Cordeliers Cloister

Saint-Émilion, France

The Cordeliers cloister is situated at the heart of the medieval town of Saint-Emilion in the Gironde area. It is one of the town’s most emblematic and picturesque sites, containing a monolithic church. A listed Historical Monument and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, it also has underground cellars where sparkling wines are produced.

The cloister gets its name from its first ever occupants, the Cordeliers, Franciscan friars who followed the precepts established by St. Francis of Assisi in 1210. The monastery was pillaged in 1337 during clashes between the Lords of Guyenne and the Counts of Eu and Guinness. To protect themselves against future attacks, the Cordeliers asked to move within the Saint-Emilion walls. They were granted permission in 1338 and immediately began construction work on their chapel. In 1343 they obtained permission from the Pope to establish their monastery within the town, prompting construction of the cloister and part of the monastery building. A few years later the Cordeliers undertook work to convert the chapel into a church, which is still visible today. The rest of the buildings were enclosed inside the walls. In 1383 the King of England finally gave the monks a plot of building land right next to their old home but this time on the right side of the wall.

The Cordeliers occupied these sites for the four centuries leading up to the French Revolution in 1789. During this period the monastery consisted of a church, an entrance courtyard, a winery, a vat room, a cellar, a garden and a dormitory building with six bedrooms. The revolution threw the life of the cloister into turmoil and the order was banned. All 284 monasteries occupied by the Cordeliers monks in France were closed down. The building became national property and its occupants were dispersed. The Cordeliers order was finally authorised again in 1850, but no-one came to claim the Saint-Emilion monastery. The cloister was then left abandoned and nature took its course. Ivy invaded the alleyways and climbed over the buildings.

The cloister was made from limestone which is prevalent in the Saint-Emilion area. Its architecture is Romanesque in style, rubbing shoulders with the old Gothic-style chapel and church. Its columns are monolithic, in other words cut from a single stone from the base to the capital. Small crests are hidden in the abacuses. The Romanesque rounded arches were built in the 14th century and stand near additional Gothic pointed arches in the background. Other visible elements include a small tower which is the remains of the church tower, a very simple sweeping arc spanning the church from one wall to the other, columns without capitals, and windows.



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Founded: 14th century
Category: Religious sites in France
Historical period: Valois Dynasty and Hundred Year's War (France)

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4.4/5 (based on Google user reviews)

User Reviews

Art C (4 months ago)
Very good friendly staff here. After doing so many free tastings in Saint-Émilion, this place I find it most generous. Here, it's famous for their sparkling wines (not champagne but close enough). Fridge magnets start at €3 with many selections. Tours in English starts at 11am and 2pm. It's €12.50 each. It's about 3km so it's huge.
Katie Warren (5 months ago)
Could be improved. Very much a tourist trap full of overpriced gifts and wine was poor for the price. Yes it's a stunning location / building but it feels very commercialised.
Jonathan Elcombe (5 months ago)
Love it, so great to find a unique venue that does a picnic menu with so many options
Doug Noble (7 months ago)
A great spot where you can pick up a local bottle of wine or bubbles and a picnic basket, and enjoy them in the grounds of an old cloisters that made up part of the old Abbey. Great place for a drink.
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