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French towns sells off 14th century cloister to pay debts

The mayor of the southern French town of Saint Emilion has discreetly sold off its 14th century Cordeliers cloister to a private winemaker, leaving local residents shocked and upset. The medieval site was sold for 750 000 euros to help the town pay off its growing financial debts and continue upkeep on other historical buildings.

The town, which lies near Bordeaux, was named a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1999. The Cordelier’s cloisters property includes a reception hall, cellars, offices and a garden. Over 570,000 euros were spent on its restoration in recent years.

Local resident Jean-Luc Boisseau told AFP, “It’s more than just another historical monument. The courtyard of the Cordeliers was symbolic. It was the last public park, free, open to everyone and where even people of modest means could have a drink amongst magnificent ruins..”

Francois Gondran, the state architect responsible for Bordeaux and Saint Emilion, explained “Saint Emilion has a very rich medieval heritage but that leaves them with a lot to do and they don’t have the resources. What are expensive to maintain are the ramparts, 80 percent of which date from the Middle Ages. They are very expensive to restore and difficult to access. It involves a lot of man-hours.”

The new owner, Jean-Paul Cales, a winery owner and vice-president of the Bordeaux Chamber of Commerce said that he will be keeping the Cloisters open to the public.

Sources: AFP, RLI

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