Print this page Print
HomeTown Hall  > 
Saint Avit Sénieur Town Hall  Version Française

Saint Avit Sénieur, a town in the district of Beaumont in Dordogne, is located on a promontory oriented due south. Its surface area is 2350 hectares. It is very wooded, but mainly agricultural, producing milk, beef, grains, tobacco and truffles.

Saint Avit has been occupied by man, uninterrupted, since prehistoric times. At the time of the Iron Age the place was called the Mont d’Auriac and already fulfilled a sacred function because a pagan temple was later discovered there, it was said 3000 idols were worshipped.


Over the following centuries the monastery and the inhabitants of the village suffered many tribulations including three invasions:
-1214 by the Sénéchel d’Aquitaine allied with the Count of Toulouse and the “Albigeois” or Cathares.
-1442 by the English during the Hundred Year War
-1577 during the religious wars. Annet of Commarque took the village by treachery, massacred the monks, demolished head the tower of the church and took away the bells, leaving the village defenceless.

Today the village counts 491 inhabitants (official population on January 1, 2017).

The church
was classified during the first inventory of historic buildings in 1862. Thanks to that, the church profited from several restoration campaigns.
The most recent, from 1996 to 2000, carried out by PH. OUDIN, A.C.M.H., allowed the church, which had been closed since 1979, to reopen.

In 1998 the abbey was registered with UNESCO World Heritage in the context of the Way of St. James of Compostela.

AVITUS (480 – 570) the legend

Avitus was born of a good family, at Lanquais (12km) he was enrolled in the armed forces of Alaric II, King Wisigoth, enemy of the Christians. After the defeat of the Goths at Vouillé (17 km to the west of Poitiers) in 507, Clovis, King of the “Franc”, conquered Alaric who was killed. Avitus, made prisoner, was taken to Paris where he was sold to a foreign master who held him in affection. Avitus became to be treated as part of the family.

After 14 years of life with this man Avitus had a vision from an angel servant of god who declared ti him : “Avitus, my good and faithful servant, you will henceforth be my witness, always have confidence in me and go and return to the Périgord. At a place called Ruffiacus, you will find the temple of pilgrims, follow the sign of the cross, destroy all other idols. There you will live until you die”.
On his way to find Ruffiacus he perfoned a miracle on a man named Benoit who had been deaf and dumb, and he gained the praised of the inhabitants who urged him to stay.

But this man of God went on his way, accompanied by Benoit. Enjoyed a huge reputation he chose to retire to the Monastery of Bonneval. He soon became a devout monk, so devout that his fellow monks became jealous. He then retook the route to the Périgord with Benoit, visiting his parents at Lanquais.

Benoit died before the completion of the joumey but Avitus met Secundinus, and together they set off in search of a suitable cave in which to live. Arriving in a place suited to serpents and savage beasts. Avitus fell to his knees praying for a sign of providence. The prayer ended, the ground began to tremble destroying a temple. This divine sign announced to Avitus that he was on the right place designed g=for the service of God. There he lived for forty years accomplishing many wonders.

The presence of a such large church is explained by the no toriety of the Saint and by the number of pilgrims who passed “en route pour Saint Jacques de Compostelle”.

Text translated by Pays du Grand Bergeracois (professional translator) and by this partner.