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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User Reviews

TATIJANA PERAUD (9 months ago)
A very interesting tour and explanation for the crémant de Bordeaux! It was a nice addition to touring wineries having something other than red wines.
Nate Clayton (10 months ago)
Oh I so wanted to say great things here - these guys have a privileged setting, are a huge magnet for tourists and make a bundle of money. Their picnic basket is a GREAT concept, the in house DJ was great. What a shame then that the focus is solely on making as much money as possible. The place was unkept, scruffy and poorly maintained. Yet super busy at all times of course!) It could easily be 5* surroundings but it's not (and yes, I know a drought dried the grass up but there are alternate options and the best could have been made out of the situation). Amazing location, just a shame the owners no longer recognize it's potential and see only the $$$
Antoine Bouchart (10 months ago)
An architectural disaster ! Church transformed into a modern shop of souvenirs, monument transformed into garden party ! It is sad to see the European heritage classified at UNESCO sold to people without historical knowledges and values
Mihai Serban Cotabitiu (2 years ago)
Always a pleasure to come here and have a picnic inside. You really need to be very HUNGRY to be able to finish the picnic basket they offer, it's for at least 3 persons. C
Marta Marino (3 years ago)
Amazing place relaxing with very good wine
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