Cryptopodzols are black soils that occur under forests dominated by chestnut trees (Castanea sativa) in Southern Switzerland. Their soil organic carbon (SOC) stocks reach an average of 150 t C ha-1 and are thus among the highest of European forest soils. We investigated the processes leading to the accumulation and stabilisation of SOC in these soils by analysing three Cryptopodzols and one Cambisol for charred organic matter content (macrocharcoal and BPCA), the amounts of Fe and Al, and the colour and SOC content in bulk soil and density fractions. The results showed that charred organic matter produced by frequent ␣res in the area for more than 10,000 years is highly abundant in Cryptopodzols: the stocks of macrocharcoal and BPCA-C amount to up to 31 t ha-1 and 17 t ha-1, respectively. These high amounts of charred organic matter are responsible for the dark soil colour and high SOC concentrations that are, however, also closely related to Fep and Alp concentrations. We concluded that the occurrence of charcoal across the whole pro␣les of Cryptopodzols seems to be the dominating factor, although both the formation of organo-metallic or organo-mineral complexes in the subsoil and the high abundance and stability of charred organic matter are responsible for the high SOC stocks in Cryptopodzols.