Walk along the lovely River Dronne past the Abbey St. Pierre until you come to the small garden at the south side. You will see the Medici Fountain on your right and the Tour St. Roch on your left followed by the Renaissance Pavilion with a portal giving onto the bridge to the Jardin des Moines.
If you look to your right as you cross the bridge, you will see the lovely Moulin d'l Abbaye, a charming (and expensive) restaurant on the riverbank. On the far side is the Jardin des Moines, a very nice garden along the riverbank where you can feed the ducks.
One visits Brantôme in order to visit the famous Benedictine Abbey sitting on the river. You may visit the church, the cloisters and the troglodyte (cave) section. The church and cloisters are free; the abbey was closed the day we were there and I am pretty sure there is a charge to visit the inside and the caves since they were well-fenced off.
You can walk through the gardens and see the Medici Fountain, the Tour (tower) St. Roch, the Renaissance Pavilion and the Condé Bridge and enjoy the Jardin des Moines along the river.
The tower is between the Abbey and the Renaissance Pavilion with a lovely view on the Dronne River. There is a walkway and overlook on one side and the garden with the Medici Fountain on the other side.
If you walk past the tower, you come to the Moulin de l'Abbaye, a lovely restaurant right on the river with outdoor seating . . . and high prices. It was beautiful but we ate back in town. There are many restaurants in this small town.
The Benedictine Abeey of Brantome was founded 769 by Charlemagne. It was rebuit in the 11C after a sacking by the Normans. A change from dome vaulting to Angevine style was effected in the 14C and it was refurbished in the mid-16C by the commendatory abbot who added a cloister to the West and beyond that a palace for himself. Abadie unimproved it in 1850. Rearing up behind the church stands, unscathed, the 11C belfry perched on a rocky outcrop. It is said to be the oldest in France. Originally the abbey was sealed off by the cliff to the north, the river Dronne to the south and gates to the West and East. At the West the defensive 12C round tower of St.-Roch still stands, along with a 16C pavilion built upon parts of the gate foundation. The town web site is one of the beest of its type I have seen and is worth examining (unfortunately it is only in French; quelle domage).
After you walk through the church, the cloisters, the abbey and the caves, enjoy the small garden adjoining the abbey. You can see the Tour St. Roch and the Renaissance Pavilion and to your right is the beautiful Medici Fountain set against the cliffside.
The 11C Romanesque Belfry should be examined and if possible, its base should be entered and the adjacent chapter house remains viewed. The upper three levels of the belfry progressively diminish in size and each is treated differently. One has a prominent gable.
The Monastery had financial ups and downs through the centuries , especially during the depredations of the English and Religious Wars. From the outset use was made of the more than a dozen caves in the base of the great cliff behind the present palace. Many of these were modified or enlarged to serve as supportive monastic buildings : kitchens, lavoire, chauffeur pigeonnier, etc. Later some served religious purposes (chapels?) and contain crude 15C religious art work on the walls. Each summer a classic dance festival is held in this area.
The Gothic cloister was added by the commendatory abbot when he built his palace, the monastery gardens and the Pavillion (and modified the church). Unfortunately in 2850 Abadie removed two of the cloister galleries, traces of which remain on the lateral walls to which they were applied (of the church and the palace). There is a modest "fountain" at the center. The palace now contains the municipal offices, hence the Tourist Office peaks out from it into the cloister as does the entry into the church and if you can find it, the remains of the chapter house.
Le Pont Coude (Bent oe Elbowed Bridge) was built at the same time as the palace , the Monastery Gardens and the pavillion by the Abbot (1538-56). The bridge provided access to the gardens on a far bank away from the town. A submerged brakeater was included running from the bend to the town shore, creating a long deep pool along the Abbey (in which wild ducks now live). The bridge is anchored at the foundations of the ancient gate of St.-Roch next to its round tower and the new pavillion.
Passage through the town presents no obstructions. The houses are old but not distinctive. The church of Notre Dame was begun in the 16C. It is topped by a false watch tower. In 1877 it became the town market when the Abbey church became the town church and the civic functions moved into the palace. The road then passes the North (east) Abbey gate which is still partly in place It was renamed the Porte des Reformes by Coligny.
The Abbatial Palace was built in the 17C. It has an 18C staircase, although the lowest level looks much older. The dormitory and refectory were in this building. The building now houses the civic activities: town hall, schools, the Desmoulins Museum, the Tourist Office.
The present church is basically a 14C Gothic Angevin renewal of the 12C dome-vaulted original which sustained damage in the earlier Wars. Later refinement were added and ultimately Abadie in 1850 did his alterations. Use has been made of ancient materials such as a table base in the baptistry and a stoup near the door below a fine carved stone diptych.
The church contains some old stone carvings, most notably the 14C relief of the Baptism of Christ and a diptych placed above a stoup made of a 12C capital in a style like the retable behind the altar at St.-Front in Perigueux. Outside of the church embedded in the apse (east) wall are worn primitive carvings from the early church.