200km from the nearby Alps by slowly moving glaciers during Riss Glaciation* to reach Croix Rousse hill, around 2.6 million to 11,700 years ago…in simple words during Ice Age! It is thus seen as a symbol of the perseverance of the inhabitants of the city of Lyon apart from being an ice-age wonder.

Cut to present

Triangular in shape and nestled cosily between old and the new town, Jardin du Gros Cailloux is a privileged point of view with Gros Caillou as its central attractions. The garden is a series of landscaped, discontinuous terraces connecting the slope and plateau. Terraces give way to stairs as well as landings and are intercepted by the pedestrian esplanades. The lawns, paved terraces, children’s games areas of Jardin du Gros Caillou in the heart of the Croix Rousse is an excellent place for strolling, relaxation and play.

A stroll from the large open clearing of Place Bellevue to Gros Cailloux to gentle glassy slope unto Fort Lauret followed by the steps that are well integrated with the original ramparts of the fortification that was almost destroyed in 1794 but was rebuilt during 1830-48, leading to Cours d’Herbouville at the banks of Rhone gives one enough time and nooks to appreciate the urban boulevard as well as the natural scenic beauty of the riverfront, from various stages of descending. I felt it allows one to be lost in one’s own world of forgotten times while still being in the present courtesy of various landings along the way.   

So when are you planning to visit it? Gros Caillou awaits!

*For more details about Riss Glaciation click here
This is 5th in the series Life Thro’ Lens @Lyon

Previously in this series…
Peek-a-Boo  / Jana tha Japan… / Romancing The Remains / Alice in Wonderland


Shweta Suresh · June 25, 2021 at 2:04 pm

I loved the story behind the stone. And it’s amazing that it dates back to the ice age! The place looks so beautiful. I hope I’ll be able to visit one day 😀

Pallavi · June 25, 2021 at 4:19 pm

Very nicely written Anagha…. Informative story behind the stone with lovely pictures.😍

meghana dantale · June 25, 2021 at 7:05 pm

Beautifully written…we got the exact story… 😊Sry history!

Sucheta Gosavi · June 26, 2021 at 7:43 am

Very interesting piece of history and wonderfully narrated story Anagha

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