Today we visited the UNESCO World Heritage town of St-Emillion and what a treat we had in store. The fortified medieval town looks, as you drive towards it, as if it is almost cascading down the hill with vineyards all around.
The history of the town dates back to the Romans times when the Romans planted vineyards as early as the 2nd century. The town itself dates from the 8th century when Emilion, a Breton monk and travelling confessor settled in a hermitage carved into the rock. The monks who followed him started up the commercial wine production in the area.
Wandering the charming steep narrow streets we came across picturesque open squares, viewpoints looking across the town and the surrounding area and a significant number of historic buildings such as the Bell tower, the Brunnet gate and ramparts and the collegiate church and cloisters to name just a few. The one advantage of visiting a place like St Emilion at this time of year is that there are very few tourists so able to enjoy the atmosphere of the place. However the disadvantage is that there are limited tours available to visit the underground catacombs, the 'monolithic' church - biggest of its type in Europe- and the 'grotte de l'Ermitage' so we missed that part of the town . Never mind!
From St-Emilion we then drove through vineyards and the area known as Entre-Deux-Mers(“between two seas”) to La Sauve-Majeure. This ruined Abbey was an important stop for pilgrims en route to Santiago de Compostela in Spain and played an important role in managing the religious communities both in France and England The abbey was founded in 1079 and prospered and grew with the support of the Duke William VIII of Aquitaine, the Pope and a large number of generous benefactors and protectors, including the kings of England and France.
Although a ruin today the abbey has an amazing collection of sculpted capitals which illustrate stories from the Old and New Testaments or fabulous beasts and motifs.
An interesting day.