05 May 2006


Souillac is a town of 5,000 souls that sits at the confluence of the Dordogne and Corrèze rivers, about 20 miles east of Sarlat. It grew up around an abbey church founded on the site in the 13th century. Souillac is the first town we came to where it was clear that we had arrived in the south of France, after driving the three or four hours from Saint-Aignan. It bills itself as the gateway to the south of France.

The Four Seasons, a sign on an old shop in the historic district

A jeweler's signpost on the town's main drag

According to the Michelin green guide for the old provinces of Périgord (known as the Dordogne since the French Revolution) and Quercy (the Lot department), the name Souillac comes from an old local word meaning a marshy place where wild boars wallowed in the mud and water. When the monks arrived in the 1200s, they drained the marsh and turned it into rich agricultural land. By the way, an earlier religious community had existed in the area since the year 900 or so.

The St-Martin bell tower

The massive Ste-Marie church

Nice old façade near the church complex

Like other places, Souillac suffered English assaults and plundering during the 100 Years War, and it suffered even greater devastation during the wars of religion in the 16th century. Protestant marauders pillaged the monastery en 1562, and ten years later there was a great fire. Only the church building named after Sainte-Marie survived, along with bell tower from the older Saint-Martin church.

The interior of the church as it exists today

Interior detail — floor and pews

I had a memory of Souillac from a trip that Walt and I took in 1995, but my memories were far off the mark. I remembered a church, but I thought Souillac was a smaller town. In fact, it is bigger and older than I remembered. It has a good-sized business district with shops and restaurants, and to the west of the main street is an old neighborhood that is picturesque and well preserved.

Grafitti in the old town — I wonder why somebody wrote "bottle of vinegar" on this sign

Old sign over a furniture maker's shop

The Cadogan guide says that the church in Souillac is "one of the true jewels of Romanesque sculpture and architecture" in southern France.

The weather was warm and the wisteria was in full flower

A colorful baker's storefront in the old town

An old stone fountain on a square in the historic district

Detail from the fountain

1 comment:

  1. Wonderful photos and narratives! Sounds like an interesting trip. Cannot wait to hear more!


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