Hydrothermal veins and altered feldspar are evidence for fluid circulation in granitic rocks in the continental crust. The hydrothermal alteration of feldspar affects the deformation behavior of granitoids, especially if it occurs before orogeny. Geochronology can establish the timing of fluid circulation to determine if this fluid-driven alteration plays a role in crustal deformation. Although existing dating techniques cannot be applied to feldspar alteration directly, absolute ages of fluid circulation can be obtained from hydrothermal veins. We combined U-Pb geochronology and hydrogen isotope data (δD) from epidote [Ca2Al2(Al,Fe3+) Si3O12(OH)] to unravel the hydration of post-Variscan granitoids in the Alpine orogen. The recent protocol for epidote U-Pb dating proves for the first time that fluids of meteoric origin infiltrated the granitoids in Permian times by exploiting synrift faults, consistent with the δD values of the epidote-forming fluids. This hydration event caused at least some degree of feldspar hydration and weakening of the granitic rocks ~260 m.y. before their pervasive structural overprint by the Alpine orogeny. The preservation of Permian U-Pb ages despite Alpine orogenic processes confirms epidote as a powerful tool with which to unveil pre-orogenic hydration events in metagranitoids. Our analytical approach broadens insights into the water cycle in the middle continental crust in orogens.

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