August 10 Day 6 – Fort Medoc > Libourne
Enjoy a relaxing morning on board as you cruise into the beautiful 13th century port of Libourne. Spend the afternoon in the nearby town of Saint-Émilion, a visual feast and the jewel of this ancient wine growing region. You’ll also get to explore the underground catacombs of the Monolithic Church – a true trip highlight.
Celebrate the 2,000-year history of wine by enjoying a glass at the estate of Château Siaurac. Surrounded by the vines, mingle with newfound friends, explore the spectacular property, or discover the artistic heritage of this region and admire a local artist painting the stunning landscape using paint made from the wine grown on the estate.
The Scenic Diamond left port at 7:00 am and arrived in Libourne about 12:00 pm. So of course we tried to sleep a bit later and missed the 7:30 ‘Magnificent five’ morning training with the well being coach. (Sigh) Even so Karen and I for some reason woke up about 7:00 – I immediately became preoccupied with taking pictures – I got one that is almost close to a sunrise – the color of the sky was amazing. Karen went up top with her camera. Lucky Kevin and Diana were probably still sleeping. After having a later breakfast I went up top for a bit, but it was very cold so I went back to the room, totally forgetting about our too early Port Talk at 9:45 and French lesson. We arrived in Libourne about 11:30 so we went for a quick walk to the market set up in the town square before heading back to the ship for lunch. After a light lunch we got ready for our excursion to Saint-Émilion which turned out to be an amazing place to walk around. The tour was especially great when we got out of the heat by going into the cave of Saint-Émilion and the Monolithic Church but not so great since we couldn’t take pictures in those places and didn’t find any to buy. The free time afterwards was especially fun when we stopped for a glass of wine in the shade of some ruins. On our walk to the bus Karen found a shop to buy some macaroon cookies and little Bordeaux cakes and chocolate Sauterne raisins. Yum. Then we were off to the Château Siaurac for our ‘Sundowner’ and another glass of wine before heading back for a 7:30 dinner. After dinner we went to to the Diamond Lounge for live music, dancing and drinks.
Pictures along the river:
Libourne: Founded in 1270 by Lieutenant Roger de Leyburn, the fortified harbour town of Libourne, located at the confluence of the Dordogne and the Isle, enjoyed a rich history linked to the trade in wool, wine, salt and wood, which has left it with an interesting heritage. Grand Port tower and its arcade square of Place Abel Surchamp, is surrounded by ancient façades, among which stands the 15th-century town hall, which was extended in the late 19th century.
Saint–Émilion: The Romans planted vineyards in this area as early as the 2nd century. The town was named after a Breton monk Émilion, who in the eighth century, fled here to escape persecution by the Benedictine Order. Émilion adopted an eremitic existence, living in a cave carved into the rock. He was said to perform miracles and attracted a following of monks. The region became known as Saint-Émilion and acquired wealth and prominence due to wine production and to its strategic position along a pilgrimage route to Santiago de Compostela.
When Eleanor of Aquitaine married Henry Plantagenet in 1152 (soon to become Henry II of England), Saint-Émilion became a province ruled by the Angevin king of England. The territory changed hands several times in the following centuries, and became a permanent part of the French kingdom in 1453. Its historic landscape includes vineyards, fine architecture, and many churches and monasteries built from limestone quarried locally.
The cultural landscape of Saint-Émilion, including its most famous church, was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1999.
Palais Cardinal: The Cardinal Gaillard de la Mothe was nephew of the Archbishop of Bordeaux who became Pope Clement V at the beginning of the 14th century. He granted his nephew the title of “Cardinal of Sainte Luce”, the first dean of the chapter of Augustinian canons and a luxurious Palace, today known as “Palais Cardinal”. The remaining facade of the Palace which was built from the 12 century on was part of the former city walls. It was located just next to the former main entrance of the city, called the “Bourgeoise Gate”.
Saint-Émilion Monolithic Church, constructed in the early twelfth century, is a building dug into the limestone plateau whose current structure still forms a single block. The three naves, with a small catacomb beneath, were dug into a rocky hillside.
Bell Tower: The 53-meter-high bell tower of the monolithic church, built between the 12th and the 15th century and reinforced at its base a century later, is the peak of Saint-Émilion and a notable landmark.
The King’s Keep (castel daou rey): Located inside the city walls it is the only romanesque keep still intact in Gironde. This quadrangular tower, 14.50 meters high, and 9.50 meters square is divided into three levels. There is some confusion as to who built it, a French king in 1224, or the English King Henry III – the Duke of Aquitaine in 1237. But some believe it was the Jurade, a local brotherhood that can trace its roots back to a royal charter issued in 1199 by John Lackland, King of England.
This charter granted economic, political, and legal rights to the jurats, or aldermen, of Saint-Émilion. These local nobles and magistrates were empowered with the town’s general administration. The Keep may have functioned as a town hall since there was no edifices called city hall, yet in the 18th century. In exchange for these rights, England was granted the “privilège des Vins de Saint-Émilion”. This meant that English merchants had priority over everyone else with regard to buying the wines of Saint-Émilion. The Jurade’s authority lasted until the French Revolution of 1789.
Collegiate Church Cloister: The religious community of Saint Augustine occupied the Collegiate Church, between the 12th C and the the French revolution. The scale of the building shows its importance and power in the community. The construction started in 1110, with church reconstruction between the 13th and 15th centuries. The cloister was the geographic and spiritual hub of the monastery. From the garden all other buildings in the monastery could be accessed. The garden, a symbol of the Garden of Eden, was a closed place for prayer where the only real exit was towards the sky. On the South and East walls there were richly decorated graves dating to the 13th and 14th century. Members of the nobility and religious order were buried there. The Canons of Saint-Emilion, so powerful in the religious sphere were just as powerful politically. They taxed the population and offered to the local elite a grave of choice, in the heart of their monastery.
Today the Collegiate church is the parish church of the village.
Wash Houses: Two sources of water were transformed into wash houses in the 19th century. The fountain of the King, located at the base of the King’s Keep was the largest, decorated a roof. It was reserved for for the washerwomen of the rich districts, assuring them shelter in case of bad weather. Nearby, the second called the fountain of the Place, the smallest of the wash houses without a roof was reserved for the washerwomen of the popular districts. The linens were not really washed here but were rinsed here since it took a large amount of clear water to rinse the wash.
Cadene’s House and Gate: Now the last half-timbered house left in Saint-Émilion, this beautiful building has a carved facade dating back to the 16th century though its foundations are much older. The gate of this street was an inside gate of the city. Its name could actually come from the “Gascon” word “cadena” meaning “chain”. So the gate might have socially separated the town, from the noble population of the upper town from the more modest population of the lower part of the town.
The Cordeliers Cloister: “The Franciscan order was founded on the initiative of St. Francis of Assisi in the 13th century. It is an order focused on praying, preaching and begging. The Franciscans were better known in medieval France under the name “Cordeliers” because of the rope they used as a belt.”On their arrival in the early 13th C the Cordeliers established Their first monastery outside the walls of the city which suffered during the 100 Years War opposing the Kings of France. In the late 14th century the Cordeliers finally received permission to build their new monastery inside the city walls. It included a church, cloister, garden, winery, cellar, courtyard and main building. Expelled during the French Revolution the monastery was sold as national property in 1791. At that time, it was indicated as being in poor condition. In 2005, it was listed as a historic monument. Today rest and relaxation is offered with wine by glass or bottle, along with savory treats or sweets available for sale. We enjoyed the cold wine!
The Great Wall is a remnant of the huge Dominican Monastery built in the 12th C outside the town walls. The Dominican rule is based on the notion of individual poverty but the architecture of this remnant does not reflect that notion. During the 100 years war it was used as a refuge by French troops, causing the Dominicans to leave. The monastery was then destroyed leaving this portion still standing.
Couvent des Jacobins is situated right in the center of the picturesque, Saint Emilion village. The actual chateau is located on the site of an ancient, 13th century Dominican monastery. The estate takes its name from the order of Friars and preachers that were responsible for the monastery, Freres Precheurs Jacobin.
Salle des Dominicans: Very little of the original monestary remains, the large open room with an arch are used for different functions. The facade with the stained glass window is also original.
Sundowners event at Château Siaurac, a 19th C historic monument ‘surrounded by bicentennial trees in a landmark romantic park’ then back to the ship for dinner, drinks and dancing: