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.References:
Built around AD 90 to entertain the legionaries stationed at the fort of Caerleon (Isca), the impressive amphitheatre was the Roman equivalent of today’s multiplex cinema. Wooden benches provided seating for up to 6,000 spectators, who would gather to watch bloodthirsty displays featuring gladiatorial combat and exotic wild animals.
Long after the Romans left, the amphitheatre took on a new life in Arthurian legend. Geoffrey of Monmouth, the somewhat imaginative 12th-century scholar, wrote in his History of the Kings of Britain that Arthur was crowned in Caerleon and that the ruined amphitheatre was actually the remains of King Arthur’s Round Table.
Today it is the most complete Roman amphitheatre in Britain.