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Dordogne-Perigord

 

Perigord -West of Perigueux, Riberac, Aubeterre sur Dronne-Eglise monolithique

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Let's move west of Perigueux, along the D 710, keep an eye "peeled" for the "cluzeaux" (dwellings cut into the limestone in the Middle Ages).
RIBERAC is one of the biggest towns in the area, 5.000 citizens, it is a typical market town. Especially on Friday, THE day. On that day RIBERAC jumps, and its restored domed Romanesque Collegiate church looks more like a school gymnasium tan a church. The 12th century church St.Pierre de Faye, has a pretty tympanum. There used to be a castle where the quixotic troubadour Arnaut Daniel was born (active 1180-1210). For the Intellectuals amidst you, remember, Dante meets his shadow (of Arnaut) in Purgatory (Divina Commedia).
The corner of Perigord north of the Dronne bubbles with multi-domed Romanesque churches Continuing your trip, you pass the less known part of the Perigord. There is a signed circuit (ask about it in Riberac). It begins at ALLEMANS (up the D 709), passes churches and heads to the medieval LUSUGNAC, small medieval village having kept most of its original looks. . It looks like a delightful film set for a village. For once the fortified church is dome less, but inside it resembles the Mother of God's Attic, filled with clutter, discontinued models of saints, vases and other bizarre items. 
Next stop is SAINT-MARTIAL-VIVEYROL, with frescoed remnants, and then have a trip to LA TOUR BLANCHE (10th centu.Itis an ancient chateau where Henri IV lodged once for several weeks.It has an octagonal tower and beautiful Renaissance portal. 
The Tour Blanche houses a "Musée des records" and "musée de la Ferblanterie". 
The village BOURG-DES-MAISONS has also another good domed Romanesque church. It is a quiet village on the way to VENDOIRE, further north west which has yet another church(17th century) with façade decorated by columns in the style of the nearby Charente. You can drive up to see the ruins of the 13th century church of Jean de Grésignac and learn all about peat at the "ECO musée de la TOURBE". All you see in the west are woods, called the Foret de la Double, but the real attraction is 2 km in the Charente Departement: AUBETERRE SUR DRONNE, a hilly town of ivory stone, rising up at the end of a corridor of 150 year of unpruned plane trees. It has many places of interest to visit: 
Art Galleries, Antiques, Museums, Potteries and Crafts, Toy Shops and a Puppet theatre. 
Also not to be missed is the famous 12th Century Eglise Monolithique. 
Within the village there are many ancient and historic buildings and superb views. 
Much of the history and mystery of Aubeterre is concentrated in a limestone cliff know as EGLISE MONOLTHIQUE. Withy its 20 meters vault it's the highest monolithic church in France, dug into the rock itself, in one and only mass of stone, by the Benedictines in the 12th
Century. There existed already more ancient grottoes where the early Christians gathered to pray. 
The dimensions of the church are impressive: 327 meters long, 16 wide, and above all its vaults, sculpted in full center, 20 meters high, which is exceptional for a church of this type. It stayed all in 
its primitive state and is exceptional in its architectural and touristy value. On the west side you will see a hallucinating Necropolis, with different sarcophaguses of different sizes. Emotional witnesses of ancient times, maybe some from before Christianity!! Before this Necropolis was discovered in 1958 the dead were buried one on the other. Each tie a "layer " was finished, new ground was brought in and started all over again.
Let's also mention that the church was closed for cult during the Revolution but today, the Christmas mass is one of the most attended in France. 

Bibliography

Périgueux oublié by Pierre Pommarède (1995)-Promenade dans Périgueux by Jacques Lagrange (1995)-Perigueux antique(2000) by Girardy-Caillat/Clau-Familles patriciennes de Périgueux á la fin du Moyen Age, by Arlette Higounet-Nadal-Promenade dans Périgueux by Jacques Lagrange (1995)