Town in Gironde (33)
Stage town for the 3rd time
Population: 1,913 (Saint-Emilionnais, Saint-Emilionnaises)
Specialities: wines, Saint-Emilion macaroon (since the 17th century).
Personalities: Émilion de Combes (patron saint of wine merchants and traders), Philippe Etchebest (former chef of the Hostellerie de Plaisance), Eric Rabésandratana (football), Pierre Meyrat (former car driver).
Sport: Jeunesse Sportive de la Juridiction de Saint-Émilion/Puisseguin.
Culture: Philosophia festival (May), jazz festival (July), Vino Voce festival, craftsmen's fair (September), Montgolfiades (October).
Economy: viticulture, tourism.
Labels: the 8 communes that make up the "Juridiction" have been listed as World Heritage Sites by UNESCO since 1999.
Websites: saint-emilion.org / www.grand-saint-emilionnais.fr / vins-saint-emilion.com/le-conseil-des-vins-de-saint-emilion / www.saint-emilion-tourisme.com / www.gironde.fr
The vine, a world heritage site
Saint-Emilion is a medieval city surrounded by vines, internationally renowned and visited by many tourists each year (around 1,500,000). Spearheading its territory, the town also offers a large number of services in various fields necessary for local life.
With Saint-Emilion, UNESCO has for the first time listed a wine-growing area as a world heritage site. Happiness and pride throughout the jurisdiction. Saint-Emilion, its vineyards and its landscape have been listed by UNESCO since 1999. Only a handful of remarkable sites deserve such a distinction.
SAINT-ÉMILION AND CYCLING
As is often the case with the jewels of French wine industry, to the great joy of the followers, Saint-Émilion has only appeared on the map of the Tour de France for time trials. In 1978, Bernard Hinault won a time trial that ended in Sainte-Foy-la-Grande. The future five-time winner of the Tour had every reason to savour this vintage since it was his very first stage victory in the Grande Boucle: 27 others followed, 19 of which were in time trials.
In 1996, Jan Ullrich caused a sensation by winning the last solo effort of the race ahead of Miguel Indurain, Abraham Olano and his leader and future winner, Bjarne Riis. He became the first German on the Tour podium since Kurt Stoepel in 1932 and Hinault predicted a brilliant future for him...
Given the calibre of the two men, the winner of the final TT of this edition should be a true champion
Vineyards of Saint-Émilion
December 1999 remains a historic date for Saint-Émilion. It was the month when the vineyard and the eight villages of the Jurisdiction of Saint-Émilion were listed as World Heritage Sites by UNESCO, as "cultural landscapes". A world first. For UNESCO, Saint-Émilion is "an outstanding example of a historic winegrowing landscape that has survived intact". Particular attention is paid to this exceptional cultural landscape so that it can be preserved. This registration represents approximately 5,000 hectares of vines spread over the eight communes of the Juridiction of Saint-Émilion: Saint-Émilion, Saint-Laurent des Combes, Saint-Christophe des Bardes, Saint Pey-d'Armens, Saint-Etienne de Lisse, Saint Sulpice de Faleyrens, Saint-Hippolyte and Vignonet.
The monolithic church
The monolithic church is an underground religious building dug out in the early 12th century of impressive proportions (38 m long and 12 m high). In the heart of the city, it recalls the religious activity of the city in the Middle Ages and intrigues by its unusual design. If it is revealed to the visitor by the position of a 68-metre-high bell tower, it then hides behind the elegance of three openings in the façade and a Gothic portal that is often closed. Its name (from the Greek for "one stone") refers to a building carved out of the limestone plateau, the structure of which still forms a single block. The purpose of its construction is undoubtedly the development of the city around a pilgrimage activity to the tomb of Saint Emilion. Sculpted in the 12th century, painted in the 14th century, devastated in the 16th century, badly damaged in the 18th century during the Revolution and restored in the 20th century, it is still consecrated today and regularly hosts religious ceremonies, sometimes concerts, but also ceremonies of induction of the brotherhood of wines of Saint-Emilion-La Jurade.
The King's Tower
This is the only Romanesque keep still intact in Gironde. Located inside the city walls, it rises to a height of 32 m. This quadrangular tower is divided into three levels. The outer walls and the corners of the building are covered with flat buttresses that reinforce the building. Some experts say that it was not thanks to the French king Louis VIII in 1224, nor to the English king Henry III Plantagenet in 1237 that this tower was built, but rather thanks to the Jurade. Indeed, the tower aims to symbolise the new power of the commune by borrowing the most characteristic building from the seigneurial architecture: the quadrangular keep with buttresses.
The Jurade still uses this tower today. Although it was dissolved during the French Revolution, it was recreated as a wine brotherhood in 1948. Its objective? To promote the wines of Saint-Emilion throughout the world.
The most imposing church in the upper town is the collegiate church. This is not by chance. The religious community established within these walls between the 12th and 18th centuries was a college of canons following the rule of Saint Augustine. The size of the site reflects the importance of this community and its desire to mark its dominance. The transept and the choir of the collegiate church were transformed between the 13th and 15th centuries, allowing the Gothic style to enter the church.
The current Tourist Office occupies the premises of the former refectory of the community.
The arrival of the Cordeliers, or Franciscans, in Saint-Emilion dates back to the same period as that of the Dominicans in the early 13th century. It was not until the end of the 14th century that the Cordeliers received permission to build their new convent within the walls. The complex consisted of a church, a cloister, a garden, a wine storehouse, a cellar, a courtyard and a main building. The French Revolution expelled the last monks present and the convent was sold as national property in 1791. In 2005, it was listed as a historical monument. The entrance to this former monastery leads to the cloister whose imposing ruins are most remarkable: columns, capitals, bases and plinths are monolithic.
Ramparts and Brunet Gate
The ramparts of Saint-Emilion were ordered by England in the 12th century to protect the prosperous village. This fortification wall can also be considered as a ceremonial wall of prestige, whose main purpose was to show the power of the village rather than protect it. However, it must have been necessary to pay a tax to enter the village within the walls, representing a new source of wealth. The inhabitants began by digging deep ditches around the village themselves. With the excavated stones, they built a wall covering more than 18 hectares and running for about 1.5 km around the village. This wall was flanked by six gates and small defensive towers, and a sentry walk linked the gates together.
These gates, with the exception of the Brunet gate, as well as most of the old fortification, were destroyed during the Wars of Religion in the 16th century and again in the 19th century.
The cardinal mentioned was Gaillard de la Mothe, who became Cardinal de Sainte Luce, the first dean of the chapter of Augustinian canons. The ruins of the façade still present today suggest that this magnificent palace was built as early as the 12th century. Indeed, Romanesque artistic elements are well present: round arches for the openings whose voussoirs show geometric and plant decorations; the geminated bays and their careful decorations similar to other monuments of the medieval city dating from the beginning of the 12th century.
The richness of the terroir of the Grand Saint-Émilion area comes first of all from the symbiosis between several natural elements: a rather remarkable geological variety (limestone, clay-limestone, sandy and gravelly soils), a temperate continental microclimate and a gentle slope allowing all the vines to be exposed to the sun. It is this combination of several conditions favourable to viticulture as well as a skilful blend of grape varieties (Merlot mostly associated with Cabernet Franc or Cabernet Sauvignon and in lesser proportions with Malbec) which offer the wine a very nuanced palette of tastes and smells. The wine of the Grand Saint-Émilion can be as dense and powerful as it can be refined and delicate. Over time, the wines of the Saint-Émilion take on an orange colour and offer a complexity in the mouth that will make you want to taste a second glass... always in moderation!