The ancient, mystical, romantic and sacred town of Brantôme has fascinated visitors from all over the world for many centuries.
Hidden in a cluster of limestone caves high on the Aquitaine plateau, Brantôme’s natural beauty, bubbling spring, and well-stocked river attracted its earliest inhabitants over forty thousand years ago. Since then the population have increased with many other European citizens moving to the area. Photo by B Wells Brantome, Perigord in France from a microlite (ULM)
The Celts, with their mystic Druid priests, gave Brantôme its name, a combination of the Celtic words for water and rocks. After the Celts, the town was inhabited by Romans, then early Christians, followed by a community of monks whose early monastery was to evolve into the splendid abbey, tower cut into the rock and the park we see today.
The surrounding hills were covered with vines and vegetation, today self seeded trees cover the area.
The commune started to develop on an island encircled by a sweep of the river Dronne next to the Benedictine Abbey of Brantôme, which was founded in 769 by Charlemagne; according to legend he donated relics of Saint Sicarius (Sicaire), one of the infants in the Massacre of the Innocents. Those relics attracted pilgrims to the abbey, who also brought a certain affluence to Brantôme, but in spite of St. Sicaire’s protection, the abbey was laid waste in 848 and in 857 by Viking rovers who had advanced along the Dordogne and Isle rivers to the Dronne. The abbey was rebuilt towards the end of the tenth century and again in 1465 and in 1480 after the end of the Hundred Years’ War. Source (wikipedia.org)
After surviving both the Black Death and 100 Years War, Brantôme saw a new era flower in the Renaissance, when magnificent structures like the new abbey and the Jardin des Moines (Monk’s garden) were built. Brantôme withstood many invasions from the Visigoths and other barbarians, until the Franks, and notably Charlemagne (769), established the town as a leading religious destination.
From the Middle Ages, Brantôme was a key stop on the pilgrim route to Santiago de Compostela, one of the three most important pilgrimages of the period. Pierre de Mareuil, abbot from 1538–56, built a right-angled bridge, the Pont Coudé, over the river, which connected the elegant Renaissance abbot’s lodging he built for himself with its garden, which lay on the opposite bank. He was succeeded by his nephew, Pierre de Bourdeille (abbot from 1558–1614), a soldier and writer better known by his title as Abbé Brantôme, whose diplomacy saved the abbey and its commune from the Huguenot forces of Gaspard de Coligny on two occasions in 1569 during the Wars of Religion. At the French Revolution, the abbey was secularised as a bien national, the last seven monks pensioned and its rich library dispersed. source (wikipedia)
Today, Brantôme is considered by many to be one of the world’s most sacred sites, a special place that can heal the body, enlighten the mind, and awaken the soul. Whether true or not, one certainly feels the ambiance of the town and area.
From the 7th century Abbey, to the houses around Brantome you will be beguiled with it’s charm and romantic ambiance.
Following a flood, the town walls were removed to prevent the centre town being damaged and to ease water evacuation. However, since then no flood of such magnitude has matured.
There are many hidden places of interest, all you have to do is enjoy finding them. The local Tourist board has a guide which will lead you to many town historic places but remember, many lay hidden in the surrounding area too!
As a holiday centre Brantome has much to offer and you will be able to do as much or as little as you wish. It has good facilities and nearly everything you will need, certainly the area will meet most or all your requirements. It is a very popular holiday resort and well known to those who are well travelled.
Brantome is a friendly location and whilst speaking French always helps most local shops and restaurants speak English to some degree.