Hidden away in the woods not far from the banks of the river Leyre, in the hamlet of Lamothe just to the east of Le Teich, is the sm...

Fontaine Saint-Jean: the miraculous spring in Le Teich which has run dry


Hidden away in the woods not far from the banks of the river Leyre, in the hamlet of Lamothe just to the east of Le Teich, is the small and somewhat mysterious Fontaine Saint-Jean, housing a spring which has now run dry but which was believed to have miraculous properties back in the day.

The tiny edifice, which was restored in recent years, dates from the 17th century and, although I was unable to spot them, the dates 1645 and 1650 are apparently etched into the structure, in the concave niche which until 1772 contained a statue of Lamothe’s patron saint, Saint John (the statue was the unwitting victim of a dispute between the good people of Le Teich and Mios).

Although little information about the fountain is readily available, some of the more detailed descriptions available online (see links at the bottom of this article) refer to its past mystical and religious significance. This can mainly be attributed to its location on one of the oldest of the many Saint James’ Way pilgrimage paths through the area; it therefore served as a natural halt for walkers en route to or from Santiago de Compostela down the centuries. But some scholars have even claimed the story goes much further back and that the spring was hailed for its spiritual virtues prior even to the Roman conquest of Gaul.

To say the immediate environment is peaceful would be an understatement. 
Whatever, there are legends about the healing properties of the spring water that the fountain used to deliver. It was believed that the water cured skin ailments, although throughout the 20th century this belief faded when the spring ran dry (possibly due to the substantial work carried out nearby to build railway lines). Still, even in modern times it is reportedly possible to see cloths or rags deposited on the fountain, part of a traditional Landais ritual performed in the hope of a miracle. According to loyal reader Harvey Morgan, "You dip the cloth in the water, rub it over the affected part, usually repeating a prayer or ritual of some sort, and hang it to dry by the fountain. The ailment disappears as the cloth dries. There are several fountains in the Landes where the practice still continues."

A recently-deposited candle alongside the empty niche?
The day I was there along with my occasional travelling companion, my father-in-law Michel, there were no cloths or rags to be seen, although the area was so humid that we would have happily deposited however many cloths it would have taken to rid our skin of the unrelenting onslaught of hungry mosquitos! There were signs of recent visits: a candle had been deposited along with a Virgin Mary statuette. As a reminder of the fountain’s status as a stop for pilgrims, rudimentary benches have been positioned in a semi-circle around the fountain, although it would have taken a brave insect-resistant soul to stop there for too long. It was very peaceful, the silence only disturbed by two horse riders who arguably had the best form of transport to be able to contend with the marshy environment.

Horse-riding, bicycles and a miraculous spring. Quite a combination.
Upon departing, I noted that somehow I appeared to be unscathed by the countless mosquito attacks. Maybe the place does have miraculous qualities after all! But, above all, I was simply happy to have seen this unusual place, not least because it was far from my first attempt to find it! Indeed, the fountain is not easy to locate or reach. The secret is to aim for the car park of the Kayak Club du Teich, just off the D804 départementale, and then work your way south staying close to the river Leyre (or l’Eyre). You then pass under a railway bridge, before crossing a small wooden footbridge over the Craste Beneyre stream. By taking an immediate right, in effect following the stream, the woodland footpath will lead you to Fontaine Saint-Jean.

One final footnote: running parallel to that path, some distance to the north, is the aptly-named Allée de la Fontaine Saint-Jean, with a row of unusual timber-framed houses that seem to be facing away from the street and instead look out towards the railway line. The residences appear to be particularly desirable, although their appeal may dip momentarily whenever a TGV high-speed train whizzes past the front window!

Homes on Allées de la Fontaine Saint-Jean facing away from the street.
> Find it on the Invisible Bordeaux map: Fontaine Saint-Jean, Le Teich.
> Further recommended reading with more detailed information here: Marinelle Balades Photos, Info Bassin, Société Historique et Archéologique d'Arcachon et du pays de Buch.  

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