The Subterranean Church of Saint Jean is an impressive rock-carved church located in the village of Aubeterre-sur-Dronne, which is officially designated as one of the most beautiful villages in France. As this ancient church was carved out of the face of a cliff, it is often referred to as the Monolithic Church of St Jean, however, this is a misnomer, as the church is not in fact carved entirely out of a single rock. Nevertheless, it is one of the largest rock-hewn churches in Europe, and among the most impressive in the world. It was built to house religious artifacts, which were kept in a series of pits and in a reliquary. Later on, the church became a cemetery.
The Subterranean church of Saint-Jean (Sara Hattie / Flickr)
Some historical sources suggest that the people who carved this church directly from the limestone cliff may have been inspired by returning crusaders bringing accounts of the rock hewn temples and underground cities in the region of Cappadocia in Turkey. However, other historians argue that the church, or more specifically, a part of it, was built several centuries before the Crusades. For example, it has been suggested that the baptismal pool in the centre of the nave was probably built between the 4th and 9th centuries.
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