Subterranean church of St.Jean
Hewn from solid rock in the 12th century, is the largest subterranean church in Europe, and a visit is an awesome experience, both in appreciating the sheer scale of the structure, and in appreciating the Christian fervour which drove the workers, with their limited tools, to create it.
Its original purpose was to conserve religious artefacts in a series of pits, and in a reliquary (“a container of Holy relics”), inspired by the Sepulchre in Jerusalem, which was discovered during the First Crusade at the end of the 11th century.
In carving this structure directly from the limestone cliffs on which Aubeterre is built, the people may also have been influenced by tales from the later Crusades, of the rock hewn temples and underground cities of the Cappodician region of modern day Turkey.
The church itself, and its crypt, were hidden for centuries by a rock fall, and only rediscovered in the 1950's. The sheer scale of this edifice with its nave 20 metres in height, its surrounding gallery, and the hundreds of stone tombs (“sarcophagi”) in the necropolis, bear witness to its importance as a sacred, religious destination.
Pilgrims en route to St.Jacques de Compostelle would take time to pray in front of the religious relics which, they believed, possessed protective powers to safeguard them on their journey. Long before Christian pilgrims, the cults of earth and water nourished the faith of humans at such sacred places, this aura of magic and mystery remains palpable today for all those who enter this natural wonder.
Tickets can be purchased at the entrance – Guided tours and audio guides are available.
July 1st till August 31 from 9.30 – 7pm
September 1st till Juin 30th from 9.30 to 12.30 and from 2pm to 6pm. (Closed on Chrismas day and new years day)
Last entries 30 minutes before closing time.
- Adult : 5 €
- Students : (13 +) and persons of limited mobility 3 €
- Children : 8- 12 2 €
- Children under 7 : free
- Groups of 20+ : 4 €
- National Culture Days : 2 €
Guides: 1 €
Eglise Souterraine Saint-Jean
Rue Saint Jean
16390 Aubeterre sur Dronne
email : email@example.com