Aubeterre-sur-Dronne is a village in the south of the department of Charente, in the region of New Aquitaine, on the border of the Dordogne.
The town is located 45 km south of Angouleme.
Erected on one of the routes of the pilgrimage of Santiago de Compostela, the village developed from the thirteenth century, seat of a viscount dependent on the lord of Angoulême. Ballotted between French and English during the Hundred Years War, the viscount was then during the wars of religion, in the sixteenth century. Then, faithful to King Henry IV, the lord of Aubeterre helped his sovereign against the League and then rebuilt the castle of the village became a marquisate.
The old fortified town became today a tourist village of first choice, rich in a singular heritage, and in its high part, the alleyways lined with white houses dominate the valley of the river which forms a loop around The commune, the Dronne.
With about 400 inhabitants, Aubeterre-sur-Dronne has a low, commercial and lively part that goes down to Saint-Jean church: one of the few troglodyte churches in France.
Stage of choice in terms of green tourism, Aubeterre-sur-Dronne is a member of the Association of Most Beautiful Villages of France.
If it is obviously possible to discover the charms and the remarkable sites of the village independently, guided tours are possible all year round (4 euros). More information is available on +33 6 79 85 81 26.
It is in the lower part of the commune that is located its jewel, the underground church of Saint-Jean. It was dug in the 12th century, and its main vocation was to shelter a reliquary arranged in the limestone wall. As more and more pilgrims were making their way to Saint James, a church and a crypt were dug, and then an even larger room after a supporting wall was built in the 17th century.
On the ground are still hundreds of tombs, which evoke a necropolis similar to the troglodytic churches that the Crusaders visited in Cappadocia.
It results from the visit of this very singular church an impression mixing sacred and "magic". A must see ! Open every day (except December 25 and January 1) from 9:30 am to 12:30 pm and from 2 pm to 6 pm. Price: 4 euros (adults), 2 euros (children from 8 to 12 years).
On the high village, the feudal castle remains only its entrance - the chatelet - dating from the 16th. The commons were transformed into a dwelling. The main building was dismantled in the 19th century.
On the other hand, we can admire the convent of the Minimes, erected in the 16th century, transformed into a retirement home, and of which one can still visit the chapel. A mix of late Gothic and baroque, its style surprises. It is worth dwelling at the level of its wooden altarpiece that surmounts a sculpture depicting angels.
It is then advisable to visit the remarkable cloister.
From the monastery of the Cordeliers (another religious order), traces remain, on the other hand, in the village, like a shell that adorns a dwelling.
Finally, from now on private property, one can admire from outside the former convent of the Poor Clares. So many congregations that had settled to welcome the pilgrims and to establish their power in a disputed fief.
Still at the top of the village, the church of Saint-Jacques is worth the detour: its facade with remarkable sculptures dates from the twelfth. The rest of the building destroyed during the wars of religion was rebuilt in the eighteenth on the model of the cathedrals of Poitiers and Angouleme, mixing Western and Eastern influences.
Once the important patrimonial legacy has been visited and the pleasant streets with the houses huddled, several other places are offered to the curiosity of the tourist.
This is the case of the museum dedicated to Marcel Merkès and Paulette Merval, a starring couple of French operettas of the 20th century. Costumes, photos, biographies are presented. Open from October to June by appointment at +33 6 43 61 40 77. And every day from 3 pm to 6 pm in July and August. Price: 5 euros.
The Ludovic Trarieux space (in his native house), a permanent exhibition on the human rights and life of the founder of the French League for the Defense of Human Rights and Of the Citizen. Information on +33 5 45 98 04 08.
In addition to numerous art galleries and other handicraft shops, a stage can be planned at the Maison des marionnettes where performances are scheduled every day in July and August. Information on +33 5 45 98 45 59.
For lovers of hiking, mountain biking or horseback, many trails departing or passing through Aubeterre are laid out. Some of them take the old road to Santiago. Information at +33 5 45 98 57 18.
The practice of fishing is possible from the banks of the Dronne (map available at the grocery of the village), just like the river lends itself to canoe-kayak. Information on +33 5 45 98 51 72.
Finally, for a refreshing break, the recreation area on the banks of the river allows swimming (monitored in summer), picnic and games for children. Information at +33 5 45 98 50 33.