Europe

Visit to Saint-Émilion: much more than wine

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In a visit to Bordeaux It is highly recommended to take a trip to the beautiful town of Saint-Émilion, only about 45 minutes by car. Many people know this town for being the center of the appellation of origin Saint-Émilion Grand Cru and Saint-Émilion AOC. However, it is also a very pretty medieval town with many historical attractions They leave you amazed. That is why it is part of UNESCO World Heritage. That is, Saint-Émilion has much more apart from vineyards and surely when you reach the end of the next chronicle you will agree with me.

We arrived at the town around eleven in the morning, on a cloudy Sunday in April. It took us a bit to find parking, because at that time there were already many visitors. The first thing that most people do is climb the natural balcony of the bell tower square and contemplate the views from there, but there goes a secret: we discover that the best views of Saint-Émilion they are from the top of the old bell tower, and it is that in the tourist information office that is right in front you can ask for the entry key for only € 1.5 and go up. From above, we contemplate two things: the town and the endless fields of vineyards that extend in all directions.

The town has very steep streets and very steep slopes. During the Middle Ages, the town was separated between the high zone where the bourgeois and the noble lived, and the low one, where the peasants lived. There was even a door with a chain that separated the two social classes and that can still be seen today. Apparently, these uneven terrain is due to the fact that, thirty million years ago, the ocean covered the entire area and the water, as it retreated over the millennia, eroded the calcareous rock of the area and created deep grooves. and steep caves. And it was in one of these caves where the monk Émilion, who became a saint. We will talk about this monk a few paragraphs later.

On the other hand, the vineyards surrounding the town of Saint-Émilion belong to some 860 different wineries, four of which have the seal Premier Grand Cru Classe A, Top quality seal. In this area the grape has been cultivated since Roman times, but it was from the s. XII when they began to develop further, thanks to five different religious orders decided to settle in place with their monasteries. Before, most of the fields were of cereals, but the monks needed to have wine for the masses, so to plant vineyards it has been said. After the French Revolution, the vineyards passed into private hands and that is why many fields with stone walls can still be seen. Then, until the middle of the s. XIX wine production advanced in parallel to the production of building stone and that is why the town is bored with numerous underground galleries. From then on, wine became the most important product in the area and in 1950 the train arrived and began to be exported all over the world. Saint-Émilion wines soon reached international fame.

At noon we did a very interesting guided tour and in Spanish that we booked in the tourist office from town. We saw the St. Emilion's Cave, the medieval chapel what's up the catacombs and finally a monolithic church underground that removes the hiccups.

During the visit to the cave of St. Emilion, the guide told us the legend of this Benedictine monk of the s. VIII, who spent the last 17 years of his life there. He came fleeing from Bretonia, where he had stolen bread to give it to the poor. The duke of the region ended up discovering it, but at that moment all the bread was transformed into firewood.

Just above the cave was built a chapel in the s. XIII where you can still see the original murals of the apse. It turns out that during the French Revolution, the chapel was occupied by a cooper and the smoke from his workshop covered the walls and thus protected the medieval murals, which were rediscovered in 1927.

Then the guide took us to the catacombs, a natural cave where privileged people were buried because it housed relics from Jerusalem. Curious is the dome carved into the rock and that served as a spiritual outlet for the souls of the dead to Paradise. Today it no longer exists, but during the middle ages there was a spiral staircase that climbed the dome until it reached the cemetery that was at the top.

Château Guadet

Following up to the bottom of the catacombs, we arrive at a huge underground space: the largest monolithic church in Europe. It is really large and is no less than eleven meters high. It was very curious everything they told us about this church, which Pedro de Castillon built upon his return from the First Crusade. We also learned architectural details and the remains of the murals that decorated the church and we were surprised to discover that it is still used for ceremonies twice a year: June 15 and September 15. We all applaud the guide at the end of the visit, because it was really very enjoyable and very interesting.

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