St Emilion | Things to See and Do in Saint Emilion
St Emilion is in the Gironde department of Aquitaine and is 32 km north-east of Bordeaux.
Saint Emilion’s history goes back to prehistoric times and is a World Heritage site.
The Romans planted vineyards in what was to become Saint-Émilion as early as the 2nd century. In the 4th century, the Latin poet Ausonius lauded the fruit of the bountiful vine.
The town was named after the monk Emilion, who in the 8th century, fled to this area to escape persecution by the Benedictine order and settled in a hermitage carved into the rock. He established a strong Christian community, performing miracles and attracting a following of monks who tend the vines and expanded the grape growing and wine producing business.
Due to this expansion and to its strategic position along a pilgrimage route to Santiago de Compostela the area acquired wealth and prominence.
This prosperity lead to the development of a number of religious monuments in the vicinity, including the Saint Emilion Monolithic Church. Constructed in the early 12th century, the church is partly subterranean; its three naves, with a small catacomb beneath, were dug into a rocky hillside. Saint Emilion also possesses a 53-meter-high bell-tower that creates a visible landmark. By the late 20th century, however, the 3,000 ton weight of this tower had shifted far off its supports and was thus susceptible to collapse.
The town and surrounding vineyards suffered greatly during the 100 years war, the war of religion and the French revolution. It was not until the 1850’s that the town and vineyards started to recover.
Today it is recognised by UNESCO as “an outstanding example of an historic vineyard landscape that has survived intact and in activity to the present day” and is a delightful town to visit.
Things to See and Do in St Emilion
Constructed in the early 12th century, the church is partly subterranean; its three naves, with a small catacomb beneath, were dug into a rocky hillside. Saint Emilion also possesses a 53-meter-high bell-tower that creates a visible landmark.
Considered one of the most impressive churches in the Gironde the Collegiate Church dates back to the 12th century and was built on the remains of a Roman
The cloister of the collegiate church of Saint Emilion was rebuilt on the ruins of the Roman cloister in the 15th century. It regularly holds artistic exhibitions and various other events. Entrance is through the church.
Based in the heart of the village is the perfectly preserved 14th-century cloister. This spectacular site also includes gardens and a network of underground cellars and passages where superior sparkling wines have been produced since 1892. Guided tours of the underground cellars and passages are available as are wine tastings.