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If you have ever wondered how a church came to be located in a cave, then you should definitely visit Europe's largest underground church. Located in the village of Aubeterre-sur-Dronne, the limestone sanctuary of Saint-Jean is not only a unique monument, but also the tallest underground church in Europe. It was built in the early twelfth century.
The church was constructed in the 12th century by the Benedictine monks. They dug the underground structure out of a rock hillside and hewn it into the shape of a church. In addition, the monks expanded the underground structure into a larger church.
Today, the cathedral is a major tourist destination, hosting concerts and religious ceremonies. Since the cathedral was destroyed in the 18th century during the Revolution, it has been restored. Visitors can also take a guided tour of the crypt, which contains hundreds of stone tombs.
The walls and columns are alive with rock carvings, but you will be unable to photograph the site. This is because photography is not allowed in the underground monuments. However, a high gallery gives you a view of the amazing engineering and workmanship that went into this incredible structure.
Inside the Church of Saint Jean are hundreds of sarcophagi. Each has its head pointing towards Jerusalem. These sarcophagi were hewn from a limestone cliff and hand-crafted by human hands. There are also several chapels, each one created by the miners. They carved the chapels in order to practice their religion while they were digging in the caves.
The monastery was once home to a hermit. He allegedly lived in the cave for centuries. According to legend, he used a carved seat. Despite the fact that the hermit has disappeared, his crypt still holds dozens of statues.
The underground sanctuary is a massive structure, and it is surrounded by a grove of olive trees. It can accommodate 25,000 worshippers. It is also the largest church in Europe. You can take a guided tour of the sanctuary, and you will learn more about the history of this amazing underground site.
The Subterranean Monolithic Church of Saint Jean was once a pilgrimage center for people traveling to Santiago de Compostela in Spain. Eventually, the church was converted into a saltpeter workshop. But the monument has been classified as a Monument Historique.
The cathedral is a complex structure made up of a 20-metre nave, three naves, a bell-tower, a catacomb, and numerous chapels. It was also designed after the Sepulchre of Jerusalem, which was found during the First Crusade in the 11th century.
While the subterranean church in Saint-Jean is not the largest church in Europe, it is the highest and has the most tombs. Another famous subterranean church is the Westminster Abbey in England. All of these sites are considered to be world-class landmarks.
In addition to the underground monolithic church, you can explore the necropolis of the Church of Saint Jean. Here, you will find over 80 sarcophagi that were hewn from a limestone hillside. The necropolis was discovered in the 1950s, and you can now see the skeletons of people who died centuries ago.