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About Aubeterre

In a countryside dotted with picturesque villages, Aubeterre sur Dronne surely deserves the accolade bestowed upon it since 1993 –  “plus beau village de France”, or most beautiful village in the country. Perched on a hill, along the Dronne river, near Perigord in the Charente region of southwest France, Aubeterre has welcomed travellers, tourists and pilgrims for over a thousand years, earning fame as a stopover for the faithful on their way to Santiago de Compostela. It is an exceptionally charming village, with a central square shaded by ancient lime trees, houses of white stone built on precipices and cascading with flowers, an imposing cathedral and a dramatic underground chapel carved from rock. Aubeterre was known as long time ago as “Alba Terra”.  Home to a mere 430 inhabitants, its population swells in the summer when tourists from all over the world, but particularly from nearby Belgium, Holland and Britain descend upon this tiny village, captivated by its charm. According to the village’s official site: “In a protected rural area, the village economic life is based on "ecotourism", and the underground Church of St Jean, known as the "monolithic Church", which attracts every year, thousands of visitors. The ‘chateau’, the three monasteries and convents; ‘Cordeliers, Minimes and Clarisses’, the medieval Hospital St François, the two Churches Saint Jean and St Jacques, are the witnesses to a rich historical and religious past. The convents and the Church of St Jacques are located in the upper part of the village.
 The lively area of the ‘ville basse’ is a popular part of the village. It has for a long time been the working part of the village full of shops and workshops and is still the heart of the village, down the Place Trarieux towards the rue St Jean and the underground church. The Ludovic Trarieux Square is the center of the life of the village, with its shops, its restaurants and terraces and the highlight of the week: the Sunday morning market. 

Everybody knows everybody, stops for a coffee and a chat. This square has been named after a famous gentleman Ludovic Trarieux , born on the square in 1840.” The subterranean church of St Jean is perhaps Aubeterre’s most famous attraction.  Hewn from solid rock in the 12th century, it is also known as the “Monolithic Church”. For Catholics, the church is deeply symbolic of the fervour of medieval Christian pilgrims, who would come to the Church to venerate the religious relics conserved within its interiors.  The pilgrims believed these relics had special powers and would protect them as they made their way to Santiago de Compostela on foot. But it’s not just the church that carries the promise of magic within its walls; the whole village of Aubeterre sur Dronne seems bewitched by the magical charm of another era. For more information you can visit the village's official site,   Text and images: Bambina Olivares Wise