One of the first places we visited in the summer was the beautiful village of Aubeterre-Sur-Dronne. It is classed as one of the most beautiful villages in France which means it is extraordinary as most of the villages in France are like picture postcards. It has been listed as a “Petites Cités de Caractère” (small town of character) since 2012. We had heard a lot about an ancient church that had only been rediscovered in the 1950’s due to hit being hidden by a significant rockfall. Situated in the lower part of the village, the Underground Church of St Jean, also known as the Monolithic church, Eglise Monolithique, or the troglodyte church, is breathtaking. The church has been carved out of the rock, and the inside is enormous. The height reaches up to 20 meters at its highest. The Monolithic Church of Aubeterre-Sur-Dronne is the tallest in the world.
Lucas is really into Ninjago Lego so was in his element as the church resembles the backdrop to a lot of the Ninjago episodes. Excavations to the church began in the fifth century when a total-immersion baptismal font was carved into the floor. To the left of the font, there is a large area where 80 burial hollows have been carved into the stone, each with its head pointing to Jerusalem. To the right of the font, there is a large stone reliquary which is said to have housed an crucial holy relic, but the vestige has now disappeared.
A steep stone staircase spirals up to the first floor from where you can get some tremendous views of the interior of the church. A passageway once went from here to the chateau which lies up above the church. At the entrance to the church, there is another section with more ancient tombs. These were laid out to face the reliquary rather than Jerusalem. The Monolithic church became an important pilgrim stop for pilgrims on the ‘Camino de Compostela’. It is open every day from 9.30-12.30 and 2.00-6.00. Entry fees are 6 euros for adults. If you find yourself in Aubetere-Sur-Dronne visit, the church is magnificent.
In Aubeterre-Sur-Dronne there is also a Romanesque church, the church of St Jacques which was also built to welcome pilgrims on route for Santiago de Compostela. This has a beautiful 12th-century Romanesque facade with finely carved arches and some magnificent ghoulish carvings on the capitals. The facade has a strong Moorish influence.