Above is the Abbey of La Sauve Majeure founded in 1079. It is hard to understand how almost 1000 years ago such a magnificent Abbey was built in the countryside, in what was then a great forest. Articles say that there was support from Duke William VIII of Aquitaine, the Pope and the Kings of France and England, but what an achievement by father Gérard de Corbie, later Saint Gérard.A clue is that it is on a main route for pilgrims to Saint Jaques de Compostelle in Spain. The abbey prospered in the middle ages and had many priories, depending on the source between 51 and 76 priories. At one time it was a rival to Bordeaux as a commercial centre but not without revolts by locals and some robberies.The hundred years war between France and England caused damage to the Abbey but there were repairs made in the 16th century. Following the abbey's periods of influence and prosperity there followed a period of decline with damage by a severe storms in 1665 and later an earthquake in 1759.During the French revolution the wealth of the abbey was confiscated and it was used as a prison. Later in the 19th century the stones of the abbey were taken and used for building.It is now a Unesco Heritage site. Visits in English are possible and in September the grounds are used for a wonderful nightime spectacle with a historic recreation by locals, and of course food and wine. This is for the pleasure of locals and visitors alike.
This page can only give a flavour of the wealth of religious buildings to be found. Many are used for services, in the towns each week and in the countryside less often, with a priest holding a service in one village one week and in another village the next. It is not necessary to have a guide book, but we do have suggested visits, but just meandering from village to village will give a wonderful flavour of the architecture and, for me, an awe of country life in the last 800 -1,000 years.Coming up to date churches in the countryside are sadly often locked but we can sometimes arrange visits.
The area in which we live is full of the most wonderful historic churches and abbeys. Some are historical sites others are village churches, much loved by the locals, but not getting a mention in the history books. This might be considered a pity but it is also wonderful that such buildings, such as our local church, Saint Pierre in Naujan et Postiac shown above, are used and are still a focal point of their village. This church ‘only’ dates back to the twelth century. The church has some light fortifications, dating from the 16th century, and as such it was a place of refuge from robbers and brigands.
The eglise at Puisseguin, near Saint Emilion, was nearly always a point that we would visit on our holidays in Saint Emillon. It is still open in the day time and is a really special place for us.Having entered the fairly austere entrance, you will see the original and beautiful carved stone medieval entrance shown above on the left. Each side of the original entrance are stone benches where village elders would hold their meetings. Above on the right is a 20th century stained glass in the west window showing the Virgin Mary over the trenches.
Bordeaux is full of wonderful churches but above is just one example. It is the eglise Saint-Eloi near to the Grosse Cloche in Bordeaux. The interior is being renovated and it is interesting to see photographs taken before the renovation and the finished result The renovations are being carried out with the help of donations which one can contribute to without being confronted by a collection box as soon as one enters.