Saint-Émilion (French pronunciation: [sɛ̃.t‿emiljɔ̃]; Gascon: Sent Milion) is a commune in the Gironde department in Nouvelle-Aquitaine in Southwestern France.

An aerial view of Saint-Émilion
An aerial view of Saint-Émilion
Coat of arms of Saint-Émilion
Location of Saint-Émilion
Saint-Émilion is located in France
Saint-Émilion is located in Nouvelle-Aquitaine
Coordinates: 44°53′37″N 0°09′17″W / 44.8936°N 0.1547°W / 44.8936; -0.1547
CantonLes Coteaux de Dordogne
 • Mayor (2020–2026) Bernard Lauret[1]
27.02 km2 (10.43 sq mi)
 • Density65/km2 (170/sq mi)
Time zoneUTC+01:00 (CET)
 • Summer (DST)UTC+02:00 (CEST)
INSEE/Postal code
33394 /33330
Elevation3–107 m (9.8–351.0 ft)
(avg. 23 m or 75 ft)
1 French Land Register data, which excludes lakes, ponds, glaciers > 1 km2 (0.386 sq mi or 247 acres) and river estuaries.
Jurisdiction of Saint-Émilion
UNESCO World Heritage Site
Monolithic church of Saint-Émilion and its bell tower
CriteriaCultural: iii, iv
Inscription1999 (23rd Session)
Area7,847 ha
Buffer zone5,101 ha

In the heart of the country of Libournais (the area around Libourne), in a region of wine hills, Saint-Émilion is a medieval city located at the crossroads of Bordeaux, Saintonge and Périgord. The town and surrounding vineyards was made a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1999, owing to its long, living history of wine-making, Romanesque churches and ruins stretching all along steep and narrow streets.[3]



Saint-Émilion's history goes back at least 35,000 years ago, to the Upper Paleolithic.[4] An oppidum was built on the hill overlooking the present-day city in Gaulish times, before the regions was annexed by Augustus in 27 BC.[4] The Romans planted vineyards in what was to become Saint-Émilion as early as the 2nd century. In the 4th century, the Latin poet Ausonius lauded the fruit of the bountiful vine.[3]

Saint-Émilion, previously called Ascumbas,[5] was renamed after the Breton monk Émilion (d. 767[6]). According to tradition, Émilion started as a bread-maker for the count of Vannes. While bringing bread to the poor, a lord angrily approached Émilion and asked him what he was carrying. “These are pieces of wood intended to warm the poor,” Émilion lied. He opened his coat and miraculously, the loaves of bread had transformed into wood. This wonder gave Émilion a high reputation, though he eventually left the manor to create the Hermitage of Saint-Émilion, carved from a rock shelter in a deserted forest. Émilion lived in the oratory until his death in 767, when Waiofar was the Duke of Aquitaine.[7] The monks who followed him started up the commercial wine production in the area.

Because the region was located on the route of the Camino de Santiago, many monasteries and churches were built during the Middle Ages, and in 1199, while under Plantagenet rule, the town was granted full rights.[3] During the 12th and 13th centuries, the wines produced in the area were well-renowned for their quality, although political instability during the European wars of religion negatively affected the vineyards.[4] The region only began to recover in the late 19th century.[4]

Saint-Émilion is known for its macaroons, which have been made continuously since 1620. The recipe has been passed down through generations by Ursuline nuns. These macarons traditionnels are made from ground almonds, sugar, and fresh egg whites.[8]

The Jurade of Saint-Émilion is a prestigious brotherhood, founded in 1199 by John, King of England, the King of England, that preserves the memory of Saint-Émilion wines and promotes them worldwide. The authority of the Jurade lasted until the French Revolution in 1789, but was revived again in 1948. Today, the 140 jurats, who wear red robes, organize wine receptions and induction ceremonies.[9]

Geography and description


Saint-Émilion is located 35 km (22 mi) east of Bordeaux, between Libourne and Castillon-la-Bataille. Saint-Émilion station has rail connections to Bordeaux, Bergerac and Sarlat-la-Canéda. Vineyards make up more than 67% of the land area of the commune.[4] Within the region there is a mix of medieval Romanesque religious architecture and vineyard "chateaux", built in 18th and 19th centuries. In the villages, however, most of the buildings are modest, one-story stone houses dating from the 19th century.[3]



The Monolithic Church of Saint-Émilion

The monolithic church of Saint-Émilion is an 11th century church carved entirely out of a limestone cliff. It is one of the largest underground churches in Europe, with an estimated 15,000 cubic meters of rock extracted. The great hall measures 38 meters long and 20 meters wide, divided into three naves of six bays.[10] Like many medieval structures, the church probably had a rich décor of painted murals; however, only a few bits of frescoes remain. Iconographic works, such as depictions of lions, serpents, centaurs, and cherubim, can be seen on the walls and ceilings, possibly in reference to Psalms.[11] Today, visitors can enter the church and view its catacombs.

No documents exist that discuss the building of the monolithic church, but it is hypothesized that construction took place from the late 11th century to the early 12th century. Its purpose was probably to venerate and conserve the body of the 8th century Breton monk Saint Émilion.[10] A small monastic community that gathered near his tomb appears in late 11th century texts, and Bordeaux archbishop Arnaud Guiraud reformed the community in 1110. An inscription on one of the monolithic church pillars mentions only the day of the dedication to Saint Émilion, September 7, and regretfully not the year.[10]

The Tour du Roy

The Tour du Roy is a limestone donjon built in 1237. From its name (meaning ‘the King's tower’), some hypothesize it was constructed by order of Henry III, King of England and Duke of Aquitaine.[12] Other sources say the Tour du Roy isn’t royal, and was merely the municipal bell tower for the town hall until its 1720 razing by the Jurade to enlarge the other town hall in Market Square.[13] The Tour du Roy has a height of almost 15 meters and a width of more than 9 meters.[14] Visitors can climb inside the square tower for a panoramic view of the town. The tower is used by the Jurade to proclaim the judgment of new wine on the third Sunday of June, and the harvest ban on the third Sunday of September.[12]



Saint-Émilion is one of the principal red wine areas of Bordeaux along with the Médoc, Graves and Pomerol. The region is much smaller than the Médoc and adjoins Pomerol. As in Pomerol and the other appellations on the right bank of the Gironde, the primary grape varieties used are the Merlot and Cabernet Franc, with relatively small amounts of Cabernet Sauvignon also being used by some châteaux.

Saint Émilion wines were not included in the 1855 Bordeaux classification. The first formal classification in Saint-Émilion was made in 1955. Unlike the 1855 classification, it is regularly revised.


Historical population
YearPop.±% p.a.
1968 3,403—    
1975 3,323−0.34%
1982 3,010−1.40%
1990 2,799−0.90%
1999 2,345−1.95%
2009 2,005−1.55%
2014 1,893−1.14%
2020 1,844−0.44%
Source: INSEE[15]
Panoramic view of Saint-Émilion, July 2016
Panoramic view of Saint-Émilion, August 2012

Saint-Émilion Jazz Festival


Since 2012, Saint-Émilion hosts a jazz festival at the end of July.[16]



See also



  1. ^ "Répertoire national des élus: les maires"., Plateforme ouverte des données publiques françaises (in French). 2 December 2020.
  2. ^ "Populations légales 2021" (in French). The National Institute of Statistics and Economic Studies. 28 December 2023.
  3. ^ a b c d "Jurisdiction of Saint-Emilion". UNESCO World Heritage Centre. United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization. Retrieved 13 November 2021.
  4. ^ a b c d e Advisory Body Evaluation (ICOMOS): Saint-Emilion (France), No. 932 (Report). International Council on Monuments and Sites. 30 June 1998. Retrieved 13 November 2021.
  5. ^ "The Monk Émilion". saint-emilion tourisme. Retrieved 30 September 2018.
  6. ^ "Bordeaux". Catholic Encyclopedia. Retrieved 30 September 2018.
  7. ^ Pierre Bertin-Roulleau, Saint-Emilion: son histoire, ses monuments, ses grands vins, ses macarons (Libourne, 1923), pp. 6–7,
  8. ^ Meyers, Cindy (5 May 2009). "The Macaron and Madame Blanchez". Gastronomica. 9 (2): 14–18. doi:10.1525/gfc.2009.9.2.14.
  9. ^ "The Jurade". Les Vins de Saint-Émilion. Retrieved 4 April 2023.
  10. ^ a b c Michelle Gaborit, “L’église souterraine de Saint-Émilion” (Congrès archéologique de France, 145e session, Bordelais et Bazadais, 1987, Paris: Société française d’archéologie, 1987), p. 198,
  11. ^ Michelle Gaborit, “L’église souterraine de Saint-Émilion” (Congrès archéologique de France, 145e session, Bordelais et Bazadais, 1987, Paris: Société française d’archéologie, 1987), p. 202,
  12. ^ a b "Le patrimoine". Ville de Saint-Émilion. Retrieved 7 April 2023.
  13. ^ "Saint-Émilion: La Tour du Roy et le couvent des ursulines". Saint-Émilion Juridiction. Retrieved 7 April 2023.
  14. ^ "La Tour du Roy". Saint-Émilion Tourism. Retrieved 7 April 2023.
  15. ^ Population en historique depuis 1968, INSEE
  16. ^ "Saint-Emilion Jazz Festival - Site Officiel | Éditions passées". (in French). Archived from the original on 6 October 2020. Retrieved 2 August 2018.