Cultivate yourself in the Landes: 4 UNESCO sites to visit

Published on 09/11/2022

The Landes department is home to a multitude of historical and cultural monuments. Recognised for their exceptional universal value, four of them are included on the UNESCO World Heritage List as part of the Pilgrimage Route to Santiago de Compostela. Discover them!

Saint-Jean de Sorde Abbey

In the south of the Landes, the village of Sorde l'Abbaye attracts many visitors, both tourists in search of sacred history and pilgrims on their way to Santiago de Compostela. The small medieval town owes its fame to its abbey, built in the 11th century at the foot of a hillside on the right bank of the Gave d'Oloron. On a self-guided or guided tour, discover the old Benedictine monastery, the abbey church and its magnificent mosaics, the cloister, the chapter house, the refectory and the Gallo-Roman baths of the Abbots' villa. The highlight of the visit is an astonishing underground gallery that runs along the 70-metre long Sure River and its jetty on the water. This is unique in France!
- What we like: from April to October, Sorde Abbey welcomes artists in residence and comes alive with digital art. An in situ creation in the form of a sound and visual journey.

The Sainte-Quitterie church in Aire-sur-l'Adour

Between Mont-de-Marsan and Pau, Aire-sur-l'Adour was the seat of the bishopric for fifteen centuries. From this glorious past, it has preserved its cathedral in the heart of the city, and its 11th century Romanesque church, classified by UNESCO. Built on a hill, on the site of an ancient Roman temple, the church of Sainte-Quitterie is famous for its crypt, which houses a beautiful Pyrenean marble Palaeochristian sarcophagus. Decorated with sculptures inspired by the Old Testament, the medieval tomb is dedicated to Saint Quitteria, a young Visigoth princess who converted to Christianity and was beheaded at the end of the 5th century. Free guided tours from April to September, Monday to Friday, from 9 am to 5 pm.
- We like: close to the church, the Sainte-Quitterie fountain and its magical spring, which is said to have the virtue of curing headaches!

The bell tower of Mimizan

Between nature and culture in the Pays de Born, the bell tower-porch of the church of Sainte-Marie-de-Mimizan is the last vestige of a Benedictine priory from the 12th century, now disappeared. A jewel of medieval art, the monument has one of the most beautiful sculpted portals in south-west France and splendid 15th century wall paintings. You can admire a remarkable group of statues that have kept their original polychrome and one of the oldest representations of Saint James (of Compostela).
- We like: the museographic space of the Priory dedicated to the geological history of the Landes and to human activities from prehistory to the Middle Ages.

Saint-Sever Abbey

Perched on a rocky outcrop overlooking theAdour, Saint-Sever was already an important town in ancient times. In 988, the Duke of Gascony Guillaume Sanche founded the Benedictine abbey of Saint-Sever, which was to have an exceptional influence. Inside the abbey church, the visitor will be struck by the richness of its ornaments, as evidenced by the flowering of nearly 80 Romanesque sculpted capitals. There is a chevet with seven staggered apses (the only example in France), a very rare romantic organ by Cavaillé-Coll, and numerous statues and sculpted scenes. The Treasure Room contains a facsimile of the manuscript of Beatus de Saint-Sever, the original of which is kept in the National Library of France
- We like: "Le Voyage de Guilhem", a visit on a digital tablet to discover Saint-Sever Abbey in a fun and educational way (reservation at the Mimizan Tourist Office).

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