The Gavarnie Cirque: A Celebrated “Nature’s Colossus”

  • Monique FortEmail author
Part of the World Geomorphological Landscapes book series (WGLC)


Surrounded by peaks at height more than 3,000 m, the Gavarnie cirque forms, with two other cirques and the adjacent Spanish canyons, an exceptional landscape recognised in 1997 as a UNESCO World Heritage site for both its natural and cultural values. It is an outstanding geomorphosite straddling the Central Pyrenees, famous for its 1,500-m-high limestone amphitheatre, its waterfalls, and the Brèche de Roland. It results from a long evolution, including the formation of the Pyrenean range, the development of Quaternary glaciers, and a long history of human occupation and exchanges across the French/Spanish border. It has always been an inspiring place for many artists and is much appreciated by tourists and climbers.


Calcareous cirque Thrust nappes Pyrenean glaciation Waterfalls 



Warm thanks are due to Mélanie Pateau (Univ. Paris-Diderot), Marc Calvet (Perpignan University), and Pierre René (Association Moraine) for providing illustration.


  1. Babault J, Van Den Driessche J, Teixell A (2011) Retro- to pro-side migration of the main drainage divide in the Pyrenees: geologic and geomorphological evidence. Geophys Res Abstr 13:EGU2011–EGU12567Google Scholar
  2. Calvet M, Delmas M, Gunnell Y, Braucher R, Bourlès D et al (2011a) Recent advances in research on Quaternary glaciations in the Pyrenees. In: Gibbard PL (ed) Quaternary Glaciations, Extent and Chronology, a closer look Part IV, vol 15, Developments in Quaternary Science. Elsevier, Amsterdam, pp 127–139CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Calvet M, Delmas M, Gunnell Y, Braucher R, Bourlès D (2011b) Unravelling the last glaciation in the Pyrenees: an overview of recent advances. Abstract XVIII INQUA Conference, Bern 21–27 July 2011.
  4. Choukroune P, ECORS team (1989) The ECORS Pyrenean deep seismic profile reflection data and the overall structure of an orogenic belt. Tectonics 8(1):23–39CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Delmas M, Calvet M, Gunnell M, Braucher R, Bourlès D (2011) Palaeogeography and 10Be exposure-age chronology of Middle and Late Pleistocene glacier systems in the northern Pyrenees: implications for reconstructing regional palaeoclimates. Palaeogeogr Palaeoclimatol Palaeoecol 305:109–122CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Galop D, Carozza L, Marembert F, Bal MC (2007) Activités pastorales et climat durant l’âge du Bronze dans les Pyrénées: l’état de la question à la lumière des données environnementales et archéologiques. In: Richard H et al (Dir) Environnements et cultures à l’âge du Bronze en Europe occidentale. Editions du CTHS, Paris, pp 107–119Google Scholar
  7. Gellatly AF, Grove JM, Switsur VR (1992) Mid-Holocene glacial activity in the Pyrenees. Holocene 2(3):266–270CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Hugo V (1891) Dieu, uncompleted Poem (Posthumous)Google Scholar
  9. Jalut G, Montserrat Maerti J, Fontugne M, Delibrias G, Vilaplana JM, Julia R (1992) Glacial to interglacial vegetation changes in the northern and southern Pyrenees: Deglaciation, vegetation cover and chronology. Quat Sci Rev 11:449–480CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Reclus E (1877) Nouvelle Géographie universelle, t.2: La FranceGoogle Scholar
  11. Reille M, Andrieu V (1995) The late Pleistocene and Holocene in the Lourdes Basin, Western Pyrenees, France: new pollen analytical and chronology data. Veg Hist Archaeobot 4:1–21CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. René P (2001) Les glaciers des Pyrénées françaises: campagnes d’observation de septembre 2000. Réunion Société Hydrotechnique de France, sect. Glaciologie, Grenoble, 15–16 mars 2001, 16 pGoogle Scholar
  13. Rodés A (2008) La Última deglaciación en los Pirineos: datación de super-ficies de exposición mediante 10Be, y modelado numérico de paleo-glaciares. Doctoral thesis, Universitat de Barcelona (unpublished), 238 ppGoogle Scholar
  14. Teixell A (1998) Crustal structure and orogenic material budget in the West central Pyrenees. Tectonics 17(3):395–406CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. UNESCO World Heritage List, Pyrénées-Mont Perdu. and
  16. Vergés J, Fernàndez M, Martínez A (2002) The Pyrenean orogen: pre-, syn-, and post-collisional evolution. In: Rosenbaum G, Lister GS (eds) Reconstruction of the evolution of the Alpine-Himalayan Orogen. J Virtual Explor 8:55–74Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Geography DepartmentUFR GHSS, CNRS UMR 8586 PRODIG, University Paris Diderot-Sorbonne-Paris-CitéParis Cedex 13France

Personalised recommendations