St Émilion, Aquitaine, SW France .. # 2

St Émilion, Aquitaine, SW France .. # 2

After our delicious lunch at Amélia-Canta in the town square, we had a local guide who took us through the Trinity Church, the hermitage and the Monolithic Church.  It was an amazing experience, but no photographs are allowed at all.  Such a pity, as I would have loved to have had some pics of these incredible ancient places.

“Emilion, a Breton 8th century monk, chose the hillsides of the river Dordogne to meditate in peace.   He lived for 17 years as a hermit in one of the limestone quarries, digging a latin cross-shaped shelter, a stone seat and bed, and a stone altar within the thickness of the walls.” Amazing and humbling to see – it must have been cold, dark and gloomy – cannot imagine living in that small space for 17 years with no comforts at all.  A natural spring provided water, and is said to have healed a blind man when he bathed his eyes in the water.   The stone seat is believed to be a fertility chair .. those who sit on it will become pregnant!

“As he was a former baker, he gave bread to the poor and performed miracles.  He was joined by the Benedictine monks … he gave his name to this religious city.”

To reach his hermitage we passed through the door of the Trinity Church which was built above the Monolithic church in the 13th century by the monks in memory of St Emilion.

Trinity Church with Monolithic Church on right and in distance, La Tour du Roy (King’s Tower) built on request by Henry III of England in the 13th century ..

Our local tour guide had the key for this large door which leads to the entrance of the Trinity Church and entrance to the catacombs.  We were not allowed to take photographs beyond this door sadly 🙁   The Trinity Church has impressive ribbed vaults and frescoes preserved under layers of soot, discovered when the church was being restored in 1997.   The interior was used by a cooper for burning the wood used to make oak wine barrels (cooper .. a maker or repairer of wine barrels)

The catacombs were eerie !!   … damp, dark and slippery but incredible!!  Used as necropolis and graves, there are many sections cut out of the limestone with platforms, some perfectly preserved.  There was an opening at the top of central dome (which is bricked up now) through which bones were dumped from the cemetery above.

The Monolithic Church was built by the Benedictine monks in the 8th – 12th century,  after St Emilion’s death.  It is the largest church of its kind in Europe – 38m long, 20m wide, 11m high.

Standing inside one feels so small and insignificant.  To imagine monks carving out this vast place .. from the top to the bottom .. a mammoth task indeed!!   The columns are perfect and precisely arched at the top – incredible!!   Nowadays, huge metal braces support the columns as it was thought that the weight of the tower was too heavy for the whole structure, but it turns out it’s more due to the limestone columns absorbing water.  The monks had put in a system of drains but these were neglected over the years.   There are several altars dug out of the side walls and faded fescoes.  I am astounded that we weren’t told not to touch anything … I ran my fingertips very lightly over some of the frescoes

Looking up towards the central dome, there is a bricked section where the bell rope hung for the bell in the tower above.  It’s off-centre as the tower, built in 1883,  wasn’t built precisely matching the peak of the dome

It’s an amazing experience !!  I’ve found a youtube video of the interior .. it makes for fascinating viewing!!   If I can work out how to copy and paste it here, I will 🙂

A short walk-about on our own before catching the bus again … looking up the escalettes (very steep cobblestone narrow street) before we attempted it!  Tough going, I must say, no wonder there’s a rail to hang onto, and cafés and little shops all the up!!

More vines for sale !!   How I would have loved one!!

Panoramic view from the bell tower ..

This is a very pretty water feature – it was filled with a shallow water .. very cooling on a hot sunny day

Our rendezvous point for the bus …

.. back to our hotel .. the Pullman Aquitania Hotel in Bordeaux.

End of Day 8 of our Trafalgar Tour ‘Best of France’ !!!

Day 9 .. visit and walk-about the most beautiful fairytale Château Chenonceau in the Loire Valley then onto the charming Beatrice’s goat farm for a divine dinner and French farm experience 🙂

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