Saint Émilion is a small, breathtaking town in southern France, just outside of Bordeaux. Although Saint Émilion and the surrounding country side is primarily known for the miles of vineyards and numerous chateaus, the town first came to prominence with the construction of the Monolithic Church that was carved into the heart of the town. On top of the Church stands a 53-meter-high bell-tower that offers gorgeous views of the surrounding countryside.
Saint Émilion first began in the eighth century when Monk Émilion took up residence in the area. He made his home in a small cave, performed miracles, and acquired a following of monks. When he died, a larger chapel was built on top of his home to hold the growing number of residents. Around the 12th century, the Monolithic Church was carved into the nearby hillside to attract individuals on pilgrimages and to benefit from the export of limestone. Unfortunately, most of the decorations on the inside of the church were destroyed during the French Revolution.
Saint Émilion and its Monolithic Church were by far my favorite experience while in France. During a tour of the Church, our group was told that only a small percentage of tourists come to Saint Émilion to see the Church—most come for the wine. It was wonderful to learn more about such an important element of the town, especially because it is something the locals take great pride in. It should me that being a global citizen isn’t just about doing the “tourist attractions,” but about learning about what makes up the city and what made it important in the first place. I feel this is especially important in countries like France that have such rich histories.
By Samantha Bauman