Sarlat, France is an incredible historical travel destination. What can you see in Sarlat and Dordogne area? Before you enter this 12th-century byzantine romanesque cathedral you have to approach it from Pont des Barris, and look across to see its crowd of domes and towers almost competing with each other. It’s no shock that this magnificent church is an UNESCO site, and with its byzantine-style Greek cross plan and many cupolas it hardly looks like few other churches in France – except, of course, for the Sacre-Coeur in Paris, which borrowed several design cues. Under each of these five domes is a set of chandeliers that were used in the marriage of Napoleon III and Eugenie de Montijo, and later brought here.
Originally an abbey church dating from the 11th century, the Cathedrale St-Sacerdos is a mixture of Romanesque and Gothic styles. The organ in the church is said to be one of the best preserved from the 18th century. Pop inside to hear it being played as part of a special concert or simply soak up the peace and quiet away from Sarlat’s busy squares. Nearby you can spot the a rocket-like structure called ‘lanterne des morts’, a 12th-century stone monument that is said to honour Saint Bernard, who is believed to have cured the sick by blessing their bread.
Of no relation to the Parisian 17th-century writer Cyrano de Bergerac with his misshapen nose (or the 1980s BBC detective series), this medieval river port means wine. Rosette and Monbazillac vineyards rise above the town and Pecharmant reds age in oak barrels on family-run estates on its northern fringe. In Bergerac you can taste the region’s 13 different appellations and meet local producers at the House of Wines (vins-bergerac.fr), 1 rue des Recollets. Lazing between sun-baked clearings and chestnut forests in the southern Dordogne, this town, an hour from Bergerac, was founded in 1284 for King Edward I of England. Much to the joy of flaneurs today who revel in the medieval symmetry of central place des Cornieres and its surrounding grid of streets, the bastide was built in a quadrilateral, 500 yards long and 250 yards wide. You can’t get lost.
Looking for Sarlat hotels? The origin of the abbey is lost in the legends. It exists since the ninth century, forming part of the six great abbeys of Perigord (Paunat, Belves, Saint Front de Perigueux, Brantome, Terrasson). The Carolingian Abbey of Sarlat is the only one that was saved from the Vikings, located away from the Dordogne River and its tributaries. It was able to remain independent and, in the year 1153, was put under the direct protection of the Holy See in Rome. In the year 1317, the abbey was the seat of the new bishopric created by Pope John XXII. The abbey church was transformed into the cathedral of the diocese of Sarlat. From there began the architectural transformation of the city with the construction of a parish church as well as numerous manors. From the fourteenth century on, bishops and consuls shared power until the Revolution. Sarlat played an important role during the Hundred Years’ War with its status as an episcopal city. The town became a reserve for men of arms, ammunition and provisions. The city was fortified, but it was also defended by the castles located in the surroundings, and it could lend aid to other cities besieged by the English: Belves, Domme, Montignac. However, Sarlat was taken by the English as a result of the Treaty of Bretigny in the year 1360. It joined the King of France again ten years later, when the Constable of Guesclin defeated the English. If the victory of Castillon put an end – in the year 1453 – to the Hundred Years’ War, the wars of religion caused additional damage a century later. The city played the same role as before, yet had to surrender twice and suffer the exactions of the captain of Vivans and Viscount Turenne. Read more details on Sarlat-la-Caneda accommodations.