Saint-Émilion is a commune in the Gironde department in Aquitaine region in southwest France. Perched on a limestone hilltop like a graceful balcony above the Dordogne Valley. In 1999, Saint Émilion became a UNESCO World Heritage Site, honored for its cultural landscape and historical vineyards. This medieval, fairytale town is a maze of curlicue ballast stone streets, strewn with charming storefronts, quaint squares, and flower-laden terraces. The town does everything it can to looks its best for the one million tourists who visit each year.
Heritage of Saint Emilion
In this honey-colored wine village, just east of Bordeaux, perhaps the most extraordinary site is the Saint Émilion Monolithic Church, dating from the 12th century. Where 1300 years ago, a Breton monk, Émilion, came to the ancient town then named Ascumbas. According to ancient historians, Émilion lived in this subterranean church-cavern as a hermit, sleeping on a stone bed. The faithful believe he performed miracles and a seat he carved from limestone aided in fertility. Inside this dark and damp grotto are 14th century frescoes and carvings, along with meters of catacombs, all forming three cross-shaped naves. Other monks took refuge with Émilion, hiding to escape religious persecution, while traveling to Santiago de Compostela, in northwest Spain.
The most dramatic sight is a steeple rising from the corner of the Les Cordeliers. A 15th century bell tower, soaring up 53-meters high above Saint Émilion. If you climb the 200 steps it brings you atop a glazed tile rooftop, for a majestic view across the valley of vineyards and châteaux. It’s a beautiful town, with its scarred ramparts that bears witness to battles for control between the French and English monarchs.
Wine and Gastronomy of Saint Emilion
Every historical town and village seems to have a specialty treat, along with luscious wines, and St. Émilion is no different. Here you’ll find the delicious historical almond macaron, and certainly not to be confused with the North America version of the coconut haystack macaroon. This famous Saint Émilion macaron originated in 1620 created by nuns of the Les Ursulines order. The recipe has sifted down through generations and is closely safeguarded at Veritable Macarons de Saint Émilion, at 9 rue Guadet. Many say the historical treat pairs well with Saint Emilion wines (or simply gifted in the traditional blue-labeled box).
Photogenic Saint Émilion is more than famed wines – it will steal your heart. This tiny, storied village weaves an incredible visual story, through Romanesque architecture, religious sites and cultural indulgence. Simply put, a one-of-a-kind destination.
Saint Émilion is a quick train, car, or bus ride from Bordeaux; where the town is easily explored on foot, Petit tourist train, or even a tuk-tuk ride around the area.
Tourist Information: saint-emilion-tourisme.com
J.Christina is the blogger behind www.scribblesandsmiles.net. Blogging from the Midwest, J. Christina, and her husband, Mr. Christie, share their European trips so others can travel vicariously through their scribbles and images.