Sanctuary to the patron saint of all things lost and stolen
A stone’s throw from the Dordogne Valley, Rocamadour and Sarlat, Brive is located in the Corrèze département, renowned home to several past French presidents. The caves of Saint Anthony of Padua, a sanctuary of peace above this vibrant city, have welcomed pilgrims for centuries.
Saint Anthony of Padua was born Fernando Martins de Bulhões in Portugal in 1195. He came from a prominent Lisbon family and dedicated his life to the service of the sick and the poor. A contemporary of Saint Francis of Assisi, whom he met on several occasions, he became a friar of the Franciscan Order. His talent for preaching, detailed knowledge of scripture and the message he conveyed drew huge crowds for his sermons. He died in Padua in Italy at the age of 36 and was canonised a record 11 months after his death. Saint Anthony of Padua is the patron saint of all things lost and stolen. He was proclaimed a Doctor of the Church in 1946.
Saint Anthony spent significant periods of time in the caves at Brive during his travels. He enjoyed the tranquillity of the surroundings for prayer and reflection and decided to build a monastery nearby. The popularity of this saint quickly turned the grottos into a sought-after pilgrimage place.
Brive sprung from the crossroads of two ancient Roman roads. Its bridge over the Corrèze River was already recorded in 4th century writings, as part of the road from Bordeaux to Lyon. A first basilica was built there in the 5th century before it burnt down in a blaze. Rebuilt in the 11th century, Saint-Martin’s collegiate church in Brive is a listed Historic Monument.
In 1226, Friar Anthony founded a monastery in Brive near the caves he often used to go to pray. After his death in 1232, the three mainly man-made grottos became an important pilgrimage destination. A century later, Brive was bursting out of it ramparts and in 1360, a small retreat was erected above the caves by Franciscan monks, as a place to welcome the many pilgrims. Despite the ravages of the Wars of Religion, Brive stayed faithful to the Catholic faith. The 18th century saw a great economic leap in the city’s development. The elegant boulevards and new bridge were built to replace the old ramparts, which had been torn down.
The construction of a train line further reinforced the importance of the city. The Sanctuary was consecrated in 1895. During the Secord World War, Brive was a hub of the French Resistance. The city organised its own liberation in August 1944.Today, the Sanctuary is set on 5ha of leafy grounds where the three grottos hold the foundations of the monastery and the chapel above. It is to this day the largest religious centre dedicated to Saint Anthony of Padua. The life of the saint is celebrated here every year on June 13th.
Message and Pilgrimage
A disciple of Saint Francis of Assisi, Saint Anthony of Padua also took the vow of poverty and spent his life attending to the least fortunate. This Sanctuary, situated on the outskirts of the bustling city of Brive, is the largest of its kind in the world. A haven of tranquillity, it has been attracting pilgrims for 800 years, proclaiming the universal message of peace, fraternity and compassion.
The Sanctuary, including the chapel and the grottos, is open every day all year round. Once inside the grounds, pilgrims can’t help but feel an inner peace. The steep climb takes visitors to the caves, on top of which the convent is erected. In the tiny cracks of the cave, some leave behind a prayer to Saint Anthony scribbled on a piece of paper. Further up, towering over the buildings, the chapel dominates the landscape. Visitors can wander through the grounds, enjoying the peaceful atmosphere, all the way up to the view point over the city.
The Fountain of Miracles in Saint-Robert
Not to be missed near the city of Brive, the medieval village of Saint-Robert is labelled as one of the ‘Most Beautiful Villages of France’. The church stands high on a rock and below, in the hamlet of Saint-Maurice, flows a spring with magical powers. Hidden behind two small wooden shutters, the water is said to slow aging and cure various ailments. Many pilgrims, hoping for a miracle, used to make the journey every year on the August 15th.
Brive food market
With a reputation reaching far beyond the borders of the Corrèze, the market in Brive is an experience not to be missed. The region is renowned for its love of good food and the market is a fully-fledged celebration of local gastronomy: goat’s cheese, cep mushrooms, rillettes, strawberries from Beaulieu, figs stuffed with foie gras…The large and vibrant market takes place three times a week on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays from 7am until 1pm.
The city of Brive
To soak up a slice of the French way of life, nothing beats walking around the city of Brive in the afternoon. The city centre, filled with lovely shops and gourmet restaurants, is easily accessible and full of atmosphere. A great place to do a bit of sightseeing, shopping and enjoy coffee and cake at one of the many pavement cafés...
Surrounding Brive, beautiful historic villages seem to pop up around every bend. Here is a shortlist but there are so many more to discover…
Steep and filled with history, the medieval streets lead to two 13th century towers with panoramic views over the valley. The castle is open to the public.
Small yet hugely impressive with no less than three castles and three churches surrounded by rolling hills.
Entirely built in red sandstone, hence the name. A unique village, with ever changing colours throughout the day.
A rich architectural and historic heritage including castles and a fountain of miracles.
All the villages mentioned above are labelled as some of the ‘Most Beautiful Villages in France’, a famous recognition for their historic heritage and conservation.
Les Jardins de Colette
Open from April to November
Beautiful gardens to stroll around, inspired by the life of the author Colette who lived there.
Les Pans de Travassac
Open from April to November
A unique visit to a slate quarry, meandering through the man-made cliffs. This is where the slate was extracted to make the roofs of Corrèze, Auvergne and even Mont Saint-Michel!
Open all year from Tuesday to Saturday
More than a distillery, it is an institution. The Distillerie Denoix has created liqueurs, apéritifs and even the famous Violet Mustard of Brive since 1839. The beautiful boutique fronting the distillery is located in the heart of the city centre.
Lac du Causse
Accessible all year round
This is the place to go for all kinds of activities. Hiking around the lake, swimming, water sports, fishing, … The 84ha lake boasts a lovely sandy beach in a beautiful green environment, only 25 mins from Brive.
All the sites of the Dordogne Valley
Brive is situated less than one hour away from the most remarkable sites of the Dordogne Valley including Rocamadour, Sarlat, the Padirac caves, Beynac, Domme and all the water activities on offer on the Dordogne River itself.
August 22nd and 23rd 2021
A giant farm takes over the city centre for two days, the perfect occasion to meet the farmers and taste their amazing local produce.
Just as they are serious about food, the Brivistes, inhabitants of Brive, are very dedicated to their rugby team. The CAB won the French and European Cup in the late 90’s and is part of the French Top 14. The stadium gets very animated and very loud during every match. A fun experience that will make you feel just like a local.
Les Foires Grasses – Winter market
Every Saturday from the end of November until the beginning of March
Traditional markets have taken place in Brive since 1218. In the 1970’s, Winter markets, specialising in duck and goose products, became an unmissable event in the Brive calendar. There is also a truffle market at 8h15 in the morning and local chefs join in to share their recipes and ideas for festive meals.