The village of Aubeterre-sur-Dronne is the site of an underground church, dedicated to Saint-Jean, which dates from the twelfth century. Two columns, each 20m (66 feet) heigh, support the ceiling. In the nave, there is a opening in the ground in the shape of a Greek cross, which is usually identified as a baptismal font. To the left of the entrance, there is a necropolis with 80 sarcophagi.
In the apse, there is a hexagonal monolithic reliquary 6 m (20 feet) heigh, which was probably designed to imitate the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem (for the way the Holy Sepulchre looks today click here).
In 2013, the Church of Saint-Jean was open every day, except Christmas and January 1st from 9:30 to 12:00 and from 14:00 to 17:30 (18:30 from June to September). For information call 05-45-98-65-06.
Aubeterre-sur-Dronne (officially one of the Most Beautiful Villages in France) is located in the Charente department in the Poitou-Charentes region. It is about 50km south of Angoulême and 95km north of Bordeaux. Aubeterre houses another medieval church, dedicated to Saint-Jacques, whose façade dates from the late twelfth century church and is decorated with numerous sculptures.
The Church of Saint-Jacques.
Frédérique Barbut, Chemins de l’art roman en Poitou-Charente. Rennes: Editions Ouest-France, 2011.
Christian Gensbeitel, Promenades Romanes en Charente. La Crèche: Geste éditons, 2010.