Visit Brantome Abbey
Brantome Abbey is a Benedictine abbey founded by Charlemagne in the 8th century and sits on the edge of the River Dronne in the beautiful town of Brantome in the north of the Dordogne.
Explore Brantome Abbey
The town of Brantome sits in a beautiful location inside a deep loop in the River Dronne. On the other side of the river underneath steep wooded cliffs the imposing structure of the Brantome Abbey dominates views of the town.
Next to the southern end of the Abbey you can see the lovely Renaissance Pavillion and pretty formal gardens that sit at the end of a lovely right-angled bridge, the Pont Coudé. With a weir and also a moulin which the view here is very picturesque.
At the northern end of the abbey is the abbey church and bell tower. The Romanesque bell tower sits next to the church on a rocky outcrop and dates from the 11th century. It is the oldest in France.
Brantome Abbey was founded in the 8th century and the monks originally lived in troglodyte dwellings in the rock. At the end of the 8th century Charlemagne donated the relics of the child martyr Saint Sicarius who was one of the infant boys slaughtered by Herod at the time of Jesus birth.
The Abbey church has been destroyed and rebuilt several times. Inside the church there are two gilded wooden panels depicting the history of the abbey. One shows the donation of the relics of Saint Sicarius to the abbey and the other depicts the slaughter of the innocents. There is also a sculpture of the slaughter of Saint Sicarius. Next to the church you can see the remains of the cloisters of the abbey.
To see inside the abbey buildings you can buy tickets from the tourist office on the other side of the main bridge in front of the abbey, the Pont Notre Dame. From the inside courtyard of the abbaye you can explore the remains of the troglodyte dwellings used by the early monks.
Amongst the dwellings is the cave of the Last Judgement which has been sculpted with two scenes. On the right is the crucifixion and in the centre is a large carving whose meaning is not known for sure. There are various explanations including that it depicts the Last Judgement and also that it is a pagan scene. This cave is quite a sight whatever it is!
Other caves show various signs indicating their use as dwellings and also amongst the caves is a water source and no doubt the presence of fresh water was instrumental in choosing this site. A water mill was also created here and you can see the vestiges of this.
The caves are used as a dramatic backdrop for various modern artworks throughout the site.
Inside the abbey building itself there is an exhibition of Fernand Desmoulin paintings and drawings. Desmoulin was a painter who for a period between 1900 and 1902 was said to work under the influence of a spirit. He became one of the main spiritualiste artistes of the time.
Whilst in the abbey building take the stairs to the attic from where you can get some excellent views of Brantome on the other side of the river.
Where to visit nearby?
You can find more local travel ideas in the Aquitaine guide.