Basilica of St. Eutropius of Saintes is a Catholic sanctuary in the town of Saintes, in the department of Charente-Maritime and in the Diocese of La Rochelle and Saintes. It is located in the Rue Saint-Eutropius, on the left bank of the Charente.
The foundation of the present building dates back to 1081 , when the Duke of Aquitaine and Count of Poitiers Guy-Geoffrey William instigated the building of this church. The rediscovery of the tomb of St. Eutropius, the first bishop of Saintes has resulted in his head being preserved and this is still in the church now. It is also on the Saint Jacques pilgrim route to Santiago de Compostella.
The church was entrusted to the Benedictine abbey of Cluny, and a priory was established with up to twenty monks responsible for the celebration of worship and organization of pilgrimages. The French revolution led to the closure of the priory, as the sanctuary was considered obsolete. The nave was removed in 1803.
Pope Leo XIII officially made the church a minor basilica on the 11 May 1886. The basilica is the subject of a classification as a historical monument in the list compiled in 1840. It has also appeared in Unesco’s World Heritage of Humanity since 1998, under the category of the St Jacques pilgrim route.
The building is essentially in two parts, the lower church or crypt which is the part dating back to 1081. This is the biggest Romanesque crypt in all of Europe. It contains a cenotaph monolith bearing the inscription: “EVTROPIVS.” This was discovered during excavation work in 1843 and could date back to the 6th century.
The upper church is a far more modern construction and as such the sculpture work is in a good state of preservation. It’s most notable feature is probably the casket containing St Eutrope’s head. To discover nore about the gruesome details of how his head comes to be in the church you can click onto wikipedia which has a lot of information about this church and from which I took much of the information for this post. Thank you Mr Wiki Pedia.