St Emilion

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April 28th 2013
Published: June 28th 2013
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St. Emilion.

Continuing eastward through the Dordogne Valley we arrive at the Chateau Soutard Grand Cru Classé (winery), just north of the village of St. Emilion. All the Chateau wineries throughout this region are considered "high end" and the Chateau Soutard was no exception. We were given a tour of the estate and had several samples of their products, which we pronounced as “good.”

Carrying on to the village itself we were led through the ancient, cobblestoned streets and entered the Cave of Saint Emilion. Our local guide told us that Frere Emilion took up residence in this cave sometime in the 8th century. His plan was to live a simple ascetic life. Gradually his presence became known throughout the region and pilgrims would visit him for his blessings – or something, I really have no idea.

A huge, rounded limestone monolith exists in the centre of the town and at some point someone decided to dig a cavernous place of worship into the heart of the rock. Today the site is visited by guided tour, and one is shown the catacombs where burials occurred, and the dark sanctuary which forms the actual church in which masses are still conducted on occasion. As a comical aside – depending on your sense of humour – another somebody decided it would be a good idea to build a huge bell tower on the rock above the church. Over time it has been discovered that the bell tower is too heavy and this weight, combined with poor plumbing that weakens the limestone, is causing the church-cavern to collapse. The central columns supporting the dome of the church are heavily reinforced with steel beams until a more elegant solution is found. On receipt of this information some tourists, certainly this one, decide to seek the exits.

We enjoyed a late lunch at a very satisfactory restaurant on the main square, making a point of being gracious in the face of our hosts' hospitality by drinking a lot of their wine.


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