Brantome Abbey, Dordogne visitors guide
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Brantome Abbey in the Dordogne sits on the edge of the River Dronne in the beautiful town of Brantome. It is also the site of some troglodyte caves and houses an exhibition of Fernand Desmoulin paintings.
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France This Way comment: Brantome Abbey is interesting to visit to see the troglodyte caves of the early monks and inside the monastic building where there is a Desmoulin exhibition.
Immediately when you enter the town of Brantome you will be struck by the impressive Brantome Abbey. The town of Brantome sits within a curve of the river Dronne and the Abbey sits on the other side of the river underneath a wooded cliff and dominates the views of the town.
The abbey, the river, the ancient right-angled bridge and the moulin which sits on the other side of the bridge provide a very charming and picturesque view in this corner of Brantome town.
Tickets to visit the town can be bought from the tourist office which sits on the other side of the main bridge, the Pont Notre-Dame. First of all visit the church (which is free to visit and doesn't need a ticket) which is Romanesque in origin though has been rebuilt several times and the vault of the church is 15th century and built in Gothic style.
The Abbey started life in the 8th century when the Benedictine Monks lived in the troglodyte dwellings. It is said that Charlemagne consecrated the abbey at the end of the 8th century and gave the relics of Saint Sicarius, a child martyr and one of the baby boys massacered by King Herrod at the time of the birth of Jesus Christ, to the abbey.
Inside the church there are two gilded wooden panels from the 17th century depicting both the donation of the relics and the massacre of the infants. There is also a statue representing the martydom of Saint Sicarius.
Next to the church are the remains of the 14th century cloisters.
Inside the Abbey itself you first come out onto the courtyard where you can see the beautiful 11th century bell-tower which is the oldest in France. It is built on a rocky outcrop next to the church rather than as part of the church itself.
Your visit then takes you through the troglodyte caves that were the early dwellings of the Benedictine monks. In one of the caves is the remarkable 'Wall of Judgement' which has two bas-reliefs carved into the rock.
On the right is a scene of the cruxifiction and in the centre a more contraversial scene that some take to be a 'dreadful scene of the last judgement' and another interprets it as a pagan divinity.
Other caves reveal the signs of domestic dwellings and a display of modern art is also striking against the backdrop of the caves. Also look out for the fountain which is said to have healing and fertility properties attributed to Saint Sicarius. There is also a natural spring which is another reason why the original monks chose this site for their abbey.
Inside the abbey building there is the Museum Fernand Desmoulin which contains paintings by Desmoulin including works that he apparently created when under the influence of a spirit. These were created between 1900 and 1902 and led him to be considered one of the great spiritualist artists.
It is possible to visit the attics of the abbey from where you get some impressive views over the town of Brantome on the other side of the river.
The nearby town of Bourdeilles is also very pretty and has a castle, the Chateau de Bourdeilles to visit. The village of Saint-Jean de Cole is one of the "most beautiful villages of France" and is well worth a trip.
Map of Brantome Abbey and places nearby
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Sightseeing & tourist attractions to visit nearby
- Abbaye Saint Pierre (Brantome): religious monument
- Chateau de Puyguilhem: national monument (10 km)
- Abbaye Cistercienne de Boschaud (Villars): religious monument (10 km)
- Saint-Jean-de-Cole: most beautiful village (16 km)
- Ancien Prieuré de Merlande (La Chapelle-Gonaguet): religious monument (17 km)
- Abbaye Notre Dame (Chancelade): religious monument (18 km)
- Nontron: recommended detour (18 km)
- Perigueux: town of art and history (20 km)
- Perigueux cathédrale Saint Front (monuments on French pilgrim routes): heritage site (21 km)
- Eglise Saint Etienne de la Cité (Perigueux): religious monument (21 km)
- Eglise Notre Dame de l'Assomption (Thiviers): religious monument (22 km)
- Eglise Notre Dame de Faye (Faye): religious monument (28 km)
The French version of this page is at Brantome Abbey (Francais)