In my recent post about Najac, I posed a conundrum. What is the protuberance on the side of the building above, about three metres up? I received some interesting suggestions.
- a loo – a reasonable guess, and the most popular suggestion, since the spaces between houses were often used as sewers. But it isn’t a loo. If you look closely, you’ll see there isn’t an exit hole, which would have been rather necessary!
- a chestnut store – an intriguing idea, inspired by the fact that Najac is surrounded by chestnut forests and chestnuts were an important part of the local economy. Sorry, wrong again.
- a hidey hole – not beyond the bounds of possibility, given Najac’s turbulent history at times. But it isn’t that, either.
I can report that the correct answer is a bread oven. I have never seen one like this. Mostly, they were either separate buildings or semi-circular structures tacked onto houses at ground floor level. Unfortunately, since this is a private residence, we couldn’t go in and look at it from the inside. However, our Tourist Office guide assured us that it is indeed a bread oven.
Since space was at a premium in a place like Najac, it’s reasonable that they built it where they did. An even more powerful reason is that householders were taxed on their ground floor space. As I explained in the post, this is the reason for the upper floors jutting out so far over the streets – to give the inhabitants as much untaxed floor space as possible. So this might be why they put the bread oven at first floor level.
I would be very interested to know if anyone else has come across a suspended bread oven like this elsewhere in France, and if so, where it is.
I waited until today to reveal the answer since we have just returned from a week in Corsica. More about that to follow. We were without email or Internet access – deliberately, since the SF says I spend too much on the Internet and he’s right. So, now that I’ve given you the answer to the conundrum, it’s back to dealing with the 125 emails that arrived in my absence…
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