Jurisdiction of Saint-Emilion

Department of the Gironde, Region of Aquitaine
N44 53 41 E0 9 19
Date of Inscription: 1999
Criteria: (iii)(iv)
Property : 7,847 ha
Buffer zone: 5,101 ha
Ref: 932
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Viticulture was introduced to this fertile region of Aquitaine by the Romans, and intensified in the Middle Ages. The Saint-Emilion area benefited from its location on the pilgrimage route to Santiago de Compostela and many churches, monasteries and hospices were built there from the 11th century onwards. It was granted the special status of a ‘jurisdiction’ during the period of English rule in the 12th century. It is an exceptional landscape devoted entirely to wine-growing, with many fine historic monuments in its towns and villages.

The territory of the Jurisdiction of Saint Emilion is located in the Nouvelle Aquitaine region, in the department of the Gironde. It covers 7,847 hectares. Delimited to the south by the Dordogne and to the north by the Barbanne stream, it is composed of a plateau (partly wooded), hillsides, concave valleys and a plain. Eight communes comprise the Jurisdiction, which was established in the 12th century by the King of England, John Lackland, Duke of Aquitane.

The landscape of the Jurisdiction of Saint Emilion is a monoculture, comprised exclusively of vines that were introduced intact and have remained active until today. Viticulture was introduced into this fertile region of Aquitaine by the Romans and intensified in the Middle Ages. The Saint Emilion territory benefited from its location of the Pilgrimage Route to Santiago de Compostela, and several churches, monasteries and hospices were built as of the 11th century.

This long wine growing history marked in a characteristic manner the monuments, architecture and landscape of the Jurisdiction. This alliance of the built and the natural, of stone, vine, wood and water, has created an eminent cultural landscape.

Before viticulture secured its place in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, castles were built on dominant sites to serve seigniorial residencies. However, the “chateaux” of the vineyards were located in the centre of their domains. They date from the mid-18th century to the early 19th century.

The villages are characterized by modest stone houses dating from the early 19th century. Intended for the vineyard workers, they were never more than two storeys high and were grouped in small hamlets. The chais (wine storehouses) are large rectangular functional structures built in stone or a mixture of brick and stone, with tiled double-pitched roofs.

At Saint Emilion the most important religious monuments are the Hermitage or Grotto of Saint Emilion, the Monolithic Church with its bell tower, the medieval monastic catacombs and the Collegiate Church with its cloister. This ensemble, mostly Romanesque in origin, clusters around the pilgrimage centre of the hermit saint. There is also a group of secular monuments, including the massive keep of the Château du Roi and the ruins of the Palais Cardinal. Romanesque churches are present in each of the other seven villages. The enormous Pierrefitte menhir is in the commune of Saint-Sulpice-de-Faleyrens.

Criterion (iii):The Jurisdiction of Saint Emilion is an outstanding example of an historic vineyard landscape that has survived intact and in activity to the present day.

Criterion (iv): The historic Jurisdiction of Saint Emilion illustrates in an exceptional way the intensive cultivation of grapes for wine production in a precisely defined area.

Suggested Bases:

Bordeaux is famous for its wines. It deserves to be equally famous for its magnificent neo-classical waterfront and old town, a UNESCO World Heritage Site Bordeaux and the whole province of Aquitaine came under English rule for 300 years from 1154, when Eleanor of Aquitaine married the future King Henry II. The English rulers enjoyed drinking the wines of Bordeaux, but they enjoyed the profits even more – trade with Bordeaux was their largest source of income. Most wine came from the Graves region just upriver from the city, and this was a clear, deep rosé called clairet, still produced today. The English came to call any Bordeaux red wine “claret”. In 1453 France took control of Aquitaine and cut off the supply to England, which ceased to drink wine for the next 500 years, turning to beer and gin. This caused a slump in Bordeaux, which only revived from the 16th century through trans-Atlantic trade [read more].

Merignac is a commune in the Gironde department in Nouvelle-Aquitaine in southwestern France. The 20th-century historian Robert Étienne (1921–2009) was born in Mérignac. It is the largest suburb of the city of Bordeaux and adjoins it to the west. It is a member of the metropolitan Urban Community of Bordeaux. Mérignac is the site of Bordeaux International Airport. The name Mérignac derives from the Gallo-Roman word Matriniacus, name of a villa rustica (countryside villa) that was the origin of today’s town [read more].

Toulouse is a city in southwestern France, and capital of Haute-Garonne in the Midi-Pyrenees region. It stands just north of the Pyrenees on the River Garonne, half way between the Atlantic and the Mediterranean. Toulouse is the fourth largest city in France, after Paris, Marseille and Lyon. It’s known for its rugby, its aerospace industry and for violets, which are used to make bonbons and liqueurs here. The city was a Roman settlement, “Tolosa”, and the smaller inner streets still follow the ancient layout. In the Middle Ages, Toulouse ruled an independent county, but it joined the Kingdom of France in 1271. In the fourteenth century, it was devastated by pogroms, the Black Death, famine, and war. Then, in the fifteenth century, it became wealthy from its monopoly on “pastel,” a blue pigment extracted from woad plants, only to slump again when the monopoly was broken by indigo imports from India [read more].


  • It’s just a 40-minute drive from Bordeaux. But while Saint-Emilion is also acclaimed for its grapes, I soon discovered that its history is just as noteworthy. The town has just enough to amaze and delight without feeling overwhelming or giving you a fear of having missed out on something. It’s small enough to take it all in during one trip. And this is what made my short break so memorable. Whether I was clambering to the top of the King’s Keep for 360-degree panoramas of limestone buildings and emerald green fields, or heading underground to learn about its medieval past and links with the monk, Emilion – my adventures never felt rushed or hectic. On the contrary, the town has a laid back and relaxed feel! So if you’re looking for a short burst of sunshine, with a food adventure thrown in, add Saint-Emilion to your plans – I know I will.


  • This small village is totally picturesque and it’s a great place to learn more about the regions award-winning and world-renowned wines. After wandering through the historic cobbled streets, take a tour of the Monolithic Church which still stands to this day. It was so incredible to see in person.


  • Saint Emilion is a small village, a typical one. I think it’s one of the reasons that so many people like to come here to walk around. Because it’s totally authentic.


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