History of the town

From the origins to the 14th Century

Said to have been inhabited since Gallo-Roman times, Sarlat became a prosperous city at the end of the VIII century under the reign of Pepin le Bref and Charlemagne when the benedictines established a monastery there.

In 937 the abbey came under the rule of Cluny and then under the direct authority of the Holy See in Rome.

In 1147 Saint Bernard, passing through Sarlat on his return from the crusades, performed-as legend has it- the miracle of the healing loaves, commemorated by the tower of Saint-Bernard, known as the Lanterne des morts (lantern of the dead), whose curious architecture can be admired behinh the apse of the cathedral dedicated to Saint-Sacerdos, in the middle of what was Sarlat’s first cemetery.


From 14th to 17th century

The town suffered from the Norman invasions and then from the Hundred Years War owing to its position as a frontier region between the kings of France and England. The town, well fortified by its Consuls, withstood all attacks and only became English at the end of the first part of the Hundred Years War (1360) when, by the treaty of Brétigny, Edward III of England renounced his claim to the throne of France in exchange for the South West of France.

Ten years later, the Connétable du Guesclin chased the English from France and Sarlat became French once more.

But sadly, if the treaty of Castillon ended the Hundred Years War in 1453, the Wars of Religion ravaged the countryside and the town suffered from the exactions of the Chevalier de Vivans and the Vicomte de Turenne. But peaceful days came to Sarlat with the reign of Henry IV.

Sarlat, which had become an episcopal see in 1317, now started building a cathedral (dedicated to Saint Sacerdos), the parish church of Saint-Mary and numerous town houses, still proudly standing and awaiting your visit.


From 17th century to present

Sarlat was a prosperous town throughout the XVI, XVII and XVIII, but after that, too far removed from the main stream, like the sleeping beauty, it fell into lethargy for nearly 150 years, to wake up again only some thirty years ago when road transport supplanted river and railroad as means of communication.

It is likely that many other towns in France possessed as many curious and picturesque cobbled streets and as many handsome buildings, but modernisation gradually destroyed these treasures of the past. We can rejoice that our city was miraculously saved thanks to a law promulgated on the 4th of August 1962 (loi Malraux) by which the old town received sufficient financial aid to undertake a programme of restoration.                     

The old facades are now as they were under their magnificent stone roofs and the old quarters have been rescued from their lethargy by a lively and lived-in town. Our architectural treasures are here for your admiration just as the centuries have handed them down to us. 

Today we are proud to invite you to discover a town of serene beauty that you will not forget, where you may wish to return, or even settle.