According to different sources the little used french word “cabistous” is a regional term used in the Ardèche department meaning lean-to, small cabin or garden shelter. In the coal mining area around Alès, in the 19th century, many “ardechois” came to work in the booming coal industry. Towns were created where none existed before, and the ardechois settled in, bringing their regional expressions and their families.
In the mining industry, sheet steel was readily available, but marble gravestones would have been costly for modest families. As a result, many cemeteries (eg. those in Portes and in La Vernarède) contain small sheet steel structures standing over family burial plots. These structures were called “cabistous”. Some were very finely decorated, while others remained simple and basic. Many have been abandoned by the families who have no doubt left the mining area to seek fortunes elsewhere.
Despite the evident melancholy of these cemeteries, the impacts of sun, rain, abandon and rust have lent a certain photogenic nobility to the cabistous. Judge for yourself below.