Saintes has a rich heritage reflected by its ancient monuments. Landmarks from the 1st-century AD include the Arch of Germanicus and the Amphitheatre that once seated 20,000 spectators.
Three Romanesque churches reveal the town’s early medieval history:
- the 11th-century Abbaye aux Dames with an elaborately sculpted facade;
- the austere 12th-13th-century Eglise Saint-Pallais;
- and the UNESCO-listed Eglise Saint-Eutrope, which has a meditative spiritual ambience and is one of Europe’s largest crypts.
The Eglise Saint-Eutrope was founded in 1096 for pilgrims on the “Camino de Santiago.” The Abbaye aux Dames hosts an annual classical music festival in July
For more insight into the town’s culture, tourists can visit several museums. The Musée Archéologique displays a large collection of Gallo-Roman archaeological objects.
The Musée Dupuy-Mestreau focuses on regional culture (furniture, costumes, and jewelry) and the Musée de l’Échevinage (Museum of Fine Arts) displays a collection of sculptures, ceramics, (including Sèvres porcelain), and paintings from the 15th to 20th centuries (a highlight is the Allégorie de la Terre by the Dutch master Jan Brueghel de Velours).
Saintes is also renowned for the Jeux Santons, an international festival of folkloric music and dance that takes place annually in July.