The underground church of St. John, a unique monument in Europe

At the beginning of the 12th century, the underground church of Saint-Jean d'Aubeterre-sur-Dronne was dug entirely in the rock under the former feudal castle, according to a Romanesque plan.

It was the work of the Benedictines, disciples of Saint-Maur. It was converted to receive a piece of a cross on the return from the crusade of the lord of the castle and then served during the Revolution, as a saltpeter factory and then as a cemetery until 1865.

Its proportions were exceptional with a height of 20m, a length of 31m and a width of 11m.

Unique in Europe, it houses a 6m high stone reliquary, a jewel of Romanesque art, whose shape is inspired by that of the Holy Sepulchre discovered in Jerusalem during the first Crusade. The initiative came from Pierre de Castillon, Viscount of Aubeterre, who enlarged this monolithic church on his return from the crusade to install relics there, at the same time as that of Saint-Émilion.

It also houses a relict pit, an early Christian baptismal tank decorated with a Greek cross, a crypt, dating back to the Christian era, a necropolis with more than 60 sarcophagi and a surprising 18m high accessible gallery.

This church was classified as a Historical Monument in 1912.



Underground Church of St. John

21 Saint-Jean Street

16390 Aubeterre-sur-Dronne

Tel: 05 45 98 98 65 06

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