Fontaneilles pedestal

The Grands Causses lookout

The Fontaneilles pedestal dominates the Vallée du Tarn, between Millau and the Gorges du Tarn. Seen from below, it’s already impressive… but seen from above, the “wow!” effect is immediate.

An exceptional site, a breathtaking panorama and a history bordering on legend… a nugget as we like them back home!

A brief history of the Fontaneilles Pedestal

On Christmas Eve 1890, 3 priests decided to offer the inhabitants of the Vallée du Tarn a huge statue of the Virgin, to be enthroned on the cliffs of the Puech de Fontaneilles.

A subscription was launched, over several years, and with success! While volunteer parishioners created the access path from the Valley, masons built the pedestal. Over 2 years of work and… “Our Lady of Salvation” never came, and the pedestal remained “naked”.

Scams, lies, embezzlement… no one knows what really happened. It wasn’t until 1973 that the top of the pedestal was topped… with a simple cross, which is nevertheless said to be visible from 80 communes around!

For the rest of the story, the legends and the little tales, see you on site!

A spiral to heaven!

My first vision on arriving at the Puech de Fontaneilles is of a small, unfinished circular chapel on the cornice of a beautiful limestone cliff.

As I enter this pedestal through one of the narrow keyed arches, my eye is immediately drawn to the central spiral staircase.
Oooooh it makes you want to climb! This staircase is very recent (2023), but blends very well with the stones of the Fontaneilles pedestal.

Stair race

The English call it “tower running”, the French call it course d’escaliers. It’s not that this pedestal is a skyscraper, but those 25.50m of height are enough for me to fall back into childhood to embark on a frantic vertical run… with my dog!
Well… I lost on the way up, and on the way down!”

No excuse though given the number of trail courses at Grands Causses Espace Trail! Enough to train all year round!

A little closer to the stars...

At the top of this mini spiral course, a breathtaking panoramic view! Watch out for the crush! In front of me,a 100% natural window on the heart of the Tarn Valley with its villages, orchards, vineyards, black earth…. All around, the cliffs of the Causse Noir, further on the Larzac and the foothills of the Lévezou. Welcome to the Parc Naturel Régional des Grands Causses.

Look out over the skyline: Millau and its belfry loom like a mirage.

A multi-stage orientation table is welcome to read the landscape and understand what the Grands Causses and local architectural nuggets are all about.


Tip: Explore the Fontaneilles pedestal at sunset, when the cliffs and villages turn orange. You can even wait for the first stars, so close to home, at the gates of the RICE – Réserve Internationale de Ciel Etoilé.

Eye-to-eye with a vulture

At this altitude and on the ledge, I also enjoy observing the many birds, from the shy little wagtail sprinting along the passageway to the imposing but very elegant griffon vulture soaring with its plumage in the wind. I’m always impressed by this animal’s poise, especially when I find myself, as here, at the height of the bouldras (vulture in Occitan) and close enough to see its downy ruff quivering in the air!

War vultures, black vultures, bearded vultures, and with a bit (a lot) of luck the little Egyptian vulture… be curious and patient, they’re there!”

On the orientation table, a little memo helps you recognize and differentiate them.

Fontaneilles pedestal hike

You can do just the round trip to the pedestal, or opt for a loop on one of the classic hikes around Millau.

3.5 hours for 10.7km, a good picnic at the summit and a great day and some great memories ahead!”

On the program: the Château de Peyrelade! Right from the start, meet this impressive medieval fortress perched on a rocky outcrop, with which it plays an incredible mimicry.

Another curiosity: the semi-troglodytic wine cellar village of Entre-deux-Monts. No, it’s not a hobbit village, but this hamlet of low limestone buildings, vaults and slate roofs is as atypical as it is charming!


ACCESS: If you only wish to make the round trip to the Piédestal de Fontaneilles, park at the small signposted parking lot just after the hamlet of Fontaneilles. From here, a wide forest track leads directly to the summit.

Continue the adventure